In today’s device-driven world, plotting your local business’ mobile presence isn’t just a nice add-on, it’s a necessity. Your ability to maximize your business’ visibility, ensure a great customer experience and ultimately drive new sales through smartphones all depend on you understanding the mobile landscape and laying the foundation for success.

Here’s a quick guide to get you started on the path to “mobile-izing” your business using apps and search marketing.

Why Mobile Is Important

Research on the growing relationship between mobile and local is endless. Approximately 61% of smartphone users conduct local searches on their phones, according to a new study conducted by comScore and released by Localeze and 15miles.

The majority of these users are ready to buy: 72% of those surveyed said they made a purchase during their most recent smartphone-based local search. There’s simply no denying that mobile is where your customers are and where you need to be.

Search Vs. Apps? Try Both

The ways consumers conduct local business searches on their mobile devices vary. While many rely on major search engines to find a local business’ website or its listing on a local site, about half (49%) of mobile users use search-based apps, according to the Localeze and 15miles study.

It’s clear that new and potential customers are looking at a variety of channels to find you on their cell. Capturing their eyeballs requires your business to be present on as many of platforms as possible, or you risk losing customers to your competitors.

Tackle Your Mobile Website

For those trying to locate your business through a major search engine on their mobile device, your website could be the first thing they’ll find and visit. But what will their experience be when they view your site on the small screen? Will they able to easily get around and find the information they need?

Google launched an initiative recently called “Go Mo” that encourages businesses to develop mobile-friendly sites. A mobile-friendly site is a version of your desktop site that is formatted to a mobile screen, has readable text, and includes large-enough buttons for users to easily thumb through and take actions.

The initiative cites a variety of research indicating that consumers want and expect mobile-friendly sites, and that they play a key role in whether consumers engage a local business.

Some of the top findings include:

  • 71% of users expect a mobile site to load as fast as a desktop site, according to a 2011 study by Copuware
  • 57% of users would not recommend a business with a bad mobile site, while 40% have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience, according to the same Copuware study
  • Nearly 1 in 5 visits to a small business’ mobile-friendly site results in an immediate call to a business, according to internal Q4 2011 data from DudaMobile, a mobile website developer that partnered with Google on the initiative (and as you can see, the numbers are much higher in certain categories)

 

What are key things to think about when thinking about what your mobile-friendly site should look like?

GoMo has 10 best practices worth noting, which I’ll summarize here:

  1. Keep it quick:mobile users are short on time, so prioritize content and features that mobile users need most, condense large blocks of text into bullets, and compress images to speed up loading.
  2. Simplify navigation: create a clear navigation and add a search functionality to let customers easily find what they’re looking for.
  3. Be thumb-friendly: design your site so users can easily press large buttons to access content.
  4. Design for visibility: make it easy for users to read with distinct contrasts between text and backgrounds.
  5. Make it acessable: make sure the site is visible on all types of mobile devices (e.g., don’t integrate Flash).
  6. Make it easy to convert: make it simple for users to buy something or contact your business, understanding they’re working from a virtual keyboard.
  7. Make it local: include a functionality that helps people find and get to you – including adding your address or store locator on the landing page.
  8. Make it seamless: allow users to convert as much of the functionality of the desktop site to mobile.
  9. Use mobile site that redirects: a mobile site redirect is a code that automatically recognizes if a visitor is using a mobile device, and directs them to the mobile-friendly version of your site automatically.
  10. Listen, learn and iterate: solicit input from your audience and ask your desktop site users what they want in a mobile version of your site.

With a mobile-friendly website that’s easy to use, you’ll not only provide your customers will the experience they’re looking for, but you’ll be more likely to get their call, their business, and their recommendation.

Get Listed. Get Listed Again. Repeat.

Local sites also play a critical role in local mobile search since their business listings appear among the first search engine results and on their popular apps.

Like your website, local sites and their corresponding apps provide the most important information mobile searches are looking for: your business name, complete address and phone number.

Additionally, local sites and apps provide mobile-friendly user experiences that we know consumers want.

See above for a list of the most popular mobile apps for local business searches. While your local business is probably already listed on most if not all of them, it’s important to take a look and make sure all the information is accurate and up-to-date (and if you’re not listed, list yourself). Take advantage of free tools to add pictures, menus, prices, hours and other key information your customers will be looking for while searching on-the-go.

Also check out ways to boost your listing: either through direct advertising and deals, or organically by incentivizing customers to post favorable reviews when they’re happy with your service. All of these efforts will be useful in increasing the attractiveness of your business to mobile users checking out your listing.

Through this two-sided approach that recognizes the importance of both mobile-friendly websites and local sites in the local mobile search experience, you’ll be on your way to realizing the power of this new medium to drive customers to your business.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column

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About The Author: is an award-winning print and online Yellow Pages executive with broad domestic and international experience, and is the Local Search Association vice president of communications. She also blogs about the industry on the Local Search Insider blog. Follow @localsearchassn on Twitter.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter



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