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Google Analytics Mobile Report Requires Careful Takeaways

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Smart phone

The Google Analytics mobile report defines mobile in ways that are open to misinterpretation because of how it defines mobile.

It creates questions about the relative importance of mobile and how fast mobile audiences are climbing for certain websites.

Apple’s iPad has changed the picture dramatically.

Is mobile a small screen device such as a smartphone or is it any device that can connect to the Internet from any location that has wireless access?

Some websites are now seeing more than half of their total traffic coming from mobile visitors including one published by this company.

But a mobile visitor isn’t necessarily a smart phone user.

An Introduction to the Report

Site managers who use Google Analytics should go to Audience / Mobile / Overview in the report. The mobile report subdivides into Overview and Devices.

The overview breaks down visitors into Mobile, Desktop and Tablets. Note the percentages spread among each device category. Also note the bounce rate, because a high bounce rate for mobile could indicate a design flaw.

Ideally, the bounce rate for mobile and desktop should be similar.

Mobile Devices Includes Tablets

Let’s say that the report shows 30 percent of the total traffic is from mobile.

Now go to Audience / Mobile / Devices. It is not unrealistic to discover that half of the mobile traffic is from Apple iPads alone.

How is an iPad different in size or basic functionality from a laptop? (Put aside for a moment its ease of use.)

A mobile iPad provides the same kind of service as a laptop or tablet with wireless access. But an iPad is considered a mobile device while a laptop or tablet is not.

The fact is that the lines among devices are being blurred as a greater variety of devices arrives on the scene.

Take away iPads from the Google Analytics report and the resulting traffic is much lower.

As a result, it is important for site managers to understand that developing a mobile-friendly site is meant to target the small screen resolutions of smartphones and not necessarily the iPad and similar tablet devices.

Just as importantly, it’s useful for publishers to understand which mobile devices are most popular for a site and design that site to suit those devices.

Site Designs for Multiple Devices

These varying device outputs emphasize the need for responsive website designs. Cascading stylesheets (CSS) should serve the display potential of at least two or more devices.

The importance of developing such sites should not be based on mobile definitions that blur the lines between smartphones and portable, larger-resolution devices that have mobile capabilities.

More evidence will illustrate the point about mobile definitions.

A report in Google Analytics showing AdSense revenue for iPads (large screen “mobile” device) and iPods (small-screen mobile device) shows that iPads have three times the clickthrough rate of iPods.

The experience between the two devices is clearly dissimilar. So the product shouldn’t undergo changes based only on the overall behavior of mobile visitors.

Yes, focus developmental time on improving the experience for a smartphone audience. But make sure that the word mobile doesn’t easily define the audience and that the report showing mobile doesn’t mix apples and oranges.

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