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June 28, 2013

Why You Need to Invest in Your Mobile Visitors

June 28, 2013

Have you looked at your mobile stats lately? Even better, have you spent time on your website while using a mobile device? Looking at the past six months compared to the previous period for just a couple of our clients, we are seeing mobile traffic increases that range from 10% to 100%.




This isn’t a new trend. Mobile visits have been on the rise for a couple of years now, and many businesses have been working to optimize their site specifically for these visitors. For some, this meant investing in a responsive site, which allows a website to seamlessly adapt to a device's screen size or resolution (see the image below as an example). For others, optimization involved creating a second version of their website with a subdomain, triggering a different template depending on the device used, or using a free template service like Dudamobile.



Responsive designs on smallboxweb.com.


If you have invested resources in any of these – congrats! – you are headed in the right direction. Google, however, is ready to take it up a notch and their primary concern is making sure visitors are having good experiences. If you look at Google’s recommendations on building mobile-optimized websites, you’ll see that:

1. Responsive design is always preferred (here you can read about why Google chose responsive designs for their own sites)

2. If responsive design isn’t an option, Google supports a subdomain or unique URL with mobile styling “if you follow [their] recommendations.”

That last part is bolded because Google has recently escalated that statement announcing plans to “roll out several ranking changes in the near future that address sites that are misconfigured for smartphone users.”

Translation: If you aren’t following the Google recommendations, your mobile rankings will suffer.

This may sound easier than it actually is. We recently audited a “mobile-friendly” site. The prospective client had a site that restyled the desktop version for mobile devices. From the onset, it seemed to do the job. The homepage had been simplified, the navigation remained easy to use, and there was an easy click to call option – all important things for mobile users. When we started digging deeper, we found broken links, error pages, videos that wouldn’t play, and images that wouldn’t load. To be clear, these were not issues with the desktop version – only the mobile site.

These common issues are exactly what Google identified in their announcement. They are the usability concerns, or misconfigurations, that will soon cause rankings to drop, and they also happen to be most common in non-responsive websites.

I could go on with a laundry list of reasons why a responsive design could prevent some of these common issues – one fellow marketer did that here. And while responsive design is something everyone should seriously consider, it is a long-term strategy and a big investment. So, what can be done in the short term?

Give your mobile visitors an experience that mirrors the desktop experience as best as it can. The end goal is a seamless transition between devices, so spend some time with your site while using a mobile device. Ask your friends and family to do the same, and think about how you can improve that experience. As the numbers above suggest, if you aren’t thinking about your mobile visitors then you are not thinking about the future of your business.

Want to learn more about responsive design? Sign up for our next 'Box Lunch! SmallBox CEO Jeb Banner will walk you through the responsive design revolution.

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