Why Mobile-Friendly is the Key to Local-Friendly

Smartphone ownership is on the rise, along with tablets and even the infamous ‘phablet’. With it, consumers have the freedom to run life on the fly—and make it work. They can find just about anything on a whim, from a nail salon to Chinese take-out to shoe repair, all at the click of a few buttons. And with so many people on their phones searching, it also creates a golden marketing opportunity. No one knows this better than the gods of search: Google. In some of our other posts, we’ve noted the importance of keeping an eye on what moves Google is making. Not just because it will affect business and search, but because it often indicates a larger trend in marketing and/or search.

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That is definitely the case here.

The most recent Panda update that arrived this past summer made strides to accommodate a mobile world.  After the dust settled, it became clear that much of the update aimed to place search preference on brick and mortar locations in search.

Consumers are searching more and more from their phones to look for immediate solutions based on geography, quality and relevance, and availability.

What does this look like in practice?  It could be someone who wants to meet a friend for an impromptu dinner in the city, or someone in an unfamiliar town who wants a massage between meetings. What people are looking for when using their mobile device is usually different from what they are looking for at home, when out and about they want to find the contact number for a business they need to get in touch with the one they chose after some research back at home on their PC.

If someone is shopping online using their tablet or smartphone chances are that they are desperate (like ordering a last minute flower delivery for a birthday or Valentine’s Day celebration).

There are countless examples like this that naturally explain how and why local search has become much more spontaneous: it’s a matter of lifestyle and accessibility.  In order to be on the map (literally) and take advantage of attracting these new customers, a good SEO strategy is critical for any local business to attract new foot traffic.

A BIng Executive has been quoted as saying that 50% of mobile searchers have ‘local intent’, meaning they plan to find a business based first on its geographic location.

What does that translate to? One of the main advantages of mobile search when compared to desktop searches is that these searchers are much more likely to be ready to convert.

Mobile searchers are looking for results and are ready to take action as soon as their phone loads and gives them the information they need, that is.

Ironically, many of the businesses (especially small businesses) who would be most likely to benefit from mobile search do not yet have the intel to make it happen.

But there are a few key steps and considerations for your search strategy that can make all the difference.

So what does it mean to have a good local search strategy?

When we think of SERP listing, we think immediately of solid meta descriptions and meta tags that help businesses position themselves and compete in the local space. This is important, but it’s really only the beginning.  It will earn you the first click but what happens afterwards is equally important to convert a lead into a visitor or a customer. The bigger concern is what the user experiences once they land on your site.

Here are a few things you’ll want to do to ensure a positive response:

1. Make a ‘mobile-ready’ option. Many older websites simply don’t offer this option but many of the newer templates do.  If you’re having someone design the site for you, be sure to indicate that it needs to be mobile-ready. This prevents site distortion, or having to zoom, click, and scroll around on a tiny screen. Not very welcoming, especially if there are other options that aren’t as difficult to deal with.

2. Make it fast. Site speed is also an issue.  Not only will it deter potential visitors from staying long enough to find the information they need, but it can actually hurt your Google ranking a well.

3. Don’t be annoying. Having an ad that pops up asking them to download your app when a visitor first enters a site, is also something that irritates users and takes up space. Google has warned it will lower the SEO ranking of the site. Keep the option to use an app for the site above, below, or to the side of the content.

4. Focus on the vital info. Too many small businesses not only have difficult to navigate sites, but also don’t have vital information accessible or mobile-ready.  This includes menus, a photo gallery, store hours, and contact information.  (Imagine what you would want to know about an unknown business before you bring your friend to it.)

5. Not everything is vital. Mobile devices are generally smaller than a laptop so having too much text squeezed into a small window makes no sense. People who are out and about often want quick answers – like checking if the coffee shop is still open, the longer it takes for someone to find what they are looking for the more your SEO rankings will go down.

6. Garner good reviews. Many consumers on smartphones will immediately turn to yelp reviews (or similar) in hopes of finding a frank appraisal of your business.  Encourage your customers to give you reviews either through incentives or just word-of-mouth because it really does make a difference.  In this sense, your in-store customer service is very much connected to the conversions you get from mobile visitors.

Incorporating these basic considerations will put the businesses who do take the time to make mobile a priority at a clear advantage over their neighboring competitors.  And competitive edge in this dog-eat-dog world? Well, as we well know, that can make or break a business.

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