The Key to Mobile Revenue for Publishers: Less Is More

For publishers, the key to driving mobile revenue is not as simple as responsive site design and some standard ads sized for mobile. The most successful publishers create a sound strategy that guides their entire mobile experience, from understanding mobile usage to creating content that’s right for how their mobile audience consumes information, a mobile-specific monetization strategy, and creating the most optimal user experience and revenue model.


Creating solid building blocks is key to building a strong mobile plan. Start with an in-depth view of your audience. What traffic sources stream into mobile? How does your audience interact with your content and for how long? Use analytic tools to gain a firm baseline of how users interact with your content or to see how your content is shared, what keywords bring traffic to your site, and which drive users away. Knowing your audience and having the analytics to support decisions will help you create content appropriate for mobile. Only after understanding how your audience interacts with your mobile site should you start to think about how to monetize it. User experience is integral for your mobile plan, so creating a monetization strategy that’s in line with how users consume content is vital. Don’t blow all of your research on a site crowded with mobile-unfriendly ads.

Mobile Usage

People use their mobile devices differently than desktop, ranging from the time of day, the information they seek, and how much time they spent on a mobile site. BuzzFeed reported that 60 percent of its traffic comes from mobile, with share rates two times higher than desktop, so there is clearly an opportunity for monetization. But while many brands are ready to invest in mobile, CPMs may not be as high as desktop content, with brands giving a host of different reasons for the pricing disparity. As publishers invest in understanding their audience and in the quality of their mobile site, many of the reasons that brands give will not stand.

Review how users navigate to your site. From our publisher data, a publisher can see up to 80 percent of traffic coming from social and search referrals. Most publishers have issues with capturing the attention of this traffic since most of these users tend to view only one page and back out, aka “one and done.” The 33Across SiteCTRL analytics uncovered some deeper data insights around social sharing. When content is referred via email or another dark social source, users are 20 percent more likely to view more pages on a publisher’s site.

Mobile-First Design

A large percentage of social and search users may be first-time visitors to your site, so first impressions are critical. A clean, functional mobile design is imperative if you want your readers to return to your site. A good mobile user experience and clutter-free site correlates into an increase in revenue and return visitors. Your audience should also easily be able to determine the difference between content and ads. HBO comedy host John Oliver made his disdain for native advertising pretty clear last year.


You can’t hide from it any longer; according to eMarketer, mobile ad spend is expected to reach $77.6 billion by 2017. Publishers need to create a mobile-specific revenue plan since it is not as simple as throwing a banner ad on your mobile site and your pricing strategy will vary from desktop. Unfortunately, mobile does not allow for much advertising real estate, so you should work with the best monetization partners that fit the mobile strategy that you have built – not the other way around. One good, in-view ad that yields a good user experience could monetize six times higher than multiple desktop ads in mobile. All of the planning and research that you’ve put into place will help spearhead the right monetization strategy. You owe it to your audience to give them a good user experience with relevant ads from quality advertisers.


Now that you have your plan in place with the appropriate audience insights and monetization strategy, you’ve got a good start – but you are far from finished. Mobile changes slightly every time a new smartphone or tablet is released. You need to constantly monitor for audience feedback to see where you can make site improvements. Some of this feedback may even lead to another site redesign. Remember to use all of the information from your analysis to plan for change, and with it, greater user engagement, traffic, and monetization.

Image via Shutterstock.

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