Monetizing mobile traffic ain’t no joke. More website traffic than ever is coming from mobile devices, while ad revenues lag behind. One of the solutions to this challenge for publishers is pagination. But only if you do it right.
When it comes to ads, size matters. As a webmaster balancing ad visibility and content, you know this well. So it’s no wonder mobile advertising is so hard. There’s just so little room for ads on that tiny screen. Not to mention the difficulties in targeting on a cookie-less platform. They hurt advertisers as well as publishers.
You’re not the only one feeling the revenues drop because of the audience’s move to mobile. According to the Wall Street Journal, content consumers spend 55 percent of their time on publishers’ properties using mobile. And yet, mobile advertising accounts for less than 20 percent of ad revenues. The same is true for many of the largest publishers out there, like the New York Times and Forbes.
Mobile ad blindness might just be the biggest challenge for publishers and advertisers since the blight of banner blindness. Everyone seems to be throwing money at mobile because that’s where the traffic is. But no one seems to be making enough money from mobile ads.
Advertisers aren’t seeing direct returns on their mobile ad spend:
Although ad spend is rising exponentially, direct mobile ROI is still elusive causing many advertisers to realize that the real value in mobile advertising lies in localized advertising:
But let’s back away from the graphs, pie charts, and tables for a minute and talk about something a little less heavy on the eyelids.
Mobile monetization is hard. Even large, data driven publishers are having a difficult time monetizing their mobile traffic. And there’s no lack of creative mobile monetization solutions out there. You can create an app that is a paid mobile magazine version of your website without the ads. You can experiment with various mobile-centric ad networks. But still mobile monetization gives many AdOps the creepy crawlies. All that being said, we still recommend you take example from companies like Forbes and Google, and paginate your stuff.
Welcome to the Pagination Nation
So what is this pagination I speak of? Well, if you’re not familiar with the term, I’ll save you the Googling. Pagination is a term from the world of book publishing, that set a trend for the way we consume content. When you take a large piece of content and split it into smaller numbered bits, readers have an easier time digesting it. Even if there is no technical limitation forcing you to split the content into multiple pages. On the mobile screen, pagination has other major advantages.
Faster load times
Mobile connections are about as stable as a teenaged pop-star’s emotional state. And they become slow and ineffective in areas with bad signal reception (much like said teenaged pop-stars). If your content is too heavy to load fast, users will just click back and choose to browse elsewhere. This is especially true for graphic heavy content like image galleries. By dividing content into several pages, you can make sure it loads and displays faster. And if the connection dies and the user clicks back? They end up on the previous page of your site. And continue browsing to the next page when connectivity returns.
Ease of use & user experience (UX)
Responsive is just not enough. One of the most annoying experiences for me, personally, when browsing on my mobile is trying to go back to the article I was reading, and I have no idea where I was. The browser forgets my position in the long page, and I have to scroll and scroll and scroll until I find where I was. Sometimes I just give up and move on. It’s much easier for me to read long texts on my mobile in “chapters” across several pages. If the navigation is comfortable, of course.
Another thing many publishers tend to ignore on mobile is design below the fold. The more you scroll, the less friendly and comfortable the layout looks. By using single page interfaces and minimizing scrolling, you make your website mobile-friendly. Not just responsive.
Pagination balances user experienced with monetization
Pagination is the perfect tool for finding the balance between your mobile monetization and your user experience. Google AdSense limits you to a maximum of two ads per page on mobile. Other networks have even stricter limitations. So you don’t need to be a math genius to figure it out. Instead of trying to load the page with more ads and content recommendation networks, just have more pages. If you have 1,200 words of content you can put 2 ads on it, you can only get so many views or clicks on that tiny mobile screen. If you split those 1,200 words into 4 chunks of 300 words, you just quadrupled your inventory for a single item of content. Simple math that equals a win win for both monetization and user experience. This is especially true with CPM models, where you get paid per view.
Many publishers do this not only on mobile, but on their desktop website too. A good example is Forbes. They tend to split 1,000 word articles into two pieces, basically doubling their number of hits and pageviews.
With galleries this is even more extreme. Instead of 10 images with some text on one page, you can now have 10 pages in a slideshow.
Decreased bounce rate & longer sessions
No math or magic here. More clicks inside your property means longer sessions and lower bounce-rate. And we all know how important those are, and why.
Better SEO & contextual ads
I am not the only one in favor of well-executed pagination. Google has been recommending it to webmasters for years. According to the Google Webmaster blog, search-friendly pagination makes indexing easier for the Googlebot. In addition, by splitting a post into parts, you can target different keywords with each page. This is not only great for SEO, but for contextual advertising as well. And contextual advertising is especially important on mobile, where there are less options for remarketing ads.
Paginating dos and don’ts
In order to be effective and beneficial, pagination needs to be set up correctly. Before you hurry and search for WordPress plugins or auto-pagination scripts for your mobile site? It’s important to understand the difference between pagination for desktop and for mobile. And learn the best practices, of course.
Paginate for fingers, not mice
Desktop pagination is simple and has been around since the dawn of the Internet. We’re using to clicking links with our mouse. But on mobile it’s tap, scroll, pinch and slide with a finger. Your pagination interface needs to take this into account. There are few things that annoy me more than tapping on the link for page 3 and ending up on page 4 because I didn’t aim just right with my fingertip.
Google Search for Desktop vs Mobile
Get creative. Use swipes for navigation through slideshows (like mobile apps or ebooks) and big buttons. Try to avoid the desktop standard of small enumerated link pagination on the bottom. Also note that Google is very strict about accidental clicks so avoid confusion between ad clicks and pagination clicks.
Right now you might be thinking: “Oh yes! I will split my content into itty-bitty pieces and make more money”. Well, no. If you divide content into too many small pieces (this is especially true for written content)? Both your readers and Google will hate it. From Google’s perspective, those will be considered content-thin pages. Which will hurt your SEO, ad revenues, and will put your AdSense in jeopardy. From the users’ perspective, it’ll just be too much of a hassle to have to tap or scroll to a different page every two paragraphs.
Technically fit – Or how to do mobile pagination right
Last but not least is the technical aspect of mobile pagination. Yes, I said you should get creative, but note that there are technical limitations to how creative one can be. One of the main “dangers” of pagination is scaring off the Google bot, both for organic results and for contextual ad matching. If your content isn’t organized in a way the bot can read it as a single piece over multiple pages: you’re doing it wrong. You can read more about SEO-friendly pagination in this guide.
If you use WordPress, there are quite a few plug-ins for auto-pagination, but be sure to pick one that looks good on mobile. And is Google-friendly, of course.
Don’t forget pagination changes your data
Pagination also affects the way content is displayed in analytics. You can use content grouping to see how many users viewed your content all the way through. And where they abandoned. This is very helpful information for you, as a content creator.
In addition to the way pagination changes analytics, it also gives you choices when it comes to social sharing. You can choose to let your readers share every slide or part of an article separately. Or you can let them share the first page no matter where they are in the article.
Split it when it fits
Pagination isn’t for everyone. Its effectiveness very much depends on the type and volume of content you offer, and your audience’s behavior. If your content is comfortable to view and navigate on mobile using pagination? Your ad revenues will rise. Experiment with it gently without confusing your readers too much, and see what works best for you.
Forbes, for example, splits 1,000-word articles into two pages. When they have a two-page article that attracts 9,000+ readers who go from start to finish, the ads on that article get 18,000+ impressions.
Another popular way to get more impressions from one article is by using slideshows or galleries. Posts with slideshows or galleries can easily be two or more pages, up to the length of the number of slides or photos you have. Hence, you could have a slideshow that attracts 5,000 visitors who go from start to finish that nets you 25,000 impressions if you have five or more slides / pages
If there’s one thing we would like you to leave with it’s that pagination is not right for every piece of content. To have a superior user experience that gets repeat visitors and high RPV (revenue per visitor) it’s not enough just to split your content up into a few pages. Remember books? Don’t do that. Book pages were bound by the size of the page. You aren’t. Don’t just use pagination arbitrarily, rather use it where it makes sense both to create suspense and as a natural breaking point. Have fun.
— AdNgin (@AdNgin1) December 10, 2015