Mobile web analyticsDuring a webinar we recently held on mobile analytics, quite a few people asked why existing PC web analytics tools couldn’t be used for the mobile web. 

Here’s why:

Current tools designed for PC web analysis simply don’t work.  Google Analytics uses JavaScript embedded in a website to measure visits.  Unfortunately the majority of mobile handsets don’t support JavaScript, in fact less than 1% are supported.  Other systems use cookies to track visits – on mobile this is unreliable.  Mobile phone browsers either doesn’t permit cookies or don’t save them.  

PC browsers use referral information about where the user came from but on mobile network gateways this is not typically support – it’s only recently that handsets and operators have started to support this and currently it’s proving to be unreliable.  Some web analysis techniques use tiny images embedded in a web page to track visits.  To reduce amount of data sent over the mobile network, images are cached in the mobile browser so are often not downloaded on subsequent visits.  The final approach is mapping an IP address to a user but in the mobile world IP addresses map onto an operator’s gateway, not an individual phone.

How is web analysis done in the mobile world?

Most PC web analytics tools measure page visits.  On mobile, analytics looks at individial visitors navigating through a site and clicking links.  When you set up a search term or mobile ad, you insert a tracking link or tag which re-directs the consumer from an ad to the Bango servers where we record the user id plus information about where they came from and when pass them back to you.  This means when they come to you, you already valuable information about your visitor.  You can use this to personalize the user experience.

Does this impose bandwidth limitations?

No, there are no perceived performance hits on this approach.  If you are already doing a large number of re-directs on your mobie site then you do need to bear in mind that some operators restrict the number of re-directs allowed.  Bango has carried out extensive testing on sites with milions of hits a month and this has not caused a problem.

If you’d like to find out more about the different approaches taken in mobile web analytics, Bango is running its next mobile analytics webinar on April 23, 2008 which you can sign up for now.