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I’m reminded of George Costanza on Seinfeld as he not so cleverly connives his way out of a dysfunctional relationship by telling his past love interest the words every woman longs to hear, “It’s not you… it’s me.”

So we may not be on the other end of a “Costanza convo” but when talking about the lack of conversions and untapped potential of your website… it really isn’t you, it’s actually your mobile site. Your desktop website could be the best thing since sliced bread, but if your mobile site is not optimized and offers users a terrible experience, you may find yourself on the other end of a “Costanza” moment.

How do you optimize your mobile site? That’s the million dollar question and one only you can answer.

I could lecture you on the top 10 tips to optimizing a mobile site, but if they don’t apply to your target audience, they are a waste of time and money. The reason is that optimization has everything to do with YOUR unique audience.

There are, however, best practices for optimizing a mobile site and methods to determine exactly how to do it for your audience. We will take a look at a few in this article.

Let’s first discuss why mobile optimization is so important.

Here are some facts you may not know…

  • 75% of customers prefer a mobile-friendly site
  • 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly-designed mobile site
  • 40% have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience

With hundreds of millions of mobile users, businesses can’t afford to neglect optimizing their mobile sites. 

The concept of optimization is centered on engaging your visitors and meeting their needs. The principle stems from the idea that your mobile users will most likely have different needs than your desktop visitors. It also involves keeping your mobile site fast, smooth and easy to navigate, hence a valuable user experience.

Is your mobile site optimized? Here is a preliminary exercise…

Pretend you are a mobile user searching for your website. Assess your experience. What would you change? Are your needs met? Put yourself in the minds of the consumer, but don’t forget to put yourself in a location that is more portable, or where your audience is likely to be searching for your website when on a mobile device.

Think about what happens to your website on a smaller screen.

When your website shrinks to the size of a smartphone screen, the user experience is stifled. Visitors will pinch, zoom in and out, and scroll, which makes navigation difficult. Mobile users are most likely “on the go.” They need a quick solution, not a tech war.

By optimizing your site for the mobile visitor, user engagement and “time on site” increases, which boost conversions, rankings and overall brand awareness.

Know your Audience

You may know your audience outside of the mobile community, but to feed them an optimized mobile experience you will need to do some additional research. Google Analytics is a great place to start.

When you understand your mobile traffic, you can more effectively decide how to optimize your site.

Google_Analytics

Analyze your traffic and conversions and compare the trends for mobile and desktop traffic. What landing pages are your mobile users frequenting? What keywords are they using to find your site?

Use Google Webmaster tools as well to search for the top queries and top pages (“Search Queries” under the “Traffic” tab) for your mobile and web search results. Use the filter function to see only the mobile stats.

Google_Webmaster_Tools

Now, dig deeper… what end result is your mobile audience looking for?

If you run a local establishment, what types of activities would your mobile audience desire? Hours of operation? Directions? Online coupons? A thorough analysis and a little brain power can get the job done here.

Use Google’s keyword tool with the mobile devices filter to research additional keywords in your industry. Use the keywords you sourced from your Analytics and drill down. You can even research your competitor’s mobile sites and source their keywords for your research.

Once you have a better idea of what type of mobile audience is searching for your brand, assess whether your site will fulfill their needs.

Do you know what your current mobile site looks like?

If not, use the following websites to take a closer look…

1. Mobile Phone Emulator
2. How To Go Mo

Responsive vs. Parallel Mobile Sites

At this point, you should have a good idea of your mobile audience, your keywords and their general behavior when accessing your site.

When I think of the debate between responsive and unique mobile sites, it reminds me of trend vs. function. It’s like the woman who wants to wear the fashion trends right off the runway, but she ends up limping and freezing because a trendy, skin tight leather blazer with spike heels is not functional, nor appropriate for a cold, snowy winter day in Alaska.

Responsive design is a trend; a newer technology that has taken the internet by storm. It is a flexible design that automatically shrinks your website to fit any smartphone or tablet screen. Though it is relatively new in “technology years,” it has allowed businesses the ability to offer their mobile consumers a more optimized experience relatively easily.

The caveat? Responsive design should not be used just because it is a cool trend. If it doesn’t make sense for your website audience, it won’t give you the best results.

Does it mean you shouldn’t take advantage of responsive design just because it’s a hot trend? No. If you are a size 0 woman living in Miami, by all means go for the spiked heels and skin tight clothes, but if you need function, forgo the trendy stuff.

There is a time and place for each option.

Let’s look at an example…

You are a realtor and your mobile visitors drive by your “For Sale” signs looking for information. Your desktop site is a basic informational resource with pictures of your recent listings, accomplishments, place of business and contact information. If the majority of your mobile audience is “on the road”, which you would know by analyzing your audience, you may want to serve them up a different user experience to increase conversions. They will need information fast. You can offer an immediate question asking whether they need information on a listing, or provide your contact information front and center. Remove the bulky videos, images and unessential information on your desktop site to keep the site loading fast.

This is an example of when a parallel mobile site makes the most sense. Essentially, if your website visitors will benefit from a different interface than your desktop site, this is the way to go.

While the parallel mobile site has the advantage of a more focused user experience, it also has some disadvantages…

  • More sites to maintain
  • Higher cost to design multiple sites

A responsive design is less costly, easier to maintain, does not need to fuss with redirects and Google recommends it.

However, it does not offer the same focused user experience as a parallel mobile site. If your mobile and desktop keywords are similar and your mobile audience would not be looking for a unique experience on a device, responsive design may be the right choice for you.

In the diagram below, Aleyda Solis, mobile expert, presents a flow diagram to help people decide which site would work for their audience.

Mobile_Site_Choice

Start at the top and answer the questions in order. She also gives people the option to build a dynamic serving site which is a mobile site with the same domain as your desktop, but it serves up unique content. This option is a bit complex to implement and costly to maintain, but if you have the right tech experts working on your site, it could be an option.

The Future

Once you implement your mobile site, never stop testing and researching your audience’s behavior to further optimize your site. As you tweak and understand the nuances and needs of your visitors, you will continue to increase your conversions and ROI.

Are you optimized for mobile? Which design would work best for your business?

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