Let’s face it. In the past few years almost all of us have changed our internet browsing habits.
Going back a few years to 2011, the huge majority of internet traffic came from the trusty desktop computer. Less than a quarter of us used mobile devices to access the internet, and by today’s standards, we used those devices sparingly.
Fast forward to 2014, and now three quarters of us are accessing the internet via smart phones, with more than 20% indicating that we primarily use our smart phones for internet access. But the real eye-opener for business is that now, more than half of all local searches are performed on mobile devices.
What a revolution! And, yet, most established local businesses haven’t yet adapted to the changing mobile environment, leaving some incredible opportunities in 2014 for smaller players to seize the day and grab a good chunk of market share.
So what exactly is a mobile website?
In plain and simple terms, a mobile website refers to a regular website that’s been adapted to display differently in a mobile device. Usually, this means simplifying the navigation and layout, displaying less text, and creating calls-to-action that are highly visible and easy to follow.
By and large, mobile websites fall into two categories:
Responsive design websites essentially change the layout of the website as the screen changes size. That is, the layout is ‘responding to a changing screen size’. It’s quite clever; whilst the text size remains the same, images shrink, and entire sections of content are relocated, or removed altogether (if they’re regarded as less important). Schatzee.com, an Australian website supplying unique baby clothes, is a great example of responsive design, with the layout changing noticeably as the browser window shrinks.
Mobile specific websites involve a different approach – essentially creating a separate website to display on a mobile device. In this case, there is a little piece of code that detects wether a new visitor is viewing the website from a desktop or a mobile device, and it selects the appropriate website to display. A mobile specific website offers more control over content than responsive design, but, it also means more work, as you’re essentially creating two websites.
Either way, both options result in better layout, displaying key information, in a simple to operate navigation, which results in a far better user experience.
Why the urgency to get mobile?
Firstly, let’s start with the fundamentals. With more than half of all local searches performed on mobile devices, it’s a no-brainer to say that your website should be easy to use on a smartphone – if it isn’t, there goes 50% of your website visitors.
But more importantly, it’s about user intent. Searches from mobile devices have a higher tendency to be carried out by people who are seeking to interact or transact immediately – that is, with the purpose of doing business.
Picture someone searching local restaurants from their mobile phone. They’re more likely to be looking to find a place to eat then and there, or to make a booking, than if they were searching from a desktop device.
If they land on a mobile website that has a professional clean layout and displays all of the critical information (such as opening hours, phone number, and perhaps the current menu), they’re much more likely to book than if they come across a poorly arranged, squashed website, that’s heavy with tiny text and difficult to use.
It might have been okay a year ago, but with more than half of all local searches performed on mobile devices, it’s a huge competitive advantage to be mobile friendly.
The smart money is on mobile.
So here’s the real news. The word on the wire in SEO circles is that Google is looking to favour mobile friendly websites, for all searches that come from mobile phones. They haven’t said it officially (but then again, Google never says anything officially when it comes to search tactics), but the smart money in digital marketing is on this one.
And if the SEO gurus are right, then that’s a huge opportunity for local businesses.
If you can get a mobile friendly website up and running, while the rest of your competitors are sleeping, you might just gain a big slice of market share in a short space of time.
You see, that’s the thing about revolutions – there are always some big winners, and some big losers. So when it comes to the 2014 mobile revolution, my tip is that the earlier adopters to mobile websites will be the big winners.