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At a time when plenty of major corporations are still struggling to come up with an effective mobile strategy it’s no surprise that small businesses may find the mobile space a bit daunting.
Where does a small business begin when embarking on a mobile strategy? Do they opt for an app or a mobile site? And how much does it all cost?
At Brighton SEO last week Distilled’s Bridget Randolph tried to answer all these questions and give small businesses a helping hand with their mobile strategies.
She suggested there were three things on which to focus:
- A mobile optimised website.
- Search and discovery.
- Reaching your customers where they are.
And here’s a run through of those three main points in more detail...
Mobile optimised site
The argument over whether small businesses should opt for a mobile site or an app is fairly irrelevant as if you can only afford one or the other then a mobile site will almost definitely provide more value to your business.
There’s possibly an exception if your business is heavily reliant on repeat trade, but in the vast majority of cases a mobile site is the best option.
Unfortunately the situation is complicated further by the fact that there are three possible methods of creating a mobile optimised site:
- Responsive design. This rearranges the layout of the page depending on the screen size.
- Dynamic serving. This method serves different HTML using the same URL.
- Separate mobile subdomain. For example, an m.domain.com site.
In a perfect world businesses should make a decision on which option to go for based on their goals, technical capabilities and the user’s needs.
However for most SMEs with small websites Randolph recommended using a responsive template and a CMS like Wordpress. Site owners can then buy individual Wordpress themes, such as:
- Designfolio (from Presscoders): free, or $79 with a support licence.
- Responsive (from CyberChimps): free.
Alternatively, there are also premium Wordpress theme providers:
However, for business owners that don’t wish to use Wordpress there are a few other options:
Obviously budget is often an issue for SMEs so a mobile site might not be an option in the short term. In which case Randolph recommended instead focusing on maintaining business pages on Facebook and Google+ as those are already mobile optimised.
It’s also important to remember that a mobile optimised site isn’t a mobile strategy in itself, it’s merely the starting point.
Search and discovery
Step two of the process requires small businesses to optimise for mobile SEO and local search.
If a business has used responsive design then it doesn’t need to take any additional action. But site owners using dynamic serving need to vary the HTTP header in order to tell search engines that mobile visitors should be shown a different version of the site.
Finally, for separate URLs there are several different areas to look at, details of which are covered in a blog post by Randolph.
Brick-and-mortar stores and businesses that serve a specific geographic location or city cannot afford to ignore local search, as local listings are given far more prominence in mobile SERPs.
Furthermore, statistics from Google show that 40% of mobile searches have local intent and more than half (55%) of conversions from mobile search take place within the hour.
Ranking factors for local search include on-page optimisation for location (e.g. naming the business location prominently on the page) and whether or not a business appears in respectable local listing sites, such as Bing Local or Yelp.
Google+ Local is also an important consideration and shouldn’t be confused with a basic Google+ profile page. Businesses need to create profiles on both platforms and merge them.
Other local search factors include:
- Linkbuilding from local sites, such as news organisations, government sites or blogs.
- Consistent citations on other sites, so consider using Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder Tool to ensure that all references include the same business name, address and phone number.
- Quality, useful images to illustrate local listings.
- Structured data. Use the hCard markup and a KML file for Google Maps.
- Reviews and recommendations in Yelp, Google+ Local, Foursquare, TripAdvisor or Zagat.
Reaching your customers
The third and final part of Randolph’s talk focused on how SMEs can actively target their customers using mobile, rather just waiting to be found.
There are three potential methods of doing this – apps, exclusive mobile content and email.
As previously mentioned, it’s highly unlikely that small businesses will require a dedicated mobile app unless they rely on frequent return visits. But for those considering building an app there are two main options to choose between:
- Native app: such as an iOS or Android app
- Web app: built in HTML5.
There are various pros and cons for each method (covered in more detail in Randolph’s Slideshare presentation) but in general native apps are more expensive but are faster with better functionality, while web apps are cheaper and easier to maintain but can’t be accessed offline and don’t feature in the various app stores.
Randolph also highlighted several cost effective methods for creating apps:
- Bizness Apps: from $59 per month for native apps.
- ViziApps: from £29 per month for web apps or £99 per month for native apps.
- AppMakr: free native Android apps (with ads) or ad-free iPhone and Android apps for $9 per month.
- RedFoundry: contact for a quote.
Exclusive mobile content
Offering customers unique mobile content involves tactics such as exclusive offers or a loyalty app.
This is a route we’ve seen many major retailers go down, with both Game and B&Q launching loyalty apps that help to drive footfall to brick-and-mortar stores and also help to join up the offline and in-store experience.
Apps also allow brands to send push notifications to target customers with special offers, however very few brands take advantage of this tool. I have a number of retail apps on my phone but only Debenhams and B&Q have ever sent a push notification.
Mobile email is a hugely important consideration for all size businesses as studies show that 41% of all email is opened on mobile devices.
As such, if your business uses email marketing then it’s important to use mobile optimised email templates. There are a number of email services that provide these templates, including:
- MailChimp: from $10 per month.
- Campaign Monitor: from $10 per month or $5 per campaign.
And if you don’t want to use their full service then it’s possible to use these providers to build an email and then export the HTML.
JUMP is all about creating seamless multichannel customer experiences. Now in its fourth year, the event will be attended by more than 1,200 senior client-side marketers. This year it forms part of our week-long Festival of Marketing extravaganza.