By Oliver Walker

At the start of 2011, there was a lot of industry talk that the coming year would be the 'year of the mobile'. Well, for a good 380ish days since those bold claims were made, my colleague Vim and I have excitedly waited for the time that we could analyse all the data. That time is now.

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(Actually that time was over three weeks ago, but we've been busy beavering away on optimizing PPC campaigns and websites so this has been put on the back-burner).

Google Analytics API + Geeks = Data!

In order to placate the statistically specific amongst you - allow me to first explain the stats we're about to share with you. We have a large number of Google Analytics accounts that we have access to; luckily for us, we also have a number of super-intelligent colleagues who, through the GA API and some VBA & Excel geekery, can collate those accounts to grab mobile visits for each week of 2010 and 2011. What Vim and I were left with was a large amount of data and through further crunching we narrowed down the lists of profiles to ensure that:

  • all profiles used in the analysis had data for both 2010 and 2011
  • profiles used in the analysis were active in every month of both years (i.e. the increases were not due to profiles only starting to collect data in March 2010 for example).

At the end of the number crunching we were left with a data set of well over 100 websites included in the analysis, predominantly from the UK, totalling over 17.6 million visits. The results were pretty impressive as you can see below; mobile visits have increased steadily over the past two years, but the recent acceleration has been even more striking.

2010-2011 Mobile Usage

From the start of 2010 to the end of 2011 there was a ten fold increase in mobile visits. TEN FOLD. Mobile visits increased 180% between Jan-Dec 2010, and 155% over the same time in 2011.The truth of the matter is people are now prepared to conduct research, read articles and make purchases on their mobile devices - and you need to ensure you are ready for it.

To our minds, the reasons for this huge increase are the sheer prevalence of smartphones and tablets in the marketplace. A couple of years ago, when there were fewer phones with full Internet browsers, there were fewer 'early adopters' of smart-phones. As second-generation smart phones, and the first iPad were released in early 2010, the increase in mobile visits started to steadily climb (although note the real spike when the iPhone 4 was first released!). As more and more handsets/tablets were released (with faster browsing and better screens), naturally price started to fall for the older models, leading to an overall increase in owners of these devices fuelling an uptake in mobile internet browsing. You can see this effect start to snowball from the middle to the end of 2011. Interestingly, an obvious spike was again noticed in 2011 around the time of the release of the iPhone 4S - a testament to Apple's unrivalled marketing and popularity.

The other striking observation from the graph above is the increase between October and Christmas in both years. Whilst 2010 saw a gentle slope in more visits, 2011 saw a 50% increase in this time alone. It would seem that there was an obvious shift towards people searching for, and buying, Christmas gifts via their mobile device, rather than more traditional mediums.

Yeah, so what?

So, 'lovely stats Vim & Olly, but what do they mean for me?', you may ask. If it wasn't strikingly clear already, then we cannot recommend it highly enough now - make sure that you have a mobile optimised site and, even better, mobile optimised marketing campaign. If you really want to make us happy, get in touch about a mobile specific PPC campaign!

If you're wondering why you might need a mobile specific website, Vim's previously covered that here. In any case, pick up your mobile, navigate to, and play around on, your site and ask yourself 'is this experience as good as it is on a desktop?' If you're in any doubt, log in to Google Analytics and check out your mobile report - if e-commerce or goal conversion rates are significantly lower on mobile, then you could probably do with some optimistation.

There you have it - no, we didnt all throw away our desktops and glue our smartphones to our hands, but there's no denying that mobile can no longer be ignored.

Here at Periscopix Towers, we're predicting that 2012 will be the Year of Social, with more engagement and more traffic/conversions from these platforms. Check back again in a year to see if we were right. (But also check back much sooner than this, we've always got something interesting to say!)

We're always interested to know the state of client's websites so if you could spare 10 seconds to complete the poll below, that'd be swell.

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