Creating Mobile Friendly Blogs and Websites that Boost Readership

Mobile Friendly Websites and blogs - Techniques


Mobile Friendly Blogs and Websites in 15 Minutes

Yes, that’s right, 10% and your audience loss may be higher. If you haven’t mobilized your blog, your business or personal blog is invisible to billions of people on Earth. Add iPads and other mobile devices and your potential audience melts in cyberspace.

No, I’m not talking about China, the United Arab Emirates or North Korea blocking unwelcome websites or blogs. Your blog is invisible to most folks on the Planet because it’s not mobile-friendly. Most bloggers, in fact, are losing millions of potential readers because their sites are not optimized for the mobile Web.

Bloggers: Think Mobile or Die

In a series of forum post exchanges with Third Tribe members recently, it quickly became clear to me that most bloggers are unaware that their blogs don’t display correctly (or even appear) on the majority of mobile phones around the world.

One member wrote: “…There’s no point doing anything for “feature phone” users because too few of those people actually go online with their phones.”

Another member commented: “Regular mobiles are a nightmare because they have small screens, and it is cumbersome to surf with them anyway. I do not see many people using them for the internet.”

And another comment: “In a couple of years, the regular mobile will be gone probably anyway. So, adapting your site now for old mobiles is a waste of time.”

None of the above comments is true.  Of the five billion cell phones currently active on Earth, nearly 2 billion now have access to the mobile Internet and the number grows daily. Most of the two billion with Web access are using feature phones, not smartphones, and they’re not going to disappear from the Planet soon.

Smartphone Shipments and Penetration

Research firm IDC reports that as of Q1 2010, smartphones represented 18.8% of total mobile phones shipped. However, keep in mind that the 18.8% doesn’t mean nearly 20% of global cell phone users have smartphones. While smartphone shipments are expanding rapidly, the vast majority of people on Earth with phones don’t have smartphones.

Of the 55 million handsets shipped in Q1, per IDC, here’s the breakdown by manufacturer in millions:

  • Nokia – 21.5
  • RIM (BlackBerry) – 10.6
  • Apple – 8.8
  • HTC – 2.6
  • Motorola – 2.3
  • Others – 8.9

As the numbers demonstrate, smartphones, while growing rapidly, are like a pond compared to an ocean. And, despite the incredible increase in smartphone penetration, it will take years before the vast majority have smartphones with Internet access.

Google Mobile Analytics

Google Mobile Analytics

Google Analytics Reveals Mobile Blog Stats: Ignore the Data at Your Peril

One Third Tribe member noticed something very interesting: “I was looking at my Google Analytics stats this morning and was a bit blown away by the percentage of visitors to my site using a mobile device (iPhone, Android, iPod, etc.). Almost 6% of visits to my site were through mobile devices.”  But the 6% may be even larger.

If you have Google Analytics installed on your blog,  go to Visitors/Mobile Devices. Once you see these numbers, you’ll want to immediately mobilize your blog. (If you can’t wait, jump to the bottom of this post.)

Google Analytics for mobile provides extensive stats:  mobile operating system (handset), browser, screen resolution, traffic source, keyword, landing page, country, language and more. Google lets you view the stats in two adjacent columns. So, for instance, you can view country and keyword simultaneously, revealing which keywords generated visitors to your blog from mobile phone users in different countries.

Comparing mobile vs. non-mobile visitors is also helpful if you want to further target handset type, carrier or world region. Drilling down further shows you virtually unlimited data about phone visitors to your blog. Sorting the columns helps you learn the behaviors of your blog audience.

The MobileBeyond Mobile Audience. Should I Jump for Joy or Cry?

Mobile Browsers

Mobile Browsers

I reviewed month-over-month analytics for MobileBeyond. Here are a few stats that may convince you to mobilize your blog today and analyze factors negatively affecting your mobile audience:

  • 6.7% of all MB traffic is mobile (Updated June, 2011: now over 10%)
  • 92% are new visitors (8.3% higher than non-mobile traffic)
  • Mobiles spend 62% less time viewing my blog than non-mobiles. Click.
  • Pages per visit among mobile folks is 25% less than non-mobile folks. Need to check page loading time.
  • The bounce rate (essentially blog visitors who view a single page, then leave) is 10% higher for mobile than non-mobile visitors, except for iPad owners who stay longer.
  • iPhone folks must hate MobileBeyond; they jump ship after only 4 seconds but represent the highest number of device visits. (Must be all the bad things I say about Apple and the iPhone.) iPod Touch users are even worse.
  • Nokia mobiles (Symbian) dislike my blog even more jumping to another site in one second. (They must have very fast wireless connections to jump so fast.)
  • Android and BlackBerry mobiles stay longer, view more pages than iPhone mobiles but not as many as iPad folks. (Hmm. Must be all the great things I write about Android.)
  • Good News: Although the numbers are lower, Sony and LG mobiles average 8 minutes on MB with low bounce rates. Go Sony and LG!
  • Google Analytics showed 23 mobile browsers. Mobile Safari, Mozilla (Firefox), Netfront and Opera Mini are the four top browsers accessing MobileBeyond. Netfront browser users stayed over four minutes per visit, while the rest of the browser folks ditched me in less than 30 seconds.
  • Top four countries visiting: U.S., U.K., Canada and India
  • Carriers. Average T-Mobile customers spend 4 minutes on the site and view two pages, while AT&T folks averaged 46 seconds and 1.4 page views. Verizon Wireless mobiles stayed put for 27 seconds while viewing 1.5 pages.  Determining carrier stats, however, is a bit challenging. For example, Service Provider Corporation shows up as the second highest carrier but is connected with Verizon and possibly AT&T. Taptu Limited, which is an app that finds “touch-friendly” sites, shows as the number one carrier.

This is my first close examination of  mobile traffic to MobileBeyond using Google Analytics. As you can see, the data can help you better understand mobile users who visit your blog. You can then use the data to better improve the mobile friendliness of your site and target traffic you want by country, operating system, carrier and much, much more.

What Does Facebook Know that You Don’t?

Hundreds–if not thousands–of mobile phone users are clicking on your blog’s URL from Facebook, Twitter, other social networking sites and search engines daily. But you’re probably unaware how many potential mobile readers you’re losing because your blog is not mobile friendly.

Consider Facebook. Roughly 60% of Facebook users now access the site via phones–not personal computers. Smartphone owners who launch a Facebook app  see nicely formatted screens. But most of the 60% mobile traffic arrives at Facebook via a smartphone or feature phone’s mobile browser. This isn’t a problem for Facebook’s website because it’s optimized for thousands of mobile phones and hundreds of browsers.

But that’s not the case with your blog unless you’ve mobilized it.

How to Mobilize Your Blog

I’m going to share with you a few easy ways to make your blog display on most mobile phones. Without creating a separate mobile website or weblog site, however, your blog will not necessarily look the same on different phones and browsers in terms of colors, text, graphics and photos. This is especially the case if your blog contains complex graphics, frames and other elements.

However, by choosing one of the options below, most mobile browsers will display basic text and photos. So if your goal is to ensure your blog displays on millions of mobile phones, these solutions should do the trick.

WordPress Users

If you have a WordPress blog, a mobile plugin is the easiest, free or low-cost way to mobilize your site. Please carefully read the features and drawbacks of each option.

Wapple Architect Plugin

Rich Gubby, the developer of Wapple Architect, has done an excellent job creating and updating a full-featured plugin for WordPress. Options include different themes, changing photo size display, navigation menus, remote admin configuration and Google Adsense and AdMob ad code capability. I used the plugin on MobileBeyond some time ago, experienced a few display and cache plugin problems and have not evaluated Rich’s latest updates. I would test the plugin on your site and view your blog’s pages on multiple mobile handsets. While you can download the plugin free, if you use it for commercial purposes, Wapple would like you to pay. You can discuss the issue with Rich, an excellent website and plugin designer. Listen to the podcast interview I did with Rich for further information. Visit the Wapple website for information on all their products.

WordPress Mobile Pack

This comprehensive plugin also has themes, widgets for ad code, a QR barcode that displays on phones and more. Like the Wapple  plugin, caching software may cause problems. The plugin also requires inserting code in your main theme file, making the theme file writable and requires changes in the WP-Supercache plugin page that modifies your .htaccess file. The developer discusses some of the problems that may arise in the documentation. If you don’t want to tinker with settings or you’re having problems with the Thesis theme, I’d recommend avoiding this plugin. If you’re comfortable changing settings and dealing with potential problems, try it out.

WPtouch WordPress Theme

I’m currently running this plugin on MobileBeyond. Basically, the plugin creates an iPhone-like screen on multiple mobile devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, Palm Pre, Android and BlackBerry Storm. The plugin is easy to install and avoids many of the configuration hassles of the other plugins. There’s a WPTouch Pro with themes and other features as well.

The DotMobi Solution

In addition to the WPTouch plugin, the .mobi domain designation is recognized throughout the world for mobile sites. It’s the easiest and lowest cost solution available on the market to mobilize your blog or website. In fact, test how your blog currently displays on mobile phones right now.

See, an Irish company that offers a new mobile website plan called GoMobi. The plans include hosting and a CDN that makes mobile site webpages download quickly worldwide.  For businesses that want both a blog and website, this is a good choice.

The World of Mobile Blogging and Beyond

As bloggers, we simply can’t ignore the dominance of mobile and wireless. By 2,011, 10 billion wireless devices will dot the Planet–five billion mobile phones and another five billion wireless devices, including tablet computers, e-readers and other consumer electronic products, will emerge. Wireless health devices, ranging from mobile heart monitors, wireless “band aids” that monitor your body’s vitals, embedded devices in clothing and home appliances, RFID tags and more.

Our role as bloggers is to create content and share it. By mobilizing our blogs, our ideas and thoughts can be shared with all mobile phone owners connected to the mobile Internet.