Remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of children’s books? The format of the book allowed readers to make choices on what to do next in the story, which led to different outcomes and one of many endings – some good, some very bad.

Choose Your Own Adventure Book

The format of these books is not far off from the real-life choices and potential outcomes when deciding on which mobile solution to implement for a website. Some of the results are good, and some, very bad.

In BrightEdge’s 2014 Mobile Share Report, released just last week, we discovered how adventures in mobile configuration have impacted sites positively and negatively when it came to smartphone rankings and traffic.

What we found was 27 percent of websites studied had incorrectly implemented their mobile solution, which yielded an average of 68 percent loss in smartphone traffic.

The Mobile Solution: Which to Choose?

As you may know, Google has proclaimed its support of the following three mobile configurations:

1. Responsive Web design: This type of mobile configuration keeps the URL and the content the same, but uses CSS to change how the page is rendered based on device.

Responsive Design Example

2. Dynamic serving: This type of mobile configuration serves the same URL to all devices, but dynamically changes the content depending on the device.

Dynamic Serving Example

3. Separate mobile sites: This type of mobile configuration is when a website has a separate mobile experience from the desktop version, and the URLs and content are different.

Separate Mobile URL Example

Depending on which type you choose, you can have a very different “ending.” For example, did you know that separate mobile URLs tend to have the highest implementation error rate? In our research, 72 percent of the sites with a separate approach showed errors.

Whether you’ve already implemented mobile and are reconsidering your path, or you’re just starting to plan for a mobile solution, it’s time to start deciding which mobile experience is right for your brand and your website. But choosing a mobile path really doesn’t start with you at all. It starts with the intent of the user and the goals of the site.

There are two common scenarios for smartphone users interacting with a site that can help determine the mobile solution path:

  1. When smartphone users have the same intent as desktop users. In this scenario, the experience should be optimized for the different screen sizes only, so responsive Web design would be an optimal choice.
  2. When smartphone users have different intentions than desktop users. For this scenario, the website should be configured for those different use cases using a separate mobile URL approach or dynamic serving.
Different Mobile Configurations BrightEdge

Source: BrightEdge 2014 Mobile Share Report

But how do you discover intent? There are a myriad of ways to uncover intent including keyword data by device when available, the pages smartphone users visit most, qualitative data like when surveying customers and more.

Whether you know it or not, you likely have a lot of insight about the intent of your audience just by using common sense about the behavior of visitors to your site. It’s easier to start with assumptions and then use data to back it up, for example:

Say you’re a nationwide retailer that sells clothing online and also in local brick-and-mortar stores. You might assume that those coming from a desktop are likely looking to perform research and to buy clothes online, whereas those coming from a smartphone are likely looking for the location and contact information of a local store.

After you’ve brainstormed and mapped visitor intent, the next decision to weigh is the complexity of the mobile configuration, and what resources need to be in place at the time of implementation and beyond to ensure it’s always running smoothly.

In our research, responsive Web design was a favorite for ease of implementation with a negligible error rate among the sites studied. Next, dynamic serving showed less errors than separate mobile URLs. The separate mobile approach showed the most errors, as outlined in the following graph:

Mobile Implementation Errors BrightEdge Research

Source: BrightEdge 2014 Mobile Share Report

Here’s to a Happy Ending

As you can imagine, creating an excellent mobile experience while ensuring the site’s SEO is in tact during the implementation process takes a team of skills and roles coming together, like marketing, technical SEO, development and IT during the time of implementation and well into the future as the site grows and changes.

As part of your mobile adventure, you have to weigh factors like the intent of the user, the available implementation resources and the propensity for errors to decide which path you’ll take, and ultimately, which ending you’ll create for yourself.

But every adventure needs a sidekick, and that’s what our 2014 Mobile Share Report aims to be. Check out the full report for tips on how to avoid common mobile pitfalls, and how different configurations can affect your smartphone rankings and traffic.

To a happy mobile ending!