It’s not just teenagers who always have their heads tucked toward their smartphones and thumbs constantly moving. Internet-enabled portable devices are fast becoming ubiquitous — the usual “generation gap” we see with adopting new technology has pretty much been erased.
What’s caused this boom? For one, smart devices are more affordable than ever. The phones and tablets themselves have dropped in price, but more people also are able to take advantage of faster, more affordable Internet access and data networks. Think about it: when was the last time you went to a coffee shop that didn’t offer free WiFi?
Now, Google has announced that on April 21, it will begin using “mobile friendliness” as a ranking factor in its algorithm. Google reps say that this mobile-friendly ranking algorithm change will have a “significant impact” on the mobile search results, and predict that the update will have more of an impact than Panda or Penguin.
Why is there so much emphasis on mobile search? Whether using tablets or smartphones, an increasing number of Americans are surfing the web on mobile devices rather than on desktop or laptop computers. (We know, laptops are technically portable, but when’s the last time you actually set one on your lap?) Today fully 50% of all Google searches are done on mobile devices. And it’s not just Google — CNN reports that in 2014 we saw the greatest amount of traffic from mobile devices yet. Fully 55% — yes, more than half — of all internet traffic came from mobile, with 47% coming through apps and 8% through mobile browsers. People accessing the web via traditional means (i.e., computers) are now less than half of web traffic (45%).
Unsurprisingly, this shift is also reflected in consumers’ buying habits. Sales of personal computers have been dropping since 2012, while 2014 data from the Pew Research Center on Internet and Technology shows that 58% of American adults have smartphones and 42% own tablets. Sure, many people do own both a tablet and a smartphone, so those numbers likely have considerable overlap, but it’s still a sizable chunk of the population. These are also numbers that are likely to continue to grow.
For a small business selling a product or service dependent on a physical location — in other words, you make most of your sales by having customers come to you — having a mobile ready site can translate to more user engagement, more visits, and ultimately more business or sales.
Yes, potential customers can find your actual website on their devices. But think about how it will look on the screen: Even a large tablet is little compared to the average computer. Due to size and display limitations, mobile websites must be designed quite differently from their desktop counterparts. Google even has specific guidelines for mobile sites.
In a nutshell, a mobile friendly site is not simply a duplicate of your desktop site — and instead of just telling you, we’ll show you. Whatever your opinion on Flo, Progressive Insurance’s mobile site is a great example of a well-designed, mobile optimized site. Take a look at the screenshots below. (And for the record, no, we don’t have any relationship with Progressive.)
On the mobile site, all of the text and menus are large enough to be read. The call-to-action — in this case the “Get a Quote” button — is prominent and easily clickable. You don’t have every single option from the full desktop site available, but the basics are right there at your fingertips.
Compare that with the desktop version of the site. Even though it’s fairly clean, colorful, and friendly, it would never work on a mobile device. There’s a large amount of padding between the different areas, so you’d be dragging your finger all over your screen to try to see any part of the site (the area that would load first would be just the upper-left corner — not especially helpful). Menus and other text would be so small as to be illegible, and to click with any degree of accuracy would again mean lots of finger dragging in order to enlarge the section you’re trying to reach.
These problems are major reasons why having a site that’s optimized for mobile is so key. A website that’s difficult to load or navigate translates to lower audience engagement and higher bounce rate. In other words, your visitors — aka your potential customer — will become frustrated and simply hit the back button and go somewhere else.
Google recognizes this, too. The search giant has said on the record that, beginning in April, it will give preference to mobile friendly sites by ranking them higher on search results. SERPs on mobile browsers also often note which sites are mobile-friendly right there on the search listings, helping users browsing via their phones quickly find sites that will load cleanly and be easy to use.
Research on the impact of optimization shows a site that has been optimized for mobile does increase sales. These figures from a survey on spending probability show the “bump” that different business categories get from being mobile visitor friendly:
Is your website optimized for mobile? At Higher Power SEO, we focus on responsive web design, meaning that however visitors find your site — via a computer, phone, or tablet — it will display in the way that looks best for them. To learn more, give us a call at 760-881-4736.