Small Business

Making sense of the mobile web for small businesses

BrandSavvi Small Business Advice

The dreams of putting up a simple website for your small business and expecting automatic success and new customers has never truly been a reality. When you actually look at all the pieces needed to be successful online it can become extremely overwhelming very quickly.

The question of "How to use the Internet to help my business to be successful" gets lost in a rabbit hole of techniques, tips, and Guru strategies that may never work for your particular business.

Who is your customer?

How and where are you going to connect with them?

When working with clients I always start by asking them those 2 questions.  The reasoning is that once you have answered that question we together can develop your strategy and set attainable goals based on your customer choice.

How the mobile web affects your business.

Every business is an online business! And local businesses are mobile businesses!
- Erick Calderon

I said that at a trade show convention a couple of years ago and the people looked at me crazy. So I guess I should explain. I believe that whether you are selling things on amazon or at your store or office on Ventura Blvd you are an online business and here's why. Your customers are finding you online and more than half are finding you on their mobile phone.

It's that simple, as business owners we need to embrace that idea and not be afraid of it.

Whether a customer is searching on Google for "drill bit set", looking on google maps for "hardware store near me" or checking Yelp for "handyman" in Los Angeles. Your offline tangible business is being found online and if you don't have a usable online presence when you're found, you've lost that customer.

If you have followed my advice on how to be found online, you are in a great starting position.
But now what? How do you make sure these potential customers connect with you once you've been found?

Look Good!

Look Professional!

It's human nature, what would you pick: a plumber whose website you can't read on your phone, looks sketchy and has a 2 star review on Yelp or a service whose website looks super professional on your Iphone screen and has 4 stars?

Simple choice.

When you look at these three factors:
1. Potential customers are finding you through online means
2. More than 50% of them will find you and have their first impression with your business on their mobile phone.
3. This may all happen without them ever talking to you.

It makes it easy to understand what your first priority should be when talking about your online presence:

Make it easy for customers to find and connect with you on their phones.

It so simple to see this reality because both Google and Facebook have made Mobile a top priority, if not the top priority for their services. In 2015 Google pushed a mobile first initiative that actually gave rankings boosts to web sites that were fast to download and looked good on mobile phones. They launched free tools for webmasters and business owners to test their websites for page speed and mobile friendliness. These tools even give you suggestions for how to make your site faster and more mobile friendly.

So if you had a website that was mobile friendly (responsive) you had a slight edge in ranking for searches when those searches were being done on a mobile phone.

If you are a dry cleaner and your site is mobile friendly, when a potential customer in your area searched for "dry cleaner" all other things being equal, your site would rank higher in the search results than your competitor in the next shopping mall if his site was not mobile friendly.

That is a GREAT advantage!

And a TERRIBLE disadvantage!

Then in 2016 both companies launched publishing platforms to serve your content faster to their users who are on mobile phones. Think about that, you can now publish your website content in their platform, then share that content with your fans on facebook or google plus, and when those fans engage with your content, they are not even on your site. They are inside the Facebook or Google platform.

When it comes to organic search traffic on mobile phones Google now gives rankings boosts (preferred placement) to sites with Accelerated Mobile Pages. Facebook is also reporting greater sharing and overall user engagement with content that is published with their Instant Article Platform. So at first look these platforms are working for the two main channels that businesses use to acquire and stay connected with their customers.

Mobile Matters but it can be very confusing!

So as you can see even in this short article you have probably heard some words and platforms that you thought had nothing to do with your business. But in reality they effect your business growth tremendously.

In order to answer some of the questions you may have I put together some simple answers to questions I get all the time on this subject.

As a small business should I be worried about mobile?

Do I need a mobile App for my business or brand?
Not likely, and be weary of those telling you that you do.

The exceptions could be if you are putting together a rewards program or have an audience that is very engaged with your product and need something for them to use your existing product.[Check out our article on mobile apps for more info.]

Do I now need a mobile website and a regular website?
No, the best choice is to go with a responsive website.That is a site that senses what device is looking at it and shows up in the device to fit that particular screen. Be weary of anyone trying to tell you that you need two different sites, and understand that 2 different sites also means double the maintenance. So if something is changed, published, or an error needs to be fixed, it needs to be fixed in both places.

What if I just do nothing, leave my old website up, not worry about google my business or yelp or anything else?
It's harsh but over time that's what happens.

Change is constant and quick online. What doesn't change is the reality that if you stay the same you will not grow. When it comes to your business that shouldn't be an option.

The mobile future on the horizon.

Accelerated Mobile Pages and Facebook Instant Articles are both great for people, Google and Facebook. For you the owner of the business or content there are trade offs. Things you should think about before you start investing in these platforms. The biggest trade off being loss of control over the customer experience.

For many reading this article these publishing programs do nothing to benefit your business at the moment. But as these 2 giants get more feedback and analytics on conversions, engagement, and user experience we could see a glimpse of where the web might be going in the future. And what you as a business owner might be in for.

When you look back at Amazon and Ebay being introduced in the late 1990's, there was an animosity between traditional business and these 2 online babies at the time. Fast forward 20 years and many shops on Ventura Blvd also sell their items on Amazon and overstock on Ebay. Over time the businesses saw these two giants as a distribution channel to help them grow. They are still a threat but a different kind of threat.

As a recap here are some ideas you can take away from this article.

Responsive Design

What is it:
The way a website is built so that it can detect the type of device accessing it. It then displays the content of the site in a way that actually fits the screen of the device and looks great!

Why do it:
Better user experience for potential customers that find you on their mobile phones, Rankings boosts in Google Searches done on mobile device.

How do you benefit from doing it:
Searches will find your content easier and will actually be able to read and interact with it, makes it easier for them to connect with you.

What happens if you don't do it:
You risk losing a lot of potential customers that will not tolerate a bad or slow user experience.​

Accelerated Mobile Pages

What is it:
Google publishing requirements and platform for serving search results to mobile searches faster and in a more usable format.

Why do it:
You may not have to do it yet, it depends on your business. If you produce a lot of content to drive sales to your products or service than it would be good to look into. If you are more worried about getting customers in your door at a physical location you have more important things to do online that this. Think Google my business and Yelp!

How do you benefit from doing it:
Depends on your type of business. Some may not benefit at all yet. But things change quickly.

What happens if you don't do it:
Nothing right now, so most should sit and wait till the waters are more clear. Unless you are producing a lot of content you can wait. If you do produce a lot of content it is definitely something to look into.

Facebook Instant Articles

What is it:
Facebook's publishing system that lets you publish your content on the Facebook network. This makes it faster to load and easier for Facebook users to engage with it.

Why do it:
You may not have to do it yet, it depends on your business. If you have an active Facebook page or group or you want to grow new leads from Facebook by sharing relevant content you may want to look into it.

How do you benefit from doing it:
Based on the Facebook numbers it looks like when your content is an Instant Article it boosts the shares and engagement. So if more people share your content it gets seen more and Facebook then also sees it as popular and it show sup in more of your fans timeline. This can help you to grow your brands Facebook presence.

What happens if you don't do it:
Depends on your business. Unless you are producing a lot of content you can wait. If you do produce a lot of content it is definitely something you want to test. Maybe by engaging more of an audience using Instant Articles you can grow your page's followers and use other strategies to monetize those users from your Facebook page.

As you can see there is a lot of information when it comes to the mobile web. Hopefully this article brought some insight for you as you start your journey researching how to grow your business with mobile traffic. If you have questions please post them in the comments, we would love to hear your thoughts.

The DIY Route to Mobile Websites

There are a lot of tutorials and walk throughs that teach you how to DIY all of this if you'd like to. The problem with that is that no matter how easy something looks there is always a learning curve and a huge time investment.

When it comes to web development it's better to higher someone experienced to do it for you. Remember if you're reading this your business is not web development; and spending weeks learning to do something that is not core to your business is a waste of your time. Especially when you can pay someone else to have it up for you quickly.

If you'd like help setting these services or making sure your site is mobile friendly make sure to reach out to us!
We'd love to help.​

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​Flashback Friday: For those of you reading who have been around the web as long as I have, I am sure you remember the closed world that was AOL dial up. Google and Facebook serving all the content and keeping the user trapped in their world reminds me a lot of that. Only a lot faster with better pictures and video.

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About Erick Calderon

20 years of online experience has taught me I still have a great deal to learn. Come learn with me.