Mobile Traffic Boom Sort of Good News for Publishers

Let’s start with the good news. First, mobile traffic is booming (and mobile ad spend is following right behind it). The not so good news? Mobile traffic is outpacing desktop traffic, which means an overall drop in desktop revenue for publishers. But it’s not all doom and gloom for those not ready for the change as we shift to a mobile-first world.

Shifting to a Mobile-first World

Chartbeat reports that since January 2017, there’s been a significant increase in mobile traffic by 34%, while desktop traffic has decreased by 14%. For publishers, we’ve reached a point where mobile and desktop are intersecting. With the major rise in mobile traffic, mobile ad spend is expected to follow. This year alone mobile is expected to account for 69.9% of all digital advertising, surpassing TV by $6 billion. And by 2020, mobile will garner more ad dollars than all other channels combined. The times they are a changing — rapidly.

As if that’s not enough to get publishers thinking about prioritizing a mobile-first strategy, then what about Google’s mobile-first indexing forcing their collective hand? While the change in how Google indexes web pages will give preference to mobile sites over desktop, it won’t necessarily impact ranking — but it will impact discovery. What this means for publishers is that more focus should be put into creating a mobile-friendly website that features your primary content. There’s sure to be some penalties down the road for anyone not delivering a great mobile experience for users.

Publishers, Get Your Ducks in a Row

With mobile advertising, one of the greatest challenges for publishers stems from the size of the screen and the speed of the networks in regard to developing creative that is both engaging and effective. As AdMonsters Editorial Director Gavin recently noted, the place for mobile advertising is in the feed.

Native component-based advertising allows for an increased amount of flexibility for publishers to design advertising formats to best serve a publisher’s audience and content goals.”

Let’s not forget the issues with viewability and measurement, which employing Open Measurement SDK can help to resolve third-party verification by not requiring multiple ad verification services. If publishers can get the creative and the measurement right, then they could be looking for a payday in the mobile-first economy.

The Duopoly Gets a Big Share

Google continues to be the leader of mobile ad revenue as of Q2 total revenue was $32.7 billion, but Amazon is making gains taking a ton of ad dollars from Google search with advertisers shifting of 50 – 60% of their budgets to Amazon.

We can also expect Facebook to earn lots of display revenue from their Audience Network, enabling brands to take their campaigns off the social network using similar targeting capabilities. For publishers, FAN offers monetization opportunities and the ability to deliver better quality ads to audiences.

Partnerships, Referrals and Social Vital to Success

Publishers taking advantage of Google’s AMP should see a steady increase in traffic from the service as it’s become a leading referral source, overtaking Facebook as publishers back off of Instant Articles. But according to a recent Chartbeat study, only one in three publishers are even experiencing a clear traffic boost from the service. Optimizing AMP implementation should increase monetization from the referrals.

Google Chrome Suggestions and Google News are also referring a lot of traffic to sites on mobile, with enough of a steady increase to make up for the traffic lost from Facebook. Optimizing for both services will provide more opportunities to monetize on the surge in mobile traffic.

Beyond Google and Facebook, Publishers can look to partnerships with news aggregators to increase mobile traffic. For instance, Flipboard’s referrals doubled since 2017. But choosing aggregator partner wisely will make all the difference given the latest AMP revelations and problems with monetizing on Apple News.

In the social arena, Instagram stepped up as a strong referrer for publishers, increasing referrals by 232% since January 2017, according to Chartbeat. Since Twitter referrals continue to decline Instagram is a surprising welcome, given Instagram users are really engaged on photos and videos in the app.

The Bottom Line

Mobile users are highly engaged and they seek content. As we continue to shift to a mobile-first world both challenges and opportunities will increase. To stay ahead of the curve, it’s time to change to a mobile-first mindset instead of lamenting the loss of desktop traffic.