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In Which I Experiment With AdSense for Mobile
Queue song by The Who
One of my larger trafficked sites is a seasonal event site. (If you look me up it's not hard to find) For the past few years I've noticed an increasing number of phone browser user agents, and often toyed with the idea of creating a mobile version of the site. "Too hard, too much work" I whined to myself, and kept putting it off.
This year the growing mobile traffic was impossible to miss. These are people who most likely are *not* seeing AdSense on my site, because their browsers prevent it. Plus, my site, while pretty simplistic in design, isn't exactly formatted for the small screens.
So on Monday I decided I would whip up a quick and dirty mobile version of the site, and redirect mobile users to it. As I proceed with this experiment, I'll pass along my experiences.
Once I made up my mind that I didn't need to convert the entire site all at once, this became a lot more manageable. The core value of my site is that I have a comprehensive list of events, searchable by either date or location. I decided to put up a page with just the two types of search box. That meant I only had to deal with the search page and the results page.
My site is not on any packaged platform, just something I whipped together years ago in PHP and MySQL so I didn't have to deal with stripping down anyone else's code, or converting WP or some other CMS. All my main elements are PHP includes anyway, so really all I had to do is copy them and strip out a lot of the formatting. Why the heck didn't I do this before? Took about an hour to get it working and looking right.
I set the pages to NOINDEX because I don't need duplicate content issues, and there's no reason for the mobile pages to go into Google.
Someone clued me in to a nifty site out there that gives you redirect code for mobile browsers that you can add to your existing site. [moderator note: see detectmobilebrowser.com [detectmobilebrowser.com]
Creating an m.example.com subdomain was easy enough. That was going to be my mobile site.
So once I was satisfied it was working okay, I tottled over to AdSense to see about the ads. The first thing you choose is whether or not you want to show ads for high end phones only (iPhones and Android and the like) or all phones. Since my understanding is that AdSense automatically detects a high end phone and serves an appropriately formatted ad for it, I'm not sure why the high end only option is default, but I picked all phones for now. If you select "high end phones", you do get some choices as to the size of the ad, where you don't when it's set to "all phones". You then choose if you want text and images, text only or image only.
There are two ad formats - single and double. You are only allowed ONE ad unit per page; the single shows one ad and the double shows two. If you opt for the double, you MUST add the code to the bottom of the page (even though it may not always display at the bottom) I chose the single to start.
Next you choose the markup for the ads. Your mobile pages have to be wml, xhtml or chtml. I never heard of the first or third, and I had to go back to make some modifications for xhtml. (It's not perfect, nor does it validate, but I'll fix that later, pageoneresults) Then I formatted the ad colors, assigned it a channel for tracking, and got the code.
There are more code options with mobile ads.
* PHP v4.3.0 or greater
* CGI/Perl v5.8 or greater
* JSP v1.2 or greater
* ASP v3.0 or greater
I chose PHP. Added the code where I want the ad to appear.
Now I'm waiting. After you add the code, they say it takes up to 48 hours for the ads to appear. Not sure why; maybe they come and manually look at the page? I'm sure once I can actually *see* it in my BlackBerry, I'll be making tweaks. I might also test the high end phone code too to see what different formats bring.
The one thing that blew me away is how much mobile traffic I'm actually getting. I racked up a thousand pageviews in a couple hours after I put the redirect in. Had no *idea* it was that much. Now it's running a steady TEN PERCENT of my overall pageviews. This time of year, that's quite a bit. So even if I don't get the AdSense working, that traffic probably wasn't seeing the ads anyway, and they probably have a better user experience on a page that actually fits their phone (and loads faster)
Still have some issues I'll have to think out. Getting more of my pages into mobile format - right now I'm just directing *all* mobile traffic to the site to the search page. Not sure what effect the redirect code will have on my analytics. And of course, since the AdSense hasn't kicked in yet, I have no idea what the ads will be like, or if it will earn any money.
But none of this cost me anything except maybe three hours of time. And the feedback from the users has been positive. And judging from the number of people I saw on Twitter yesterday complaining about not being able to complete their orders for the new iPhone, this is definitely worth a test.
Obviously, this isn't for every site. But it might be worth testing on a page or two, if you notice your mobile traffic steadily inching up.
Will keep you posted. Also suggestions/tips from anyone who's already gone down this road would be cheerfully and enthusiastically welcomed.
Adapt or die.
[edited by: tedster at 2:37 am (utc) on Jun 17, 2010]
[edit reason] I added a link to the website [/edit]
Really good information, Meg.
FWIW, my corporate clients have been blown away by how much mobile traffic they're getting this year, too. I started putting it on the monthly reporting at the first of the year, and it just keeps climbing every month. Ten percent is pretty close to what I'm seeing, even on sites that aren't optimized for mobile at all.
If my site is greenwidgets.com, is there any real value in grabbing greenwidgets.mobi (assuming it's available) for possible future use?
Exactly. And I've been far too slow to get on board with this.
Nice post netmeg. This one gets bookmarked.
|If my site is greenwidgets.com, is there any real value in grabbing greenwidgets.mobi (assuming it's available) for possible future use? |
Personally I don't think so. I had some .mobi domains and I let 'em drop. I don't care WHAT TLDs they add, people will always default to dot com in their heads. I don't buy alternate TLDs to use, I buy them when I care enough about the site to want to prevent anyone else from using them. I'd rather use a subdomain off my main domain to strengthen my "brand"
plus that way I don't have to change the tee shirts
Netmeg - To connect this thread and the thread about knowing geographic locations of visitors...
I visited your site. I'm in NC and it looks like you're in MI. I saw two ads side by side - one was for getting BP oil spill claim forms and the other was for Tampa area coupons - as if I'm in Florida or somewhere along the Gulf coast.
My confidence in Google getting the geographic locations correct is pretty low. Although another ad on your site tells me they are pretty good with this IBA thing.
Did you visit by phone? Cause I haven't seen those ads yet.
I'm pretty happy with the regular targeting on the site. I don't know why you saw what you saw; when I go there from anything approaching a Michigan IP, I see lots of local ads for Michigan goods and services. And my ad revenue so far this season is more than twice what it was two years ago (previously my best year) It took Google a couple years to get it right, but it seems right to me.
But only way to know is to test it.
Did you abbreviate the event info for the mobile version?
Maybe just show the critically important info like date, location, time, cost? Or did you include the full event info package?
Everything's there. Some have more descriptions than other, and sometimes there are multiple events for a location or for a date (you don't even want to see the July 4th page) Refinements will be considered for phase 2.
I have an iPhone and when I browse the web, the pages come up just like on my computer screen, only smaller. I even see the adsense ads. If mobile phones are becoming more advanced and are starting to offer a web browsing experience more and more like when on your laptop/desktop what's the point of creating a mobile version of a site?
Even the Blackberries now offer browsers you can download that work just like IE, etc. on your computer.
I guess it is harder to read, though.
Anyway, keep us informed on how things go!
My brand new BlackBerry Bold 9650 which I received less than two weeks ago does not display AdSense with the native browser.
Opera would display it, but then you're relying on someone to go to the trouble of downloading and installing Opera.
And there are tons of phones that *aren't* iPhones.
Carriers are phasing out "all you can eat" data plans, which means stripped down sites optimized for mobile may consume less bandwidth.
If you're in a competitive environment and none of your competition offers mobile pages while you do, you may have an advantage.
Those are a few reasons; I'll probably think of more.
I'd be really interested to hear what effect this has on revenue.
According to Google Analytics one of my high-volume sites is just over 25% mobile users now (although another site is under 2%). I don't do anything special for mobile yet (the site is very simple), but as the pages/visitor are much lower for mobile I probably should.
Interestingly the main "carriers' showing up for mobile for me are (Time Warner) Roadrunner and Comcast, which implies a lot of mobile usage is tethered to wi-fi at home. iPhone, iPod and iPad dominate, but Android is catching up.
I'm seeing a ton of BlackBerry referrals. (And not all of them are me, even)
|Interestingly the main "carriers' showing up for mobile for me are (Time Warner) Roadrunner and Comcast, which implies a lot of mobile usage is tethered to wi-fi at home. iPhone, iPod and iPad dominate, but Android is catching up. |
I have a netbook computer I purchased from Verizon. I can connect to the Internet via Verizon's wireless service (built-in antennae, not an air card) or via WiFi when a service is available where I am at the time.
I wonder how my visits would be reported to a webmaster - mobile visitor?
|Did you visit by phone? Cause I haven't seen those ads yet. |
No. Via netbook computer using Verizon's wireless service.
great post...I have been doing this for a couple years and get great results. It sure took me along time to figure out though. I just knew the dot mobi would be out in a couple years because of all the smart phone stuff. But man people are sure looking at screens in small gagets now. Now we need to think about 3D website development.
|If mobile phones are becoming more advanced and are starting to offer a web browsing experience more and more like when on your laptop/desktop what's the point of creating a mobile version of a site? |
To add to the above question, is there a standard definition of what constitutes a "mobile version" of a site?
Wait, I got off track a bit from the post a bit because I do not do adsense or ad serving.
I built a mobile version recently as well. Though i have not rolled it out yet. Could not decide on how to implement giving users the choice of defaulting out of the mobile version. From what i read i think using a cookie is common practice? Along with a link up top to give users the option right away to turn off the mobile site.
Have not tinkered with the ads yet. Great motivation after reading your thread!
Great info. Thanks for the post. That's a good motivator to get this stuff done, finally.
I just visited the site via my Nokia e71 - no ads there neither in phone's native browser nor in Opera.
|one of my high-volume sites is just over 25% mobile users now |
I find this amazing since I have had several .mobi sites up for 3.5 years now, they are prominently linked through their respective example.com sites yet no one uses them and I mean maybe a couple of hundred uniques per month.
I decided recently not to renew quite a few of them because of this plus after viewing my main sites on a mobile they looked pretty good anyway.
Whether it is to do with my main niche subjects I am not sure since they are principally trade images and technical specifications therefore maybe you'd have to be a little desperate to want to do this on a mobile?
Just goes to show how niche subjects can vary possibly?
I don't have a mobile version of my site but have been looking at my figures.
I see that for my main site, which had around 250,000 visits last month, mobile visits accounted for around 5%
The Adsence impressions per mobile visitor are approx 1/3 of the overall site figure.
Also, the Adsence CTR for mobile was about 1/3 that of the overall site figure.
I have always doubted whether mobile visitors are as interested in adverts - would they spend the time or are they visiting the site for some quick info.
However, I am sure we would all like to know if having a mobile site would improve the income from mobile users - their numbers will surely grow.
Netmeg - I looking foward to hearing how it works for you.
V. interesting topic. Many thanks for posting.
I was wondering the other day if the I-Pad would really become a mass market tool, and possibly replace laptops as the mobile device of choice for those on the move who find Blackberrys and the like too small and fiddly.
Which then begs the question as to what G would classify an I-Pad as? Is it a mobile device?
|I was wondering the other day if the I-Pad would really become a mass market tool, and possibly replace laptops as the mobile device of choice for those on the move who find Blackberrys and the like too small and fiddly. |
There should be no necessity to build a mobile site for an iPad since normal sites should work just like with 7" netbooks.
I must agree wholeheartedly about the "small and fiddly", my sausage fingers have no chance on those devices! There's a huge potential bloke market out there waiting for the easier-to-use mobile device.
Wow, tons to reply to here, but not much time. We'll see how far I get.
|No. Via netbook computer using Verizon's wireless service. |
A netbook is reported as a computer. You're using a full browser, right? I don't have the Verizon wireless, but I do have an XP netbook on my own wifi that I run FF and IE on. That's why you saw my regular ads.
|To add to the above question, is there a standard definition of what constitutes a "mobile version" of a site? |
Well, sort of. At least, what there is seems to be all over the place, and all pieces of the puzzle not in one. I'm still tracking that down. I put up the site in XHTML. There are a couple of other formats that are acceptable (that I know nothing about) @pageoneresults found me the mobile site validator at the W3, and was of great assistance to me trying to get this set up. There's a different DOCTYPE statement, for example. And there are some "best practices" that are (I think) way off - like pages under 10k, certain scripts and codes. I like to validate stuff because I'm not a genius coder and it's the fastest and best way for me to know I don't have mistakes in the code. But I don't know that I'll be able to get this thing to validate 100% with the mobile site validator without severely alterating my existing DB codes, and I don't have time to do that right now. I'm at 90%. Heck, Google's mobile page is only at 58%.
I think if you start with building your page in good error-free fast loading XHTML, that takes you a long way into it, but I'm still figuring out the last part.
That's fine, it's still part of the conversation. I entered this post here because I spend more time here and AdSense was the impetus for my experiment, but I could have just as easily entered it in the mobile/phone forum. Too bad we can't link.
|Wait, I got off track a bit from the post a bit because I do not do adsense or ad serving. |
that's a refinement I hadn't even thought of yet. Next phase. Thanks.
|Could not decide on how to implement giving users the choice of defaulting out of the mobile version. |
No I'm not seeing them yet either. Dunno why. It's been more than 48 hours, so either my site isn't formatted correctly yet, or it's not been approved, or they don't have any ads, or they haven't gotten around to turning it on. No way to know, and there's no way to ask - you can't ask support a question about this. So like most things with Google - if it's works, it works, and if it doesn't, move on.
|I just visited the site via my Nokia e71 - no ads there neither in phone's native browser nor in Opera. |
I want to try the ads, but if they don't show up, it's still probably a good experiment.
|Which then begs the question as to what G would classify an I-Pad as? Is it a mobile device? |
I don't have one so I can't test the user agent. I thought it ran the iPhone OS, but I could be wrong. I'll have to snag someone who has one to do some tests.
Oddly, my new Blackberry's native browser goes right to my mobile page with the redirect. But my old Blackberry's native browser shows the ads and stays on the normal page. I have to look up that user agent too.
'kay, gotta run. Still running around 10% of pageviews. By next week that'll be 10k a day.
I have since December 2009 an Android cell phone.
AdSense shows up just like on a normal computer.
The screen is 480x320, but I can zoom, that my 600 pixel width content is all at once on the 480 width.
I use my Android regular for browsing when I am not at home.
I did not use my cell phone before with 240x320 screen and unuseable browser.
So I think Android and iPhone users can see my pages as is with AdSense, the rest is not interesting for my sort of visitors.
Which then begs the question as to what G would classify an I-Pad as? Is it a mobile device?
Yes, Google Amalytics does show iPhone, iPod, iPad etc as mobile devices.
Huskypup, just in case I wasn't clear, the 25% mobile device users reported is for my normal site, I don't have a mobile version yet. The main site is however fast and light (no graphics) so it's really quite similar to a mobile targetted site, other than having normal ads.
Looking at these stats, I'm surprised to find I now have many more iPhone visitors than Mac visitors! And as many iPad visitors as Linux.
Time to look at my other sites and see why they don't work so well on mobile - on that I would have thought would be very useful from a phone is only getting 2% mobile device users.
Just looked at the Google Analytics mobile stats of one of my sites
1. iPhone 62
2. Android 56
3. iPod 14
4. iPad 8
5. SymbianOS 7
6. Sony 3
7. BlackBerry 2
8. Samsung 2
9. Windows 2
Top 4 can show AdSense like normal, rest has far to less visits for an effort
For testing, you could install the User Agent Switcher plugin for Firefox and check your log files for the various UA's that are used by mobile devices. i.e.
Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_1_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/528.18 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile/7E18 Safari/528.16
Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; U; CPU OS 3_2 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/531.21.10 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.4 Mobile/7B367 Safari/531.21.10
BlackBerry8320/188.8.131.52 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/100
I have this on my todo list too - I see mobile at ~3% visits, so it isn't urgent, but that visit count is rising *fast*, so It has to happen at some point :)
Today I was musing on just how to do it. First step is deciding where. I think the possibilities are:
* example.mobi (which I own for the site I would do first, so no worries there)
* example.com/m/ (which I see you chose, netmeg)
* plain example.com, and 'cloak' (I know I've read Matt Cutts say this is fine, provided you cloak correctly to the mobile and main bots, but I can't give you a ref.)
I'm leaning towards plain example.com, cloaked - except cloaking makes me all itchy with worry - I don't trust the G not to change its mind :(
My next preferred is m.example.com, mostly because thats what all the cool kids seem to do ;)
What do other people think?
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