Mobile Marketing: Creating Websites Optimized for Mobile Devices

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Small screens increasingly equal big business. Many experts predict that mobile searches will overtake those undertaken on desktop PCs by 2015. In some parts of the world that tipping point has already been reached.

PC versus Mobile search

In India mobile searches outnumbered static searches for the first time in August 2012, according to StatCounter’s global statistics. In China too, mobile usage passed the 50% mark for the first time earlier this year. A report by the China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) detailed how mobile internet had soared, especially in rural areas. The report goes on to say:

“Mobile phones are a cheaper and more convenient way to access the internet for [residents in] China’s vast rural areas and for the enormous migrant population…The emergence of smartphones under 1,000 yuan [$157, £100] sharply lowered the threshold for using the devices and encouraged average mobile phone users to become mobile web surfers.”

High speed internet access might be considered a human right in some Western countries, but part of the reason for mobile’s explosion in developing markets is the lack of an extensive, reliable and affordable fixed broadband infrastructure. Most of these markets are busily improving the quality and accessibility of available networks but ingrained mobile habits are unlikely to change. Mobile search is on the rise everywhere, including markets where high speed fixed connections are readily available. Mobile searches quadrupled in the US last year, according to Google. Google’s Head of Mobile Advertising Jason Spero, asked the crucial question:

 “Roughly one in seven searches, even in the smaller categories, are happening on a mobile phone, but how many of you are putting one seventh of your resources into mobile?”

In the UK, meanwhile, 58% of the population now own a smartphone, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). Fuelled by this steep rise in ownership, mobile advertising continued its meteoric rise, growing like-for-like by 132% to £181.5 million in the first half of 2012. Display, video, SMS and MMS advertising on mobiles increased like-for-like by 91% to £49.9 million whilst mobile search grew like-for-like by 152% to £131.6 million, accounting for 72% of mobile ad spend.

As Jason Spero suggests however, not everyone has been quick to respond to this swing in online habits. According to a survey by technology company Incentivated, only 20 per cent of FTSE 100 companies had a mobile optimized website in 2010. While this figure will undoubtedly have risen over the past two years, many businesses are still missing out on this relatively new route to new sales and customers. Similarly, the IAB report found that 60% of the UK’s biggest 100 advertisers didn’t have a mobile-optimized site.

There’s more to effectively targeting mobile internet users than simply having a website that can be accessed from a mobile device. Mobile users are increasingly demanding sites that are optimized for mobile for viewing and functionality on a smartphone, tablet or other handheld device. Fitting the content to smaller screen sizes, improving navigability and cutting down load times are all vital aspects and can make all the difference between a potential customer engaging with the site or abandoning the visit a few seconds in and heading elsewhere.

Loading times are one of the biggest issues for users. A survey by mobile and web performance management firm Keynote Systems Inc. found that two thirds of smartphone users cited slow to load web pages as one of their biggest frustrations. 64% of smartphone users wanted a site to load within four seconds while 60% of tablet users expected to wait less than three seconds for a page to load.

Large images, too much Flash and other animated content can all add to loading times and a stripped down approach is often best when it comes to mobile-optimized sites. Large images also often fail to display correctly and general design issues are equally important. The small screen size of mobile browsers is not ideally suited for clicking on small items or scrolling around on large, content filled pages. A single column format with clearly defined headers and large clickable areas is often a better bet. Many mobile devices use a finger as the primary input device and this can be considerably less accurate than a mouse cursor when it comes to clicking the correct button or link.

Some small businesses may question whether it’s worth jumping through the hoops of mobile-optimization. The browser breakdown on Google Analytics can be used to get an idea of how much traffic is currently coming your way via mobile devices but don’t forget, if the proportion is low it may in part be because your site isn’t optimized for this type of access. As smartphone penetration continues to grow, mobile marketing will also continue to grow in importance. Fail to keep up and you could be missing out.

Photo credits: @ mashup – courtesy © Thomas Jansa –, and PC versus mobile – courtesy © Dark Vectorangel –

Christian Arno
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, a global translation company. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 200 employees spanning three continents and clients... Read Full Bio
Christian Arno
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  • It’s finally happening. This is the year to get involved in mobile in one way or another. It’s a no brainer … either evolve and adapt or get left behind.

  • Search Engine Journal had better get a mobile-friendly website ASAP!

  • Nice post Christian, It is going to be very necessary to optimize website for mobile devices. Smartphone user are increasing day by day and we should target mobile devices to get more visitors. The statistics which you provided in this post are clearly indicating that Mobile SEO is going to be an extremely important in 2013. We better get ready for it.

  • Great post! Smartphone usage is increasing globally as a cheaper and more convenient alternative to internet access. There are many considerations to keep in mind when creating websites for mobile devices, especially when they’re global. For example, Chinese translations are going to take up more space than the English language does. Content must be reworked so that it is able to fit on a mobile site. Also, global content for mobile apps and websites not only needs to be translated, but localized as well. Content doesn’t always directly translate across languages. If you’re taking your mobile site global make sure in-market translators are there to approve your content for cultural appropriateness and relevancy.

  • As with the purpose of optimization, which is intended to provide better user experience, all possible factors related to mobile-ready websites should be taken into high consideration. Given the behavior of mobile users, your strategy should readily reflect to address the immediate needs of these users which could mean that your mobile strategy may not work exactly the same as with the SEO for your website.

  • Aaron Rudger

    One way that marketers can easily see how their sites look and perform on mobile devices is to visit Google’s page. Keynote powers the free smartphone site test feature that shows you how to optimize your site for best performance on the mobile Web. Check it out!

  • Very nice point you make here, and I wholly agree that mobile is a trend that can not be ignored. However, one additional point that web designers should note is that they should still leave mobile browsers the option of viewing the normal site, rather than having hard redirects that wall them off into the mobile site.

  • Hi all;
    Great comments and good points made:
    Clinton; “either evolve and adapt or get left behind.”
    Lucky; “Search Engine Journal had better get a mobile-friendly website ASAP” Lol!!!
    Chandler: “Mobile SEO is going to be an extremely important in 2013. We better get ready for it.”
    Meagan: “…Chinese translations are going to take up more space than the English language does.”
    Matt: “As with the purpose of optimization, which is intended to provide better user experience,”
    Great resource Aaron
    Very nice & relevant point Leslie

    Thanks for all your input.

  • Nice article Christian , here in Africa much like India the mobile phone has become a massive means of communication for folk who have never afforded a desktop computer.

    Once people become aware of how much more they can do with the phone, other than just communications, the world is going to open up into a “New World” for the rural African and city dweller.

    Banking and large retailers are beginning to educate on how much more is available, once the education process is out there is no knowing what a huge affect this will have on many lives.

    Something I keep in the back of my mind is the consumer has changed with technology. Always remember “pull and not push selling” is what is needed. Lengthy video will eat up bandwidth, must be attractive to entice. No unwanted spam via SMS, same rules of double optin together with clear navigation to stay or leave. Everything is going to be by Invitation, be ready for your guests.

  • Companies aren’t going mobile for the same reason they didn’t jump into the web ten years ago. The problem is the misconception that mobile is for another audience. Quite honestly, I don’t think companies understand the large explosion of mobile in the past few years. Either that, or they aren’t listening.

  • Mazen Ibrahim

    I love your post, however, I wish to get a reference (direct link) for “20 per cent of FTSE 100 companies had a mobile optimized website in 2010”, As I was looking on FTSE and did not find it. I will be happy if you can help me as this information help me a lot on my research.

  • Good post, but despite all the statistics I think (especially at the moment) it is a wait and see with regards to investing/changing a business’ website. I think it is a must for the larger companies, especially targeting the younger generation and especially retail, although with business to business transactions, I can’t see it really taking off as they work from their office/desk and use PC’s and laptops. Definitely a wait and see, similar to QR.

  • The thing about mobile search is that it is probably seen as situational and users may not have a lot of time when they perform a search. For example the user may be on a lunch break or traveling on a bus or in a shop.

    Because of this some website owners might just ignore mobile users because they count for such a small segment of their overall visitors. Or they simply don’t care… or don’t know…

    Should one not value very single visitor to ones website?

  • Mobile is where its all headed. Sorry for the inconvenience but it’s true. My brother works for an IT company in Texas and it’s all about mobile content now. There just isn’t anywhere else for the industry to go anymore! This post is a grea t written illustration of these fact and the reasons behind them. If you are not thinking mobile, your gonna get left behind….way behind!

    Thanks for the great post!


  • Hi Christian, Thanks for the write up I agree with you on many points here. According to Malcom Gladwell, we are definitly well into a sharp tipping point in the economy. Nice post.

  • Christian – A lot of people I talk to every day are saying they are gearing up for the mobile revolution and how much expansion for their business they are planning once they have it up an running. It’s definitely going to be a game changer!

    Thanks so much –