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Mobile or Desktop traffic – what should you focus on?

Here is another popular question, asked by affiliate newbies all the time : “Should I focus on desktop or mobile traffic?” Not an easy answer again, but let me try to give you an answer, or at least help you understand the differences, so you can make a qualified decision.

When talking about desktop traffic, we mean surfers who are sitting behind their home computers or using their laptops. Mobile users are surfing from smartphones, feature phones or tablets. Tablets and Smartphones used to be treated as one in the past, but these days, many advertisers look at them differently. The reason is simple, tablet users convert and retain differently from smartphone users.

So instead of 2 basic groups, we are actually looking at 3 : Desktops/Laptops VS Tablets VS Smartphones. To make it more complicated, we also need to consider the connection type, especially when it comes to mobile devices … more on that later below.


In case of affiliates who operate their own sites, the answer is easy, you simply need to focus on all 3. Responsiveness is the key these days, especially if you want to stand a chance with google. Make sure your sites look good, no matter what device your visitors are using.

I’ve seen it times and times again, poorly optimized sites that make it literally impossible to see some parts of the content, wrongly positioned banners spots, widgets that were not mobile friendly … all of this will just hurt your sites. Don’t be lazy and optimize your sites for mobile users, the % share of mobile users is still rising and it’s not gonna stop anytime soon.

TIP: There are networks that will pay very nice rates for so-called Mobile REDIRECTS. You just place a script on your site and whenever it detects a user on a mobile device, it will redirect them away to an advertiser. DO NOT do this, unless you want to get banned by google πŸ™‚


Paid traffic has one huge advantage, you can choose exactly what kind of users you want to serve your ads to – mobile, desktop, tablets, smartphones … any traffic network already offers this kind of basic segmentation.

So what should you focus on, mobile or desktop? Let’s try to compare them both in more detail


1. Mobile browsing already accounts for more traffic than desktops. This trend seems to continue, so we can expect mobile traffic volumes to raise further. This is true especially in less developed countries in Africa, Asia, Latam …

Massive spread of cheap smartphones produced in China made this possible. Not every family can afford a desktop computer or an expensive laptop, but they very well can buy a $50 Coolpad or Xiaomi smartphone.

2. The Mobile ecosystem has some traffic types that do not exist in desktop – for example traffic from mobile apps or carrier traffic (users connected via their mobile operator). Especially the second one is very interesting as there is a whole vertical based around it : Carrier Billing Offers.

3. Mobile devices can be targeted by verticals that do not apply to desktop – for example the already mentioned Carrier Billing offers, but there are more like Smartphone Apps, Alternative App Stores … and a whole lot of mobile optimized offers that have their desktop versions too.


Not everything that shines is gold and it’s the case with MOBILE too, there are some things about it that look awesome, but in reality they are not πŸ™‚

1. Mobile Traffic is generally cheaper – this is true, especially in case of CPM display traffic, simply because the banner CTR is usually higher with mobile. But there is a reason for this : large fingers or kids playing games with ads.

This means that LARGE part of these click are unintentional and as such, these are worthless from a large part. So even thou you pay less for the traffic, than you would in case of desktop clicks, take it with a grain of salt because of this.

This being said, the price you pay per click or CPM, shouldn’t really be the decision point in whether to work with mobile or desktop traffic.

2. Mobile traffic works well with micro payments handled directly by the mobile operators. This is true as well, but only as long as the user is actually using the carrier’s connection. As soon as they come home and switch to WIFI … it’s over.

While on WIFI, extra step is needed in order to make a payment (sending an SMS for example), which pretty much kills the conversion rates. That’s why mobile WIFI traffic is WAY cheaper than 3G Carrier traffic.

Desktops or Laptops can be connected through a mobile carrier too : for example on a shared connection or using one of those USB modems. So technically, they work with Carrier Billing offers too, but the extra verification process is required here as well.

This means that Desktops connected via a carrier connection are pretty much equal to mobile wifi traffic, when it comes Carrier Billing.

3. Here is one more, where the winner isn’t so clear. Kids browsing the net. I think everyone would agree that the large spread of smartphones has put so many kids online as no other technology. And kids are not exactly the audience we would target, right?

This is not so true actually, as a father of 3, I can tell you that kids have massive buying power – by harassing their parents until they give up and buy the next cool game that their favorite youtuber is playing, or spend $29.99 on yet another pack of diamonds in their favorite smartphone game …

There are certainly many products that you don’t want kids to see, but in case of computer games, mobile applications, geek stuff, computer gear, toys … mobile traffic can be an awesome source of future customers πŸ™‚


There are also some aspects that make mobile traffic worse than desktop in some situations.

1. Desktops/Laptops attract older demographics in general, this is a simple fact and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna stay this way for quite some time. I mean, mobile devices have small screens and a bit hard to use keyboards – this is not something that would suit older people.

On top of that, part of the people who are in their 50s – 60s right now, simply missed the smartphone era and won’t ever adapt to it. We can argue about this as long as you wish, but I got a 60+ years old father and having him order something via a smartphone is mission impossible … and that guy has a PhD and uses internet on his laptop for years.

But why should this be of our concern? Older people are known to be better audience for some products, they tend to complaint less, they also retain better … this is not an universal rule of course, but there are verticals where you will get literally double the payouts for 50+ people – Dating comes to my mind for example.

2. The keyboards on mobile devices suck πŸ™‚ It’s way easier to make a typo there, some keys are hidden on alternate pages because of limited space … it’s simply generally harder to type on a smartphone than it is on a real keyboard.

The users realize this too, so they are hesitant to type a lot of text on smartphones – this effectively affects the conversion rates in case of offers that require a long registration for example. This also affects ecommerce and eshops as it’s more convenient to type an address on a real keyboard, than doing it on a phone and risking delivery problems. This could change as people get more used to mobile devices, but for now it’s still poses a problem.

3. Mobile traffic is generally more β€œcasual” in nature – people use it to browse social media, play games, chat with friends … just look at your self and your usage habbits … This is how I do it: I come home, jump on the sofa, grab the phone and check emails, check facebook, message my friends, read some quick news …

I’m also a hardcore β€œbath room gamer”, shooting enemies while doing my thing … sounds like a plan right? πŸ™‚ Gotta start an β€œOccupy Bathroom” movement soon to fight complaining family members! Anyways, even thou I’m exposed to ads at that time, I’m certainly not interested into buying anything, nor will I fill out a long form or anything like that.

The above mentioned makes mobile loose to desktop, in terms of buying power. I’m not saying you can’t sell stuff to mobile users, but desktop works better in this case. What happens more and more these days is this : users notice products while browsing on a mobile device, but won’t convert because they are in a β€œchill” mode at that time.

But later on, they can actually think about the product again, and research it on their desktop/laptop – simply because it’s easier to do more complicated stuff on a larger screen. This is also the reason why retargeting/remarketing campaigns can work so well. The best strategy is to make both mobile and desktop part of your campaigns, just expect better results with desktop users initially.

4. Mobile traffic is more speed sensitive than desktop visitors. Especially in case of 3G traffic. If your landing pages won’t start loading within fractions of a second, you will be loosing visitors.

This is not really a mega problem thou, you just need to optimize your infrastructure better. So while you could run some desktop campaigns on your cheap host, definitely do not try to do this with mobile visitors – the click-loss would eat you alive.


The final decision of whether to go with mobile or desktop will largely depend on what you plan to promote. Let me give you a few examples :

1. In case you are looking to sell tangible products, definitely start with desktop and add mobile later on to get user interest that you will later on monetize with retargeting/remarketing.

2. In case your products require older audience, start with desktop too. On the other hand, if your products cater better to younger demographics, mobile could do better. Especially with kids-friendly products or apps.

3. In case of mobile-friendly offers, it’s a no-brainer of course, you need mobile traffic – carrier billing, mobile apps … focus on mobile traffic.

4. In case of lead gen, most that I tried worked better with desktop traffic, lead quality was always higher. Then again, mobile leads are usually paid less for, so the advertisers already factored the quality in the price. One way or another, you will face less quality problems when working with desktop traffic.

5. In case you want to focus on less developed countries, definitely focus on mobile too. You will get more volume and these GEOs are easier monetizable with mobile billing methods.

TIP: We have Desktops/Laptops on one side and Smartphones on the other one, Tablets sit somewhere between. Their neither the first, nor the other one. The payouts for tablet offers are also usually between the other two. In my experience, tablets worked better with desktop landing page over the mobile ones. And if my experience is worth anything, target iPads for better lead quality.

As always, the final decision is up to you to make, you can technically start with either of them… whether you choose desktop or mobile, there is money to be made with both. The ideal approach is to utilize both.

Mobile will work better with some offers, desktop with different ones. Focusing on just one, would be loosing money in the long term. Obviously, it’s a good idea to pick one and master it, then focus on the other one.

In case you want a tip on what is easier to make working right now, I suggest to focus on Mobile Carrier Billing offers in Tier2 and 3 GEOs.

Thanks for reading!

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