The mobile content consumption survey: What we learned

The algorithm updates unveiled by Google earlier this year put mobile firmly on the minds of business bosses everywhere. It’s a shift we’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking about, as a quick glance at the Learn section of our site will tell you.

In the hope of providing some real context to this major transition, we thought we’d ask you about your own mobile content habits. We got straight to it and set up a survey; here’s what we learned.

People can’t get enough mobile content…

First and foremost, we found that a big portion of you are pretty much glued to your mobile screens. Of all the people we spoke to, a whopping 87 per cent said they read at least one blog on their smartphone every week, with almost half of these (47 per cent) reading daily.

What stands out the most in this part of the study, however, is the fact that only seven per cent of the people we asked said they never read blogs on a mobile phone.

Chart showing how often people read blogs and features on a phone

…but prefer smartphones to tablets

It seems this shift is focused largely on smaller mobile screens, with tablets failing to reach the same popularity. Two thirds of respondents said they consume content on a tablet at least weekly, but only 24 per cent of these find themselves scrolling every day. In fact, one in five people don’t read on tablets at all – perhaps because they no longer need to. One respondent told us: “I rarely use my tablet anymore because my phone is more than capable.”

Chart showing how often people read blogs or features on a tablet

Content is more likely to be shared from a mobile

The first objective of content creation is to get your work in front of people, so shareability is crucial. While studies already show that long-form content is – albeit a little surprisingly – more likely to be passed on from reader to reader, we wanted to know whether device-type had any influence…so we asked.

Almost two thirds (62 per cent) of our respondents said they’re more likely to share content from their mobile than they are from a conventional desktop computer. One explained: “It just seems easier to me. I’m always logged in on the social apps, so it works seamlessly – all it takes is a couple of taps.”

Chart showing how people are more or less inclined to share content on mobile

Page optimisation is definitely important

Truth be told, we were a little surprised to find that 45 per cent of people aren’t put out if the article they want to read hasn’t been optimised for mobile use (some said it depends how good the article looks), but that still leaves 55 per cent – the majority – who do care. Of these, 12 per cent said they’d save the article to read on a desktop later on, but the rest will leave to find something else. In other words, fail to make your pages mobile-friendly and you’ll instantly lose a big chunk of your audience.

Chart showing results of people reading a blog on a mobile phone not optimised for mobile use

Long form comes up short, in your eyes

It wasn’t long ago that we were comparing long- and short-form content on our blog, and coming to the conclusion that both really do have their benefits. Our results do show, however, that most people (68 per cent) seek out shorter articles (750 words or fewer) when using mobile devices. Only seven per cent said they’d prefer to read long form, with one in four saying size doesn’t matter.

As we’ve pointed out before, though, quality and brevity should come before quantity. One respondent said “It’s the content that matters. I have no problems with reading longer articles on a phone, but they should be to the point.” Another added: “I care more that it’s interesting and relevant. The page load speed is important too.”

The key is to find a balance between long and short. Our results only further support the idea that shorter articles should be produced more regularly, but don’t let that take away from the importance of concise yet informative long-form content – it has an important role to play in your strategy.

Chart showing which type of article people would prefer to read on their mobile device

Your thoughts

To bring things to a close, we asked for your thoughts on what makes a piece of content ‘mobile-friendly’. Here’s what you told us:

Wendy Preston, Technical Marketing Engineer @ Harwin: “It should rearrange itself for any size screen, or if you zoom in. Drop-down menus should stay in place so you can click on them too. A link to the full website can be handy if the mobile-friendly version has limited functionality.”

Stu Rex, New Business Manager @ DotLabel: “I want readable content, with legible images and an easy way to exit. Conversely, full-page pop-up adverts and videos that play automatically are excruciatingly annoying and would cause me to leave an article regardless of source or content.”

Ellie Bain, Strategic Marketing Manager @ Bowman Power Group: “It has to be optimised for mobile – so it should display properly, and not be littered with adverts. Adverts are the number one thing to make me give up on a piece of content; they can make it frustrating – or even impossible – to read.”

How does your content fair on mobile?

With so much content being consumed on the move, it’s imperative that your website ranks and displays well on mobile devices. If yours doesn’t, you may find this article useful:

9 reasons your website doesn’t work on mobile.

Graeme Parton profile picture
Graeme Parton

Graeme was a Content Marketing Specialist at Vertical Leap. Graeme joined us in 2014 as a Brand Journalist and was promoted in 2015 to our marketing team.

More articles by Graeme
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