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]