As I’m sure many of you have heard, this is the year of mobile. Well, a year of mobile, if you listened to Steve Ballmer of Microsoft at SMX West last month. Regardless of whether mobile search hits the volume levels that have been suggested, what is clear — is that mobile ads, mobile search, and smartphone use for local businesses has gained traction this year. It stands to grow through this year and onward. What does this mean for an owner of a small business?
Getting found on the go
For companies that offer goods buyers may want while on the go, having a mobile presence provides a great advantage for generating business. To quote Kirsten Mangers, CEO of WebVisible: “Consumers search for local products and services in different ways, using various formats and multiple devices.” And these searches may be conducted myriad ways on those devices. “They might look for a drycleaner from their phone, scan listings of local restaurants from their car, and research plumbers from their home computer. If your online marketing doesn’t make you visible in every one of those searches, you’re losing potential customers.”
According to Experian Simmons’ 2010 American Mobile Consumer Report, 31% of mobile phone users said they had accessed the Internet from a mobile phone during the previous 30 days. That said, a small business owner who creates a website so his business can be found online should be thinking beyond the desktop/laptop to the next step: considering how the business can be found using a mobile device.
Place pages, maps, local listings
Among the ways a small business can be found on a mobile device is through the map tools. Make sure your business is found using local business listings online. Business listings can be “claimed” – validated, if you will – on Google, for example, and the information included can range from basic address and phone number to more extended info when a business claims its “Place Page.” Location, services, hours of operation, photographs, and other information may be provided through this Google service. For businesses that appeal to customers on the go, map tools are essential elements for being seen and getting found via mobile.
When searching for one of those drycleaners mentioned above, a business listing can bring in customers who need help quickly. Internet directories such as Yellowpages.com and others provide listings for businesses, organized by category or type. For those searchers who are accustomed to using yellow page directories the mobile equivalent provides a ready and familiar means to access business info. Any opportunity available for enhanced listing information should be taken. Check out last week’s Small Is Beautiful column by Hanan Lifshitz for details on how to manage this aspect of your online presence.
The newest wrinkle in mobile info is access to a business website via mobile device. Obviously, the viewing screen available on a handset is going to alter the way a website is seen. Accordingly, many businesses are investigating the creation of a mobile website or landing page that will render effectively on a smaller screen. While a user can always access the Internet and view a business website, the user experience isn’t always a good one since the amount of material on a webpage won’t appear in one screen on a handheld device. Scrolling back and forth, up and down may be required to find the desired content. A mobile website or landing page can be designed to ensure that the user will see the most essential content in a readable format. While this transformation of a computer website to mobile website might seem daunting, there are tools available that can be found online that can revise the site to accommodate the small, handheld screen.
If small businesses are going to continue to gain customers in the 21st century they need to be where the customers are looking. Handheld devices are gaining in popularity and prominence in the search sphere. Small business owners need to make sure they can be found on the mobile platforms. Creating a website that is “mobile friendly” is a critical step in making that happen. Don’t be left behind!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.