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The Beginner’s Guide to Mobile Monetization

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Mobile monetization is a necessity for any publisher that hopes to maximize their website’s ad revenue.

Did you know that mobile exceeds PC Internet usage?

A major shift in the way that people use the Internet has now occurred. Tablets and smartphones are in the hands of users at all times, reducing the amount of people that rely on their desktops to access the Internet.

As a publisher, you’re losing out on half of the market share – at least – if you’re not mobile-friendly. Monetizing mobile traffic is essential to boost publisher revenue, but it needs to start with the basics before we can even begin talking about monetization.

Optimize for Mobile

I won’t be going into great detail on how to optimize your site for mobile traffic, because I want to focus on monetization. But, you do need optimize your site for mobile before you can truly benefit from mobile traffic.

Check to See if Your Site is Mobile-Friendly

There are a lot of free tools to see if your site is mobile-friendly. One of the best tools is provided by Google and is called the Mobile-Friendly Test.

Simply plug in your URL, and the tool will scan your site and tell you if it’s mobile-friendly.

If your site passed the test, you’ll be able to continue on to the strategies below to monetize your mobile traffic.

Wait, My Site Isn’t Mobile Friendly!

Some sites will not pass the mobile-friendly test, which means some work will need to be done to bring your site up to speed. The following recommendations will help:

  • Update your theme (if you’re using a CMS).
  • View the site on your own mobile browser.
  • Change themes, if necessary, to a responsive one

If you have a completely custom site, you will need to implement a responsive design either yourself or by hiring a web designer to help.

You want to make sure that your site loads properly in a mobile browser. A visual inspection of your own mobile device is recommended. You’ll be able to see exactly what others see when they visit your site and if there are any areas that may need improvement, such as:

  • Slow load speeds.
  • Misaligned images.
  • Formatting issues.

If users need to scroll and pan too much to view your content, they will bounce off of the page. A responsive design utilizes grids to properly scale a website to the viewer’s screen size, but some websites will choose to create a completely different domain for mobile (such as http://m.yoursite.com), or some may even create an app.

Choosing the Right Ads and Ad Network

Not all ads displayed are responsive. When a non-responsive ad is displayed on a mobile site, it will conflict with your site’s layout, causing display issues. This can be something as simple as the user having to scroll to read the content – still not ideal – or the ad might misalign your layout completely.

In either case, you want ads that fit accordingly with your layout.

Google’s solution is to create responsive ad units. This allows you to create one ad unit that scales to the layout of your site, so no unwanted layout changes occur. It’s an optimal solution that works perfectly for AdSense users.

What if you don’t use AdSense?

You will need to consult with your ad network. If they do not offer mobile ads, it’s time to start looking for a new ad network to work with.

The Best Mobile Ad Networks

There are a lot of mobile ad networks geared towards mobile websites, apps or both. Mobile traffic often performs better in terms of revenue for publishers, so the payouts are often better on mobile.

The revenue will be dependent on your niche.

Choosing a mobile ad network allows you to fill both of your site’s needs: PC and mobile users. What ad networks do we recommend?

  1. AdMob
  2. AdSense
  3. StartApp
  4. InMobi
  5. Millennial Media
  6. Smaato
  7. Leadbolt

We’ve actually reviewed a lot of these networks in a previous post.

What you’ll notice is that a lot of these networks are geared towards apps only. This is problematic if you don’t have an app, but many of the traditional ad networks do offer mobile options for mobile websites.

Aside from just AdSense, a few of the many ad networks that offer solutions for PC and mobile viewing are:

  1. Revenue Hits
  2. BidVertiser
  3. Vibrant Media
  4. Epom Market
  5. Haxhax
  6. Media.net
  7. Conservant

What ad network will work best for your website?

It’s impossible to tell. Some websites will make more money off of AdSense, while others will see much higher earnings when using Revenue Hits. This is when split testing will be helpful. You will want to find out which ad network works best for your site or app’s traffic.

The Argument for Mobile Apps

Many website owners don’t think they would benefit from an app – and sometimes they won’t. Having an app built for a small blog with 100 readers may not be beneficial. A lot of resources must go into the app’s creation as well as maintaining the app for new updates to mobile operating systems.

Apps can be very expensive to maintain.

When you build an app, you’re expanding your mobile monetization possibilities dramatically. Again, it’s not feasible for a lot of website owners to create an app for their small entity, but there are a lot of benefits to having an app built:

  • Mobile apps have a 2.8x higher CTR than mobile websites.
  • The average eCPM for mobile apps is 2.5x higher than on the web.
  • Apps allow you to extend your brand and draw in new users or site visitors through your app.
  • In-app purchases. Freemium apps are a big hit. Perhaps you allow users to view all your site’s content, but offer exclusive content as an in-app purchase.
  • Apps are accessed more frequently than websites because they’re easily accessible.

What do I recommend?

This may be a matter of personal opinion, but every publisher that is trying to leverage mobile monetization should start with their website first. Most websites created in the last 5 years will be mobile-ready, and those that are not mobile-ready often need to be updated anyway.

If you’re using a CMS, it’s easy to install a new, mobile-friendly template that will allow you to cater to mobile users.

Once your mobile site is up-and-running, you will want to ensure that you’re displaying mobile-friendly ads and are able to profit off of mobile revenue.

Having a mobile website will:

  • Deliver more traffic to your site.
  • Add missed revenue from mobile visitors.
  • Add a mobile SEO boost to your site.

After a site is mobile-friendly, than it’s time to strongly consider having an app created. It’s a costly process, but it does have benefits, especially if you convert your current mobile users to app users.

Mobile apps add to the diversity of monetization for your site.

Mobile Monetization Options

You have two choices of monetization: A mobile website and app. Once either or both of these options are chosen, it’s time to optimize your site to bring in revenue.

Mobile Monetization Options

Starting with your mobile website. You’ll find that you have a few ad options that you didn’t have previously.

  • Screen Filled Ads. These ads stretch the entire screen and are impossible to miss. While these ads perform well, they can be intrusive to users, so they should only be displayed after a set amount of page views.
  • Video ads can be used on both apps and websites. Auto-playing video ads is not the best option for user retention, but video does have higher eCPMs and click-through rates.
  • Expandable Ads. Ads that are collapsed until clicked. These ads are more user-friendly because they require an interaction from your site’s visitor to expand open.
  • Interstitial Ads. Widely used in mobile apps. This ad unit encourages user to click on the ad often when playing a game. User actions are needed to activate the ad, such as playing a game and being shown the ad before given access to the game.
  • Standard Units. These are the normal ads seen on websites and in apps. These ads are smaller in size and will have restrictions in size based on the screen size of the visitor. These are non-interactive ads.

Traditionally, standard units are the least intrusive to the viewer, but these ads are also the worst performing. Viewers, even on mobile, have become ad blind to the standard ad units. The media-rich and interactive ads can be more intrusive, but they are clicked more frequently and they offer much higher revenue.

Mobile apps do offer a few monetization options that aren’t offered with mobile websites.

  • In-app Purchases. Offering exclusive content to users of an app for a premium price is common. This offers a new form of monetization, but not all content should be offered as a premium. You want to keep freemium users around to bring in ad revenue.
  • Remove Ads. Many apps that are freemium will offer the option to remove ads for a small fee. Those that have a large user base will find that the removal of ads is best accomplished with a premium paid app.
  • Premium App. No one says you have to offer your app for free. Offering a premium app where ads are removed will provide immediate income. A subscription-based option that removes ads monthly, for example, is another option.
  • App Sponsorships. If you work with advertisers directly, you can offer app sponsorships. This will allow users to use the app for free, and the app will be sponsored by the advertiser. Spotify does this well when they display ads on their app when they cut to an ad and say, “this ad is brought to you by…” Now, Spotify is also offering 30 minutes of ad-free music on mobile devices that is also brought to users by a sponsor.

Don’t Overlook Newsletters

How many of your newsletter subscribers are on a mobile device. Even websites that aren’t mobile-friendly and have no intention of going mobile-friendly will want to focus on their newsletter.

Mail chimp performed a study that demonstrated 69% of users will delete an email without reading it if it’s not mobile-friendly. The same study showed that 18% of the users will actually unsubscribe from the newsletter.

If you have a newsletter, you know that your subscribers hold an immense monetary value.

Not only do you want to ensure that your newsletter is mobile-friendly, you also want to ensure that any ads displayed in your newsletter are mobile-friendly. Your newsletter is an extension of your website, so when users click on a link back to your site, they will expect it to be mobile-friendly.

Ideally, switching to an either mobile-specific newsletter or using a one-column format for your newsletter will provide the best flexibility for your viewers.

It’s a lot to take in at once, but our guide will provide you with the good foundation for mobile monetization. Now, you should move on to split testing your ads to see which formats and networks perform best for your audience.

Through minor tweaks, you can start to leverage the mobile market with or without an app.

Have you taken the appropriate steps to start monetizing mobile traffic?