Mobile Traffic and How to Generate It

Christian Kreul

My name is Christian Kreul and I am the managing partner of Displayboy GmbH, headquartered in Germany, operating the mobile affiliate program I have worked in the mobile Internet vertical for over six years and have participated in the entire development process of this exciting medium — no one thought that mobile would become the serious revenue generator it has, and we are just at the beginning.

Apple introduced the first iPhone back in 2007, and this was the starting signal for the mobile revolution. Although the mobile Internet existed with moderate prosperity before the iPhone, it had never truly reached mass market proportions. Sure, there were a lot of people throughout the world using the mobile Internet, but compared to what we see today the numbers were still low in relative terms. No manufacturer of mobile devices including the global market leader Nokia, along with Samsung, Motorola, SonyEricsson and LG had approached what Apple was able to do — to create a handset which makes it supersimple to browse the Internet on a mobile device. Sounds easy. Users who never browsed the Internet on a mobile phone knew exactly what to do as soon as they got their hands on it — it was so self-explanatory and intuitive.

Even if you don’t have a high Google ranking or general brand awareness, you shouldn’t ignore mobile as the evidence shows that every website has mobile traffic today.

It is interesting to consider that perhaps more important in the launch of the iPhone than the ease of usability, was a seismic Telecom industry shift — the availability of affordable data tariff contracts with the carriers.

I remember quite well the very early days of the mobile Internet in Europe years before the iPhone was launched. Mobile devices became more and more modern and were able to browse the mobile Internet - not as easily as with the iPhone, but there were plenty of people using it. The carriers who distributed the phones branded them with their logo and placed a special “Internet button” on the front. Many people accidently hit this button and a mobile connection was established for hours, even for days without the knowledge of the user. Of course the majority of users didn’t have a special data plan tariff, so one month later on their next invoice, people were shocked at the astronomic fees they had to pay for mobile browsing — in many cases browsing they were never even aware of. Newspapers, blogs, magazines and TV reported on this topic and people became more and more cautious, even scared! As the carriers spent billions and billions of Euros in 2000 for very expensive 3G licenses, they were scrambling for ways to finance these huge investments. I think we all agree this wasn’t the cleverest way to go about it. This practice caused a huge setback in the development of the mobile Internet.

With so many soured on their early mobile Internet browsing experience, several years had to pass before Apple launched its iPhone and closed exclusive contracts with the carriers including special and particularly affordable data tariff rates. The iPhone was an unqualified success in terms of sales figures and more and more people browsed the web on their new devices. Other device manufacturers were very surprised at Apple’s success and were forced to react with the launch of new and similar devices. After years of specialized manufacturing of mobile devices, no one had had the idea to build a mobile device with such easy use and navigation — so suddenly there were a lot of iPhone clones hitting the market and since then mobile traffic has steadily grown.

People are certainly comfortable using search engines on mobile phones. People are proven to be perfectly happy and willing to type in URLs of websites they already know. Many different research efforts are showing that ten out of every 100 users are attempting to access websites on their mobile devices that they already know from their desktop surfing.

In 2007, 1 percent of the total global web traffic was attributed to mobile devices. In 2008 this figure rose to 5 percent, on a continuing upward trend. Gross 2008 figures show that worldwide, 1.3 billion people browsed the web on a mobile phone. So the first and most important factor for the site owner in obtaining a lot of mobile traffic is a good Google ranking and/or a well-known brand. Currently mobile traffic accounts for about 10 percent of all web traffic. Depending on your Google ranking and your brand awareness you should see mobile traffic running at up to 10 percent of your total site traffic. Our internal statistics research across our partners’ sites shows that in some cases this threshold is even exceeded.

The mobile traffic on your site will grow constantly year-to-year for the foreseeable future. More people will buy new devices with sufficient data capability at affordable rates. Especially during the holiday season many mobile phones will be given away. And don’t forget that an average user replaces his phone every 18 months! Further, you should be aware that mobile is the latest of the seven mass medias. Younger people are growing up with mobile devices. It is normal for them to use mobile handsets every day. And this is our main target group for the future.

Even if you don’t have a high Google ranking or general brand awareness, you shouldn’t ignore mobile as the evidence shows that every website has mobile traffic today. Either people are coming to your website via referring websites where you have placed banners or initiated link exchanges or maybe you’re focusing on a special niche or offer specific content which people are searching for. You definitely have mobile traffic on your site!

How do you find out how much mobile traffic you have across your Internet sites? If you’re using Google Analytics you should have a closer look at your visitors. Google has a very good overview of mobile devices. This is the first indicator. If you’re using another analytics provider, you should check your stats for descriptors including “iPhone,” “iPod,” “iPad,” “Android,” “Blackberry,” “Symbian,” or “Samsung” to name a few.

Now that you should have a rough approximation of your estimated mobile traffic, how do you monetize this traffic?

Before you start to create your own mobile site and invest lots of time and energy and money in device detection and content adaptation, you should test how your mobile traffic converts. There are a lot of great mobile companies out there that specialize in the mobile commerce business. They can support you with your mobile strategy — for free! Without any financial risk you can get a determination on how your mobile traffic converts and plan further steps from there.

Working with a mobile company such as can help you to monetize your mobile traffic within minutes. All you have to do is install a mobile detection script, which analyzes and detects every single mobile visitor and redirects him automatically to a mobile site. The mobile site is whitelabeled (or not) and either hosted on your own or the mobile company’s servers.

The script itself is working on a PHP basis, which is “Google-compliant.” We have realized that a lot of people are using a redirect via JavaScript which we don’t recommend, as Google doesn’t like it and may punish your Google ranking. If you don’t support PHP you still can do a redirect via .htaccess which is another option.

If you have some technical experience you already know that implementing a PHP script or editing the .htaccess file requires just a couple of minutes. So with very little effort you can start generating money from potential users you have ignored for a long time. Why not give it a try? …Especially, if this is your first step toward developing a mobile strategy.

Right now, many of you could be wondering why the hell you have to provide a mobile site. The iPhone and many other devices including the Android powered phones (and others) are able to adjust the normal version of your website so that it fits perfectly to the mobile handset screen. Well, this is correct, but you still have to consider that many devices don’t support the latest web technologies like Flash or all the different video formats. Furthermore, it’s about the “Mobile Aspect” — and you want to tap into that! For us, mobile means “while on the go,” so when people are commuting from A to B and/or don’t have access to a WiFi infrastructure… they need information as fast as possible and don’t want to wait a long time for a site to appear on their screen. Some research shows that 40 percent of mobile Internet users expect that mobile sites appear as fast as on a PC! And even 12 percent expect that mobile sites load faster on a mobile handset than on a PC. Of course these expectations are not realistic, but you can see that only half the mobile population appreciates that mobile site loading takes more time than PC site loading, so please keep this factor in mind!

Now let’s assume you have a mobile site, and redirect your mobile visitors from your website to the mobile version. Depending on the aspect mentioned above (Google-ranking and brand) you should see daily hits and maybe sign-ups on the mobile site. You’ll realize very quickly that mobile conversions are better than conversions on a PC. It has to do with the nature of a mobile user. The carriers have created a unique commercial relationship with the mobile phone user, as they have to pay for everything they do ;-) Phone calls, text messages, calling the voice mail, browsing the mobile web, buying ringtones — everything costs money. So the mobile user expects to pay more for content on their handset than on their PC!

Now it’s up to you to increase transactions, and really, all it takes is increasing your traffic! But how do you increase your mobile traffic? There are several ways to do it.

The first option is to buy mobile traffic, and this is the quickest option you have. There are several traffic brokers available selling mobile traffic, but be careful as you have to invest money up front to buy traffic. Just like on your websites, you must question the quality of the mobile traffic which you plan to buy. There are a lot of elements which you must consider. Again — buying traffic is your fastest option, but not without specific considerations and due diligence.

Another good way to increase traffic is to trade links with other sites. You’ll find a lot of forums where people are looking for link exchanges. It helps you with your traffic and maybe to increase your Google ranking as well. More important is to let your existing user-base know that you also have a mobile presence. If you send out newsletters from time to time, tell your subscribers that your site is now also available for mobile phones!

You should also announce it through your Internet presence for your regular web visitors, and make sure they are aware of your mobile Internet presence as well.

You should even implement a form on your website and try to collect mobile phone numbers to keep them updated in the future; so you are able to send them text messages. Phone numbers have a much higher value than a email addresses. Users can have dozens of email addresses, but the majority have just one phone number. And they carry their mobile devices all day!

Of course you could also consider selling your mobile traffic for a flat fee or another payment model such as CPA, CPM, etc. In the end, you have to ask yourself if this approach is more profitable. Maybe you could make more money converting it on your own.

We only have room to go so far in depth, so if you want to send me any questions, feedback or ideas for other articles don’t hesitate to contact me via or my profile.


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