I'm not going to start this post with a story about how every time I see my friends and family, we stick our noses in our smartphones and ignore one another. I'm not even going to give you the "gone are the days when mobile device users could be ignored" line.
You already know all this. You know people are glued to their phones. You know that this includes your customers. You know we search for local businesses on smartphones. Maybe you even know that 82% of smartphone users look up information on their phones while they are in a store contemplating a purchase decision.
And you've probably been to a website on your phone only to leave frustrated because the site wasn't optimized for your device. But, did you know that despite the fact that 56% of traffic to the leading websites comes from mobile devices, only 50% of small business websites are optimized for mobile?
Seems counter-productive, doesn't it? And only 60% of small businesses even have a website (but that's a story for another day).
What is mobile optimization?
Mobile optimization is a digital marketing buzzword that means a website is designed to adapt to the device the consumer is using to search for your business.
Why do small businesses need mobile-optimized websites?
Well, both search engines and the people who use mobile devices to search for local businesses favor mobile-optimized websites.
Mobile-Friendly for Humans
Mobile Internet usage is 75% and growing. Besides, imagine it from a consumer's standpoint. If I'm on my phone searching for a place to eat near me, and I click a restaurant's website only to find the menu is tiny and the site is difficult to navigate, I'm going to move on to the next business.
I'm not the only one. In a survey, 91% of consumers indicated that they'd turn to a business's competitor if the business's website wasn't optimized for mobile devices.
Seriously, mobile optimization is important:
- 56% of on-the-go searches have local intent
- 60% of consumers use mobile exclusively to make purchase decisions
And mobile optimization isn't just important for consumers. Search engines favor mobile-optimized websites too.
Mobile-Friendly for Search Engines
Of course, you want your business to rank high in searches - but did you know that search engines will penalize websites if they aren't mobile-friendly? In April 2015, Google updated its search ranking algorithm to reward mobile-friendly websites for mobile searchers. Websites that weren't mobile-friendly eventually saw a decrease in search rankings while the mobile-optimized sites tended to see an increase in rankings.
And in May 2016, Google tweaked this algorithm again so that mobile-friendly websites got an additional boost in search rankings. And Google and Bing both tell searchers whether or not a website is mobile-friendly in search results on mobile devices.
So, if your website isn't easy for consumers to use on their smartphones, search engines will lower your mobile search rankings, making it harder for consumers to find you.
How does Google define mobile-friendly? Here's the definition from Google's Mobile Terms Glossary:
"Usable on a mobile device (e.g. the site doesn't slow down the phone, doesn't scroll horizontally in a vertical orientation, doesn't use unavailable plugins like Flash). It's designed for the form factor of the device and its display."
Mobile-optimized websites need to have font that's large enough for consumers to read as well as clickable links or buttons spaced far enough apart that users don't have trouble clicking the right button. And there is so much more that Google takes into account when determining if a website is mobile-friendly.
In fact, Google has a list of 25 mobile site design principles.
And Bing has similar criteria for judging the mobile-friendliness of a page. Factors include:
- Spacing of links and buttons
- Text size
- Whether or not the page fits the width of the screen
- Device compatibility
Bing and Google both have mobile-friendly testing tools for websites. Just copy and paste your website's URL and click "analyze" to see how your site stacks up.
How often should you refresh the look/content of your site?
While fresh content is good for search engines, it isn't usually possible for small businesses to update their websites or create new blog posts frequently.
There are a few reasons you might want to update your website, but unless it's outdated or difficult for consumers to use, it might not be necessary.
However, if your business is undergoing a big branding change or you're moving or adding locations, it's definitely worth considering an update to your site, along with content that will reflect those changes.
And if your site still isn't mobile-friendly, that's another reason you'll want to update it. Don't lose customers (and money) to competitors just because people can't navigate your site on their smartphones.
This post was created in collaboration with David Diebolt.