With national small business week in our sights and the aftermath of Google’s mobile algorithm update still pending, we think it’s time to talk about how small business owners have been, and will be, impacted in coming months. While everyone’s attention has been on the Fortune 500 companies, the true winners of Mobilegeddon may be right here in our own backyards.
At Wpromote, our Strategic Partnerships department oversees and manages online marketing strategies for around 400 local and regional clients. When the news about Google’s impending mobile algorithm update broke in early 2015, we knew we had just been tasked with an enormous feat: making sure all of our clients’ sites were ready by the April 21st deadline.
When the update was first announced, the reaction on industry blogs and social media echoed panic, as if we were bracing for a storm. Some predicted this update would negatively impact many small businesses, catching owners off-guard and rendering them unaware, or unable, to pool the resources necessary to quickly adjust to this change. Others speculated that the real losers would be the 44% of Fortune 500 companies that weren’t passing Google’s mobile-friendly test. Regardless of speculation, our team took a proactive stance by notifying our clients of the upcoming update and helping them to get ready in time.
For clients without web development resources in place, we vetted and suggested free or low-cost mobile website creation tools, like DudaMobile. For clients with WordPress sites, we suggested plugins like WPTouch. Both of these tools can be implemented with relative ease and require no “coding” experience. This illustrates one benefit of working with small businesses: there is less red tape when it comes to making changes, because most of the time, we work directly with the business owner.
Even with these available solutions, some clients remained doubtful and confused. One common misconception among clients was that Google was forcing everyone to have a mobile site. Another misconception is that their current site would fall off Google mobile search engine results completely. It is important to note that this update was not intended to remove sites that are not mobile-friendly from mobile search results. Google addressed this concern in the FAQ section of their blog post on the day of the update, noting that mobile-friendliness is merely one of many ranking factors.
So why did Google choose to roll out this update? In 2013, approximately 17% of mobile searches happened on-the-go, in other words, away from homes and workplaces. Just two years later, in 2015, another study found that 52% of mobile searches were now happening on-the-go. The trend became clear: more people were conducting searches on their mobile devices while out in the community. With more people searching on mobile devices, it makes sense that Google would want to improve the search experience for those users. Most of us have probably experienced frustration when trying to check out a restaurant’s menu on our phones only to find out that we can’t click on the menu button or the page doesn’t load properly. Google doesn’t want you to be frustrated anymore; they want to send you to a site where you will be able to navigate with ease.
But once you’re on that mobile site, exploring fluidly, how likely are you to actually convert into a paying customer? An independent study released by Google in 2014 found that 34% of consumers visited a store within 24 hours of their local search on a desktop or tablet. In this study, a local search is defined as one which shows local intent, such as “dentist near me.”
However, what’s really interesting is that of those consumers who performed a local search on a smartphone, 50% visited a store within 24 hours of their search. Therefore, local queries on mobile devices provide a strong indicator of a consumer’s intent to visit or otherwise purchase from a local business. This is why the focus on having a mobile-friendly site stands to benefit our small-business clients in a big way, by allowing them to be right at the customer’s fingertips when the customer is searching.
While the mobile update will undoubtedly continue to roll out with new additions being announced in due time, one thing is clear: going mobile creates massive benefits for small businesses. Why then, are these small businesses being left off the lists of winners and losers of Mobilegeddon?
In the panic of this mobile algorithm update, we’ve ignored the businesses that are right in front of us each and every day. The names on our list should be the mom-and-pop restaurant on the corner, the dentist you’ve been going to since you were a kid, or even that donut shop you drive by on your way to work. Savvy small business owners who are willing to embrace these changes will emerge as the real winners of Mobilegeddon when the dust clears.