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Mobile web browsing: Ad-blockers and mobile-friendly testing

By / / In Best practice /
James Rosewell takes a look at Google’s new mobile friendly test and advises on how to optimise your website in line with the mobile web browsing revolution.
mobile web browsing

Is your website copy appropriately sized? Is the user interface easy to navigate? How do the graphics appear – are they proportionate?

These are all crucial points to consider when connecting with a customer base dominated by mobile. Businesses need to produce websites optimised for mobile browsing across thousands of device types. Websites must be easy to navigate, display content clearly and load pages quickly. If a mobile customer tries to load a page and the website takes more than a few seconds to serve the content, 80 per cent of users will move on. In the competitive mobile space, businesses also have to contend with ad-blockers and mobile-friendly search algorithms that have the potential to significantly restrict revenue growth. How do you secure your business’s position in the mobile web?

As mobile devices become increasingly smarter, websites are being accessed by mobile devices more than desktops, a significant tipping point for mobile web browsing. In 2015, Google announced that more Google searches took place on mobile devices than on computers in ten countries including the US and Japan. At the same time, Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ was deployed in an attempt to completely phase out sites that failed to optimise content for mobile users. Businesses have quickly realised that applications are not always the best way to engage with customers and personalise a user’s experience.

However, mobile websites are not without their own challenges. Google’s new mobile friendly search algorithm prioritises sites optimised for mobile browsing, drastically changing how the search engine traditionally indexes page results. If a business’s website is only compatible for desktops it will fall to the bottom of search lists and this could result in significant revenue loss. There is no shortcut to improve a website’s SEO in light of the algorithm, for companies to utilise the 3.65 billion unique mobile users in the world, content has to be available to a multitude of devices and establish positive user experiences.

Properly implemented professional device detection can provide users with the most accurate, streamlined experience when accessing a company’s website, regardless of whether they are viewing the content on a tablet, smart phone, TV or desktop. Device detection specialists, such as 51Degrees, empower a web page to understand everything about the device that is visiting the site, before deciding which content to send – all in less than a millisecond. Armed with this knowledge, websites are able to optimise detailed device specifications and contextualise the likely environment of the user, improving their experience.mobile_commerce_1

In 2015, Apple allowed mobile ad blockers into its app store, inciting concerns across the industry that the growth in desktop ad-blocker use was to be replicated in the mobile sector too. Samsung quickly followed suit, announcing in January that it would also enable ad blocking plug-ins. As desktop no longer dominates web browsing and consumers are increasingly using mobile devices, users are more aware of their experiences – including the number of nuisance adverts. Ad-blockers enable users to safeguard their user interface and avoid intrusive advertisements that could make page navigation difficult. However, if ad-blockers are installed, this can significantly affect a business’s advertising revenue, particularly when it leads to poor mobile optimisation.

Responsive web design (RWD) can be deployed to optimise websites for mobiles and other devices, but the technology implements ‘one size fits all’ that does not necessarily tackle the positioning of adverts appropriately. RWD does not move or resize adverts to complement the specifications of different devices and this can lead to intrusive banners that negatively affect the device’s interface and experience.

Tailoring content to enable mobile web browsing

Device detection is a supporting technology that can be used to optimise adverts and user experience at the same time – tailoring website content for each device. It is crucial that the web server understands all of the information about a user’s device to make the best decision concerning both the positioning of the advert on the page and the type of advert to display. For example, on a small screen smartphone a persistent advert that floats in view at the top of the page could be selected. On a large screen tablet, multiple small screen optimised banner adverts could be used. Device detection does not only identify a screen’s size, but also understands a devices video software capability. As video advertising becomes increasingly popular online, device detection will only send video adverts to devices with the software enabled to view the content. Media organisations using device detection solutions have experienced 40 per cent increases in advertising revenue from tablets with this approach.

In 2015, marketers predicted the importance of mobile first in business, but if content is important, user experience is more so. As users migrate to smaller screens, businesses must adapt to an expanding mobile space where website optimisation is essential. Google’s mobile friendly search algorithm has the potential to greatly reduce a business’s access to customers, forcing websites to provide a consistent experience across all device types. The potential consequences are clear – if your website is not optimised for mobile, advertising will be restricted and customer reach reduced.

Author: James Rosewell
51Degrees |

James Rosewell is founder and CEO, 51Degrees

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