Optimising for mobile in 2014

Optimising for mobile in 2014

With mobile revenues growing exponentially and operators looking to slash costs as the UK point-ofconsumption tax looms, affiliates cannot afford not to have a mobile-optimised site. Andy Edwards of Mad About Bingo provides some tips and tricks for webmasters.

Published 11th June 2014

If you haven’t given the topic of mobile optimisation much thought, have left it to your technical team to sort out for you, or its on your to-do list with 101 other things, you should take away from this article some easy-to-implement ideas which will help you with your conversions, CTR, player retention and revenue.

In the past 12 months, mobile bingo and mobile gambling have taken huge steps forward and with more and more searches made on tablet and mobile, it makes sense to have your site optimised for these devices. When H2 Gambling Capital first looked into the mobile gambling market back in 2010, it was valued at €2.4 billion and accounted for just over 11% of all interactive gambling.

H2 now predicts that by 2018 this figure will reach €19 billion and account for just under 44% of the total. So now is the time to look at your mobile offering objectively and see how you can make it better for your players.

We are seeing more and more players migrating from desktop to mobile, most of the time driven by convenience. However, most are actually multi-screening - playing on their sofa with a laptop or more recently a tablet whilst watching TV.

A Google and Nielsen study found that 77% of mobile search happens at home or work and only 17% whilst on the go, and even when there’s a PC nearby and readily available, these people are choosing to search on the smartphones rather than PCs because of speed and convenience!

Out of the users surveyed, a staggering 81% were driven by speed and convenience. They then go on to say that 73% of mobile searches trigger additional action and conversions. Plus 45% of all mobile searches are goal-oriented and conducted to aid decision-making.

As affiliates, it’s our job to market sites and increase our own CTR to generate commission, by thinking outside the box, analysing competitors and staying up to date with current market trends. However, some affiliates and operators have been slow to incorporate a mobile offering. This may be down to fear of the unknown, or not knowing how to successfully transfer the desktop version to mobile.

When we think of the main challenges we face as affiliates with mobile sites, a few points spring to mind.

Affiliate tracking for mobile still seems to be a major problem for most operators. As affiliates, we want to make sure that any players we are sending to their sites we are credited with that player, and are understandably reluctant to send lots of traffic to a brands mobile site or app if this didn’t track properly.

With the point-of-consumption tax coming into effect later this year, I believe operators will need to look at ways to reduce overheads and marketing spends and this is where affiliates will become more important. Affiliates still offer operators a cheaper way of driving traffic to their sites over PPC, TV ads and off line marketing, so if you have a mobile-optimised site which has traffic, then you should carry a lot of weight from December this year.

Mobile is a separate product in its own right; the experience a player gets could be completely different on mobile than desktop. As affiliates and operators you need to look at your mobile version and see if this is giving your players/visitors the same experience they have grown used to on desktop. The same bonuses, same games and same incentives same layout and theme are possible, but in a simplified version.

One of the main areas affiliates struggle to compete with operators on is PPC. There are very few affiliates who have the marketing budget to compete with operators on trophy keyword bids in PPC. However, with mobile, the cost per click is a lot less. I would personally look to take advantage of mobile marketing with PPC on Facebook, Google, and IADs, as ads on mobile are cheaper and conversion rates are a lot higher as the ads are more laser targeted to your audience.

Another possible route to take if you collect mobile numbers as part of your mailing database is SMS messaging. SMS offers a cheap way of direct marketing to help convert players and furthermore for the few affiliates out there who have apps on iTunes or Google Play, push notifications are free!

Optimising your website
It’s all very well having a mobile version of your site on a subdomain for example m.bingo.com but if it isn’t optimised you stand to lose even more customers. Fast load times are what will make a real difference in players joining and sticking around. I have spent the best part of 12 months preaching about mobile ready sites and the need for them in various different interviews and conferences, for the following reason:

  • Mobile is no longer a phase - it’s here to stay
  • It’s no longer a high volume, low return marketing channel
  • It now offers affiliates and operators the chance to add additional revenue

In 2013, mobile stopped being the buzzword and become a major part of the gambling industry, with some gambling companies showing more than 50% of their revenue coming from mobile channels.

It’s now widely known that you can lose a player to the back button if it takes longer than four seconds for your site to load on desktop. What will happen is that player will just click the back button and visit the next site down the list in SERPs. This falls an average of three seconds for a site to load on tablet and an average of two seconds on mobile. So you can’t afford to not have an optimised version of your site.

There are some great free sites, which can really help you with your site’s optimisation and load times:

  • GTmetrix
  • Yslow
  • Pagespeed insights tool
  • Webpagetest.org
  • Websitetest.com
  • Pingdom tools

They all have their own pros and cons but the ones I will be focusing on are Gtmetrix.com and Pingdom.tools.


mobile_opt 1_0.PNG
Figure 1: Report on madaboutbingo.com before we optimised the site.

GTmetrix will return a performance report for your URL along with a list of recommendations to speed up your website and give you an overall grade. The recommendations are sorted in order of the impact upon your site and overall score. I would personally recommend sorting out the quick fix recommendations first, such as optimising images and gzip compression.

Whenever I look at other people’s sites, I see some really good designs but none of them are optimised. One of the easiest and most effective techniques is to optimise all your site’s images. For the higher recommendations this should be something that you get your technical team to fix, or outsource it to a coder or web designer who can do this for you. Once you have done that you can rerun the report.

mobile_opt 2.PNG
Figure 2: Report on madaboutbingo.com after we optimised the site. 

You can clearly see the difference and how these optimisation techniques can help with your site’s overall load speeds.

  • Yslow Grade has increased by 5%
  • Page load speed has decreased by 1.57 seconds
  • Total page size has decreased by 0.5MB
  • Total number of requests reduced by 12

I should perhaps issue a word of warning here that you can get addicted to tweaking your site and rechecking stats. However, not all of the recommendations will apply to you as each site is different.

Now one thing you will see when you preform your first performance report on GTmetrix is that their test server is based in Vancouver Canada! So if your target market is the UK and its taking less than four seconds for a user in Canada to view your site, you know you have optimised your sites correctly.

mobile_opt 3.PNG
Figure 3: MadaboutBingo.com on Pingdom Tools

You can use Pingdom Tools to show more accurate load times, as their nearest server is based in Amsterdam and you can see its quicker still!

Now our overall score on GTmetrix was good but this is without us using a content delivery network (CDN) for our images, or combining our JavaScript and css files into one file to reduce requests, which would make our site faster still. These along with other tweaks aren’t something were looking into at the moment, but it is on our milestones for the next quarter.

Another way to drastically reduce load time and requests is to put your entire main website theme’s images on to a CSS Sprite or a couple of different CSS Sprites per page of your site. This also reduces the number of requests put on your server. Also look at your server provider and see if you are on the best server to expect the volume of traffic your site gets.

If the server struggles to load your site during peak times, then speak to them to see if you can upgrade or migrate over to a better provider.

Responsive designs and themes
Affiliates are already miles ahead of operators with mobile responsive themes and a lot of them are having huge success with responsive sites in SERPs. This coupled with site optimisation and well done SEO is the way forward.

In 2010, Google announced it would incorporate site speed in search ranking for desktop. They also changed their guidelines in August of last year with regards to making smartphone sites load faster as well. It’s their hopes that, as webmasters improve their sites; the overall speed of the web will improve and in Google’s quality guidelines they clearly recommend using responsive sites as your main site configuration.

They recommend using a responsive web design because, they believe, as do I, that it has many good aspects.

  • It uses a single URL for a piece of content, making it easier for users to interact with, they can easily share and link to you content and a single piece of content with the same URL helps Google algorithms to assign the correct indexing properties for the content.
  • You don’t need to set up additional 301 redirects to send Google bot to different versions of your site or page depending on the screen size. Also, user agentbased redirection is error-prone and can degrade your site’s user experience.
  • For responsive web design pages, any Google bot user agents needs to only crawl your pages once, as opposed to crawling multiple times with different user agents, to retrieve your content. This improvement in crawling efficiency can indirectly help Google index more of the site’s contents and keep it fresh. These are a few good sites to use which shows you what your site looks like on other devices
  • http://www.responsinator.com/
  • http://responsivedesignchecker.com/
  • http://responsivetest.net/
  • http://responsive.is
  • http://www.browserstack.com/responsive

Or you can simply grab the corner of your browser and reduce the screen size to see how the site changes for different-sized screens.

Now with a separate mobile site on a subdomain, for example m.bingo.com, this forces the user to go to the mobile version. Many smartphones and tablet have big enough screens that can now handle optimum viewing of the full site. This is where responsive themes come into its own; as it will automatically reduce the size and design of the site to the screen that player is viewing the site on.

Another one of Google’s messages in their Webmaster guidelines is to:
“Create a user experience that your visitors remember and we will be happy!” With around 70% of the world traffic coming from Google, who wouldn’t want to make them happy?!

Google wants to provide the best search experience that they can offer, which means that they are looking for websites to cater for all types of search engine user, whether that is someone searching via a desktop, tablet or mobile phone. So it makes sense to use a responsive theme, which enables the site to change depending on the screen resolution.

What does all this mean in £££s?
As a potential player, if I wanted to look at what sites offer mobile bingo, I’d go to Google, type in “mobile bingo”, and have a look at the results and what welcome offer the sites are providing.

mobile_opt 4_0.PNG
Figure 4: Mobile bingo SERPS

If we take a closer look at the results in Figure 4, we can clearly see why having a responsive theme that loads quicker can really help you and really drive additional players to the brands you promote and revenue. Number 1 spot is an affiliate site with a responsive theme, Number 2 spot is an operator with a responsive them, Number 3 is an affiliate site with a responsive theme.

A coincidence? Maybe! However, the next seven results consist of three operators with mobile responsive themes, two operators redirecting to a mobile version of their site and another two affiliate sites using responsive themes!

So the impact of not providing a responsive optimised site in the long run will be:

  • A reduction in new players and existing life time player value
  • Competition overtaking you
  • A reduction in affiliate earnings

Search on tablet and mobile will surpass desktop by 2015. Can you afford not to take action?