Understanding Your Audience’s Mobile vs. Desktop Behavior for Better Optimization

By James Tredwell on January 29, 2020

Earlier this year, Google announced that new websites will be indexed using what they call “mobile-first” indexing. This means that the search engine predominantly uses a website’s mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking purposes

According to Google, “Historically, the index primarily used the desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user’s query.” But now that the majority of users access the search engine using mobile devices, Google’s bot started crawling and indexing websites with a smartphone agent last July 1st.

Google’s mobile-first indexing is just one of the many changes over the last few years brought on by the ever-increasing use of smartphones. With the advent of these mobile devices, the way people use the internet and interact with content online has also changed.

In October of 2015, we first saw the effect of mobile usage when mobile Google searches surpassed desktop searches for the first time. A few years before that, in 2008, less than 1 percent of all internet traffic was from mobile devices. These are the kinds of information that you shouldn’t ignore, especially because the way people use the internet on their mobile devices is different from when they use their personal computers.

If you want to capture your online audience, then a mobile-friendly website is a must. But before looking for complete SEO services that will help you succeed at that, you must first have an understanding of how your audience’s behavior differs when they’re browsing on desktop versus when they’re on their mobile devices.

1. The Difference in Search Queries

One of the main differences between desktop and mobile users is what they search for. In a report published at MediaPost, audience insights firm clearly found that consumers look for assistance when searching on mobile. Search queries containing the keywords where, when, how, and why, indicate that mobile is more often used to learn how to complete certain tasks.

On the other hand, consumers use desktop for broader queries and to satisfy their curiosity for products or services. These insights indicate that people tend to use desktops for more time-consuming research, while they use mobile when on-the-go and looking for quick answers.

2. The Difference in Peak Activity Times

One of the most essential aspects of your marketing strategy should be about determining when your audience is most active. This knowledge can help you design campaigns based on when your target market is most likely to make a conversion online.

For better optimization, you must know when they’re active on mobile and when they’re using PC. As it turns out, people mostly use mobile devices to go online either in the morning, between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. or at night, between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. Contrary to this, the use of desktop peaks during office hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

3. The Difference in Users’ Ages

The vast majority of the U.S. population—81 percent, in fact—are smartphone users. This is a huge increase from just 35 percent in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center.

When it comes to the age range, it’s the people aged 18 to 29 that make for the highest percentage of smartphone ownership at 96 percent. 30 to 49-year-olds follow at 92 percent. Around 79 percent of older adults aged 50 to 64 are smartphone users and about 53 percent of people older than 65 own a smartphone.

Meanwhile, about 74 percent of U.S. adults own a desktop or laptop computer today. Though no breakdown of age bracket comes with this newest report, in 2015 the Pew Research Center found that the age group with the largest percentage of computer owners is in the 30 to 49 age group, at 81 percent. They’re followed by 18 to 29-year-olds at 78 percent and 50 to 64-year-olds at 70 percent. Meanwhile, 55 percent of people aged 65 and above own computers.

These numbers show that, though the gaps aren’t huge, there’s still a difference when it comes to which age group is more likely to use which device. This insight is useful when planning campaigns so you’d know who how to optimize your site on mobile in a way that will convert your younger audience and what elements of your desktop website will turn your older audience into customers.

4. Difference Depending on the Stage in the Shopping Process

In 2018, research from Salesforce revealed that 87 percent of consumers begin product searches online before buying in-store. The report also says that 46 percent of shoppers prefer to buy at brick-and-mortar stores, while 53 percent prefer to purchase online.

Mobile devices, in particular, are useful to consumers when it comes to researching and making product decisions. In fact, 53 percent of e-commerce website traffic comes from mobile devices. However, when it comes to completing the transaction, people tend to switch to desktops. Traffic from mobile devices translates to just 32 percent of e-commerce revenue, while over half of desktop traffic (56%) translates to online revenue.

These numbers show that as customers narrow their search and near the end of their shopping process, they are likely to switch from mobile to PC. This may be because product descriptions and photos are more easily viewed and are clearer on a desktop. Of course, if your website is optimized for mobile through SEO services, your potential customers wouldn’t have to switch devices and you can focus your marketing strategies with mainly mobile devices in mind.

5. The Difference in What Users are Looking For

Different people have different needs. Understanding users’ motivations for visiting your website provides insights that may act as a foundation for how to effectively manage your content across devices. While one common goal of both mobile and desktop users is to search, they go about it differently on various devices.

Mobile device users tend to be more utilitarian. This means that they don’t want to spend time idling on your website. Instead, their goal is to get things done as efficiently as possible. On the other hand, desktop users are more open to other elements of a website, such as design. Testimonials, for example, may not support desktop users’ main need for information, but they are more receptive to it.

These nuances will help you optimize your website in a way that caters to the intent of users when they’re on their phones or browsing through their PC. If you want to further boost your business performance online, it’s advisable to look deeper into search engine optimization. You might be wondering— what is SEO? How does it work? SEO is what happens after you’ve understood how your audience behaves on mobile and desktop. It’s the application of data into practice. The goal? To direct and attract as much traffic as possible to your site which is possible with optimizing your website for search engines.

Why User Behavior Matters

These differences show that user behavior is highly dependent upon the type of device they’re using. Whether it’s mobile or desktop, it’s essential that you understand your target audience’s preferences then tailor your marketing strategy to meet these needs.

When executed properly, your tailored marketing strategy could get you a higher ranking on search engines.

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