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The Case for a Mobile-First Content Strategy

August 14, 2015 | Justin Gray | No Comments |

Honestly, how many of you reading this article don’t know how huge mobile is and how important it is to the future of every company (including your own)? Just in case there are a few outliers out there—and really, you guys need to get on board here—let’s start with a juicy mobile stat to help paint the picture of modern mobile usage:

According to Smart Insights, Mobile digital media time in the US is now significantly higher, at 51%, compared to desktop (42%).

Do you see where I’m going with this? Mobile is a big deal. It’s here in a big way and it’s here to stay. Companies can adapt or they can watch customers leave for their competitors.

Adapt is the operative word here. I know mobile wasn’t part of your marketing strategy a few years ago. So it’s time to shift your strategy – and that means developing a mobile first plan of action.

What is “mobile first”?

What the above stat (and many more out there) tells us is that people are increasingly going to mobile (including tablet) devices to conduct their Internet business, from selecting a restaurant for dinner to researching a new car to using apps. It makes sense, given our on-the-go lifestyle. What doesn’t make sense is designing your content for a desktop experience and then converting it to a mobile-compatible format later.

That’s where mobile first comes in – a design and content movement that’s grown out of the need to rethink the way companies create and share material. For content creators especially, mobile first presents an interesting set of challenges that must be considered upfront. At the same time, a mobile first approach can actually better help you achieve your content goals and make nice with leads and customers in the process. Here’s why.

  • It positions you as a leader in your field—Putting a focus on looking good on mobile and tablet devices can set you apart from your competitors and position your company as an on-trend organization ready for the future.
  • It helps you prioritize what’s important—With a mobile first approach, you can no longer throw everything and the kitchen sink in your content. Because you’re dealing with more limited space and a bigger need to make a quick impact, it forces you to prioritize what’s truly important to communicate. The simplicity eliminates distractions and packs a punch.
  • It endears you to your readers—Who doesn’t love a website that looks and reads beautifully on your smartphone? (Or consider the reverse. Who wants to read content that’s not formatted properly?) Mobile-friendly content will earn you a loyal fan base that loves you for thinking about them and providing an enjoyable user experience.

Now how do I implement it?

BrainTraffic CEO, content strategy pioneer, and author Kristina Halvorson says, “Content strategy guides planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” This is where your mobile first approach fits in—right at the beginning of the planning process.

Take a good, hard look at your website (and maybe blow it up).

Was your website designed for a desktop/PC/laptop experience? Well…that’s not going to cut it with your mobile audience. According to a Google survey, 79% of mobile users that encounter a non-mobile-optimized site will leave the site and go back to the search results to find a site that is. On the flip side, about 74% of users say they are more likely to return to a site that works well on mobile.

A difficult decision has to be made here—do you go with a separate mobile site or app, or do you go for the whole shebang with a responsive site? There are pros and cons to both approaches. A separate mobile site or even an app may be faster and cheaper to develop, because you can leave the standalone site as-is and simply be smart about what content you include on the mobile device.

For a truly consistent look, feel and content experience however, responsive is a great way to go. Responsive websites look good on any device, automatically adjusting the design and content to suit the display—from desktop to tablet to mobile. It takes longer (you’ll probably have to start from scratch), but helps with some of those key benefits I talked above earlier in the article, like content prioritization, industry leadership and happy users.

Regardless of which approach you decide upon, a mobile first content strategy is key to good execution. Start by really digging into your website data to see how people are using your site on different device, what seems to be the bounce points from a mobile or tablet device, and what keywords are being used to find you. Then, design your strategy around what you’ve found, so that your mobile-friendly site truly serves the needs of the user as well as your company.

Don’t forget your other web properties.

I’ve focused a lot on websites, only because that’s likely the biggest content asset you have out there, and it’s a great place to start rolling out your mobile-first strategy. But you can’t forget the rest of your online properties, including your blog, landing pages, digital campaigns and emails.


Have you looked to see what your emails look like on different devices? If not, you should. A Return Path study found that 48% of emails are opened on mobile devices, but only 11% of emails are optimized for mobile. Do you want to know what happens when someone opens an email that’s not optimized? Sixty-nine percent of mobile users delete emails that aren’t optimized for small screens.

Whether you design your own emails or you deploy through a marketing automation system like Marketo, HubSpot or Infusionsoft, you’ll need to ensure your new mobile first strategy doesn’t leave out this important communication channel.

From a content standpoint, the days of superlong emails are behind us. Content should be succinct, targeted and highly relevant, with the main points easily viewable on a smaller screen. Avoid large chunks of content, or jamming too many multimedia elements into one email. Subject lines should be short (40-50 characters) and accurately tease the contents of the email.

Landing pages/lead generation sites

I’ll start with the same question here—have you looked at any of your landing pages or lead generation sites on a mobile device? How easy is it to read? Can you find and easily enter your information into the lead generation form?

Long-form landing pages are all the rage with some companies. You’ll see 1,000 words or more accompanied by images, multiple font colors, bolding, bullets, etc. all trying very hard to communicate something. But I just don’t have to time to scroll through all that while I’m at the airport or riding the train to work or grabbing a quick lunch. And I really don’t want to have to pinch-zoom my way to a lead gen form and fat-finger-type the answers to the six things you really want to know about me.

Again, mobile-first. Think about what the mobile experience will be like when creating (or correcting) the design and content on these important conversion points. As we know from the stats above, if a lead found this site or page through search, they’ll just leave and click on the next link. If they came from a referring source like a social media post, they may leave and never click on anything from you again. That’s a whole lot of potential revenue to throw away just because you want to ramble on about your widgets.

Part of this means wrestling with your desire for better SEO with longer content that works in lots of keywords, and the desire of leads and customers for shorter, more consumable content that’s 100% valuable without any filler. Luckily, Google made that war easier with the Hummingbird release, which places a higher value on quality content over quantity.

Get visual with your content.

Images, infographics and video play quite well on mobile—just not necessarily all together! Video especially is rapidly growing in popularity. In fact, 40% of YouTube’s traffic comes from mobile.

Graphic content is a unique way to share content with leads and customers, and is also immensely shareable. Consider replacing some of your written content with colorful infographics or informative videos that can be easily formatted to display well on any device. Don’t forget to include social sharing capabilities—after all, why not let people do some marketing for you?

In some ways, you can think of the mobile first approach as simply a user-centric approach. Web users hold much more power in their hands than ever before, and your web presence has to shift to reflect their demands rather than continue to push out what you want. Your content might be fantastic but if no one is reading it—or more importantly, responding to it—you’re going to end up spending a whole lot of time and money just to stroke your own ego.

Some marketers view this shift with apprehension. I say bring it on. At the end of the day you have to know your and buyer present content where they are to form the conversations that marketing has become synonymous with.  The more ways someone can experience your brand in a positive way, the better impression they will have. And really, when else has it been so easy to see what people really want and know exactly what to deliver to them?

Have you had success with a mobile content strategy? Let us know in the comments.


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