How Critical is a Mobile Strategy for Your Small Business?

smartphone use photo

Zombie Apocalypse or Business As Usual?

In a meeting of SEO specialists not long ago, one practitioner stood up to say “You’ve got to optimize for mobile now! About 40% of traffic is coming from mobile, and with the current rate of adoption it’ll be 50% in a couple months. That means half of all your visitors will be looking at your site on mobile devices, so you’d better be sure it’s designed and optimized for those devices.”

50%? really? I’m not seeing anything close to those numbers on the accounts I monitor for my small business clients. And while I’ve seen mobile visits increasing, I wouldn’t characterize it as a galloping pace; more like a slow trot.

I waited until after the meeting to ask about these numbers, and learned that the fellow was referring to data from 2 (two!!) sites he was working on in a mobile-centric niche. Hardly a statistically significant sample.

I hear his warnings echoed in the worries of some clients, who fear they are hopelessly far behind and that they have to do whatever that thing is they are supposed to do for “mobile.” This sense of urgency isn’t surprising given the headlines:

Forecast: Mobile Devices to Eclipse PCs In Q4 This Year

Mobile Devices Will Outnumber People by the End of the Year

First, take a reality check . . .

Google Analytics updated its Mobile reports this year, so that you can quickly view the percentage of visits from Desktop, Tablet, and Mobile (smartphone) devices. Here’s a screen shot from the Audience > Mobile > Overview report.

Mobile Visitors Overview

Keep in mind that there is a huge difference in how websites are displayed on a tablet and on a smartphone, even though both are often lumped together under “mobile.” Many older sites look fine on tablets but are unreadable on smartphones. You should check your own site on various devices, of course, and thankfully there are several emulators online that make the process easy.

For my small, service-oriented business clients I’m seeing smartphone visits in the 5-15% range as of late 2013. Most of my clients don’t have big marketing budgets, so they need to think carefully about maximizing their returns. I often recommend that they focus their marketing dollars on the 90% of visitors coming from desktops, rather than the 10% coming from mobile.

A site that is not well optimized for search, or not converting well, or that does not have a healthy inbound link profile will do much better over the long term by improving those aspects of its online marketing than by investing in an app or dedicated mobile site.

That said, there are other factors to consider. If the business has a natural affinity for smartphone users – for example, a restaurant that can draw hungry customers looking for a place close by right now – and a demographic that skews young, then more attention should be paid to a mobile strategy.

It’s possible that you are not getting your fair share of mobile traffic, but again, look at the relative numbers involved. A 2% increase in 10% of your visitors is not going to have nearly as much impact as the same increase in 90% of your visitors. In any case, most SEO and conversion optimization efforts will lift both mobile and desktop “boats.”

While a mobile strategy isn’t as urgent as some business owners may think, it is a fact that mobile device use will continue to increase, and the rate of adoption may also increase. So if your site is a mess on smart phones now, then you should start thinking about a redesign to make your site “responsive.”

And when you do, you’ll get a much better return on your investment if you consider SEO for a site redesign at the same time.

2 thoughts on “How Critical is a Mobile Strategy for Your Small Business?

  1. Hi this is a great article, just one question with regards to mobile websites, can you recommend anyway websites out there that will help to create a mobile version or upgrade your website to work on mobile devices as google is pushing mobile now and is a factor in ranking so I am looking at upgrading our website, thanks in advance.

    • Yes, Peter, as I mentioned in the article building a responsive website that will work on all devices is the way to go. This blog post is quite dated, and I’m now *early 2015) recommending that all clients consider a redesign if their website is not mobile friendly. The urgency of the redesign will of course depend on the client’s business and online niche.

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