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mobile first design for publishers

Mobile Optimization Strategies for Local Publishers

More people access the Internet from mobile devices than desktop, and that’s not just counting millennials or members of Generation Z. More than four-in-ten seniors now use smartphones, as well, and yet the user experience on websites accessed from mobile devices is still lacking in many cases. Mobile optimization hasn’t been fully integrated into the publishing ecosystem, largely because many publishers don’t understand the benefits of creating fully mobile-focused websites.

For years, mobile has been considered the missing piece for independent online publishers. That’s despite the fact that 46% of people now access news on their smartphones. Without mobile optimization, publishers are missing out on conversions and hurting their search engine rankings. According to Google, people are 5x more likely to leave a website that isn’t mobile-friendly. For publishers who should be looking to impress advertisers, especially, it can be downright disastrous for paid ads to get buried at the bottom of a page.

As with nearly everything in life, a healthy balance is key. The right optimization strategy delivers content and ads in a way that satisfies readers and advertisers on both desktop and mobile devices.

Here are five mobile optimization strategies that independent online publishers should take into consideration.

1. Test for mobile usability

See for yourself what the user experience on your website is like on a mobile device. Keep in mind that your website may not look the same to users on every device, and just because one page looks OK doesn’t mean every page does.

Google has thorough tool that publishers can use to evaluate the mobile-friendliness of their websites and test how people can use their websites on smartphones and tablets.

Potential technical issues that could be impacting the mobile optimization of your website include flash usage, a viewport that’s not configured, content that’s not sized to viewport, and interstitial usage, which is a full-screen popup that can negatively impacts the user experience on mobile devices.

2. Optimize site load speeds for mobile

Visitors on mobile devices are less apt to wait around for pages to load and more apt to click away from sites with slow load times. Even when a webpage loads quickly on a WiFi network, that doesn’t mean users with 4G devices won’t still have problems.

Test for site load times using page speed tools and then work to eliminate elements that might be slowing things down, like images that aren’t compressed and JavaScript and CSS in above-the-fold content. Also consider leveraging browser caching as a way to optimize site load speeds for mobile users.

3. Go fully responsive

When publishers make their sites fully responsive, they don’t have to worry about creating separate designs for each device. Fully responsive websites should eliminate the need for plugins. Responsive websites are also more efficient for bot crawling, indexing, and organizing website content — all important elements in search engine optimization.

Instead of dividing the page rank between two sites, with a traditional website and a mobile version, fully responsive websites consolidate everything into one URL and are generally easier for publishers to manage. In addition to the SEO benefits, having a condensed, responsive site makes it easier for readers to share articles and links across social media.

4. Setup mobile responsive ads

Not all adservers are the same. Some make it much easier to set up mobile responsive ads than others. Platforms that are popular with independent publishers, like Broadstreet, allow users to create responsive ad zones. Responsive ads make it simpler for publishers to offer cross-device campaigns on their sites, with ad units that can adapt to different devices.

In addition to increased efficiencies, responsive ads help publishers monetize traffic by allowing them to easily sell cross-platform ad packages.

5. Get rid of interstitial ads

Google’s mobile interstitial penalty, which was rolled out in January 2017, penalizes sites with ads that prevent mobile users from viewing content by lowering their mobile rankings. These penalties impact publishers with pop-ups, welcome ads, and roadblock ads on their sites.

Possible solutions include turning off interstitial ads for visitors using mobile devices, placing interstitials further down on pages, or adding floating “smart bars” instead of interstitial ads, since “smart bars” are not being penalized by Google at this point.

For publishers who are more focused on producing great journalism than upgrading their websites for mobile compatibility, programs like Web Publisher PRO can do most of the behind-the-scenes work for mobile optimization. These ensures that publishers have the latest website upgrades, so that their sites won’t be penalized by search engines.