Could Your Mobile Become Your Only Computer?

SEO | 17th July 2017 | Emily

There has been a lot of talk about the mobile first index, its arrival has sparked widespread panic about becoming mobile friendly. To celebrate this arrival, we thought we would offer something related to mobile and search for our readers that isn’t directly related to the Mobile First index.

There is no getting away from the mobile first index. So, regardless of where your traffic is currently coming from you will need a good mobile strategy in order to appear when somebody searches on a desktop.

We didn’t want to put an article out that simply scares people into becoming mobile friendly so we started researching other angles and stumbled on an article from the Independent about mobile traffic overtaking desktop traffic for the first time in November 2016 . You can read it here to get a better understanding. We liked it because it seemed to insinuate that as of now everybody should throw away their desktops and focus on mobile, as mobile searches would surely continue to over throw desktop. We wanted to see if people should bin their desktops altogether.

To do this we delved into our plethora of analytical data to see what had been going on with mobile vs. desktop traffic over the last two years. To make it fair we pulled a sample set of fifty of our client websites, some small some large. In the interests of data protection, we cannot share the website names but we have grouped them into industries.

It’s not an exhaustive list of sites but our hope is to do our bit for the search community. Post up our findings and see if we all need to start panicking about the downfall of desktop search or not.

We will make the complete spreadsheet of data available if you want to view it in its raw format. Feel free to use it as you wish (citing us as the original source would be nice).

So, where do we start?

The first thing that jumped out at us is that over the last two years there were only fourteen of our fifty websites that showed mobile usage exceeding that of desktop. This surprised us a little after everything we have read. Then we figured that maybe two years is a little broad of a timescale considering our source article highlighted the switch from November 2016.

With that in mind, we pulled the same websites but used the last six months figures instead. The results here really did surprise me. Even if we only look at the last six months there was only a six website difference compared to the last two years.

Out of these six, one of them was our own website and as we are a digital marketing agency we would expect our target audience to be on the list of high adoptive mobile users. There were two sites that had very little traffic overall and their mobile user stats topped desktop with low volumes. Is it fair to include them as decision makers to make everything mobile friendly? The other three were made up of a nursery and two e-commerce sites so fair play.

Apart from the relatively low jump in the last six months, we believe that mobile usage is still and will always be very industry specific or at least for a long time yet. If we take a look at our data again the legal, trade and couriering industries had higher desktop usage than mobile and the last six months saw this trend continue.

There will no doubt be more industries like this and we believe that in certain industries people will only ever feel comfortable searching on a desktop.

We then wondered if we had missed something and started checking month-by-month figures to see if these were increasing on a monthly basis across the board. We couldn’t find any evidence of this either.

Out of all of the sites that did top the mobile traffic over the last six months, only 11 of them had arguably noticeable switches from desktop to mobile. The remaining 9 showed sporadic switching between the two. The rest of the sites on our list didn’t show any noticeable increases either on a month-by-month basis.

One result stood out to us. One site has received more mobile visitors on the site over desktop since November 2014. You read that right. We said 2014. We couldn’t believe it either. We checked and double-checked and it is 100% correct. When we looked as to why there was no direct reason that we could put our finger on. Unfortunately, we did not have another e-commerce client that matched their profile to compare it against so you will have to draw your own conclusions from this. This site is fashion related and the products are relatively low value and are purchased on a 3 – 6 month basis. We welcome you to compare against your own e-commerce business or your client’s site. Let us know if you see anything similar to this.

E-commerce seems to be the area that paving the way for mobile surfers as nearly all e-commerce sites that we looked at saw a significant increase in mobile traffic in the last six months. It does dip for the higher value sites but providing a great mobile experience is definitely something you should be considering if you don’t want your conversion rate to suffer.

So that’s it; our little dip into the world of mobile traffic vs. desktop traffic using our own data. Our conclusion is that you don’t need to start throwing your desktops away or optimising for mobile only (Just make sure site complies and is responsive) We hope we have shown that desktops are here to stay (In some industries anyway ha ha) so keep the nice designs coming.

Take a look at our data and slice and dice as you see fit and come to your own conclusions. Our suggestion would be to start improving the responsiveness of your site, as even if your industry still gets more desktop visitors than mobile once this update is in full swing surely Google will favour the mobile friendly sites.

Our final word though is not to panic, as from what we have been reading although this is going to be a huge update with some huge fluxes in rankings it will probably take a long time to get right and roll out. Unlike when Penguin first arrived these changes will more than likely be real time rather than manual so as long as you are making the changes any ranking dips should only be temporary.

For help with your SEO strategy feel free to get in touch with us as we like to believe we know what we are talking about and can help you achieve online greatness.