Quick story. In my first week of college, having just recently moved to Chicago in the winter, I was still very green when it came to public transit. It was the first day of some class I don’t remember, and rightfully because I probably didn’t need to take it, and still “recovering” from the first week in my new dorm. I wasn't particularly accustomed to bus routes, and most definitely never relied on them for transportation, so I did my research the night before. I picked a window of time I thought would be ample, set my alarm, and didn’t think twice about it. The next morning my alarm goes off, and as most college kids do I thought to myself “I can spare another 10 minutes”, and hit the snooze. That happened two more times before I finally dragged myself out of bed.
Skip to the blistering wind, no shelter from the cold except the skinny bus sign pole. Of course the bus was late, and now so was I to my first day of class. I thought I was as worse off as I could be for the day. Nope. The bus rolls up and it’s packed from front to back; from window to window. I refused to wait for the next one as I could already feel the sets of eyes on me as I strolled into my classroom over a half an hour late. So I tried my best to wiggle into some forgotten crevice, and as I stood in that bus, crammed into a crowd with no place to sit, barely even using my legs to stand I thought “if only I would have boarded this bus earlier, it wouldn’t be so crowded”.
I am sure by now you know where I am heading with my story. Obvious “missed the bus” puns aside, the foundation of my story is relevant. Not to compare procrastination in college to developing mobile business sites, but to its core the value remains the same. There is no longer an excuse to wait on a mobile version of your website. A few years ago, you could have argued that the investment cost outweighed the benefits, but here are five reasons to launch your mobile site now:
More Active Mobile Phones than People
As of June 2012, there were 321 million wireless subscriber connections1. That is 10 million more connections than people in the country. Looking at number of people with smartphones, 50% of U.S. mobile subscribers are on a smartphone2 as of February 2012, 20% more than just two years before. 66% access the Internet every day on their phones3. With costs continuing to decrease, and more internet enabled small screens, the numbers will only continue to rise.
Just take a look at EZlocal’s mobile traffic. It started at just a few hundred hits per month in 2008 to 300,000 in October of 2012.
Mobile Searching VS. PC Searching
With the number of cell phone and smartphone users out there, the real eye-popping stat for business owners considering developing a mobile site is the exponentially growing number of mobile searches. While comparing the statistics in analyst firm BIA/Kelsey’s “Local Search Volumes” (54.9 and 61.6 billion desktop searches in 2011 and 2012 respectively compared to 19.7 and 30.7 billion mobile searches in 2011 and 2012 respectively) may not seem jaw dropping, it is the rate of growth that should be taken note of. According to the forecast of BIA/Kelsey, smartphone search volumes are growing faster than searches on the PC [by a staggering 3.4 billion in the past year]4, and they even go so far as to predict the passing of the torch in 2015.
Same Search, Different Results
“Focus on the user and all else will follow”. With 1 out of every 4 searches coming from a mobile device, make no mistake about it, Google has taken notice. Around this time last year, Google announced a specifically designated crawler for smartphones apart from what it currently uses for feature phones5. Developing this crawler, cleverly coined “Googlebot - Mobile” as opposed to its already functioning “Googlebot”, Google had acknowledged a need for separate search results. By doing the math, one can then assume that the same search on different devices will yield different results. Based on the way Google interprets a particular user search, location weighs heavily on the results. Basically, the intention of inputting a search term on a desktop, feature phone, smartphone, or tablet can mean different things for the same keyword6. Take, for instance, a search for plumbing. On a desktop, the results may yield more information about tips and tricks or general information, whereas a smartphone would pull up locations, directions, and phone numbers of plumbing businesses nearby. Although the two searches are not mutually exclusive, results can vary due to the way Google holds relevancy in high regard, opening the window for Google+ Local listings to appear higher in mobile results than they do in desktop7.
Of all the factors that should influence a business owner to move forward with their mobile presence, understanding that nearly 90% of the web is not mobile ready8 should be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. So what does that mean for business owners? Again, according to 2012 data from the Mongoose Metrics Data Series only 10% of business websites are mobile ready. To fully absorb that information, take a step back and explore the proverbial “man behind the curtain” of search results.
There are plenty of factors that Google uses to influence search results, but underneath all the bells and whistles, if a site does not meet foundational specifications it may be excluded from a search all together. In fact, Google has acknowledged that your page may be filtered from results if it doesn’t render properly and declares the proper mobile DocType9. So with such a big window of opportunity to claim stake in the mobile search world, business owners should be concerned about getting their feet in the door, especially before their competitors.
Mobile Users Searching for You
You can tell yourself that your website renders fine on the iPhone, but the mobile user is a different beast than the PC user. With no mouse, large screen or full keyboard certain actions are simply harder to perform. Navigation is too small, imagine trying to pinch and zoom to click a link on Yahoo! if they did not have a mobile site.
Your website has to assume that a mobile visitor is less patient and in more of a time crunch than your PC visitors. Pay close attention to load times, features that do not work on most mobile phones and quick access information. A mobile user is less likely to purchase items, but very likely to do research.
96% of smartphone owners have researched a product or service on their device10. Give these users what they are looking for right away. Show your phone number, address, and hours above the “mobile phones.” Enable a click-to-call and a click-to-map option so a user can call or visit you with no struggle. For most businesses, nothing fancy or complex is necessary. Get to the point so a user can get what they want, and take action. Mobile Internet users consume less pages and take action quicker than PC Web users. So, if your information is inaccurate or (worse) absent from a site, then you will be missing out on more and more potential customers.11
Example of site optimized for mobile search
94% of mobile users have searched locally on their smartphones. From pizza to plumbers, 70% of searches have connected with a business after searching it. It is no secret that users performing these searches on a mobile device are expecting instant information, so a cluttered, difficult to navigate mobile site is an instant turn off.
According to the 2011 Adobe Mobile Experience Survey, potential customers would not recommend a business with a bad mobile site, and 40% would then visit a competitor site after a bad mobile visit12.