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Is a Mobile Version of Your Website Necessary?

Your Customers are Mobile...Are You?

It’s indisputable that the “Big G” is an e-commerce site’s main concern regarding Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies. There are challengers, but Google continues to be the most-used search engine in the world. So when they announced they would be adjusting their algorithms starting April 21, 2015, to favor sites that are mobile-friendly, everybody stood up and took notice.

Nice of Google to give everyone plenty of notice, isn’t it?

The Writing on the Wall

Anyone who is seriously engaged in e-commerce, or really just trends in web usage in general, should have known that this was inevitable. The number of mobile users had been on the rise since 2007, and in 2014, the percentage of traffic to e-commerce stores from mobile devices exceeded 50%.

Here is how mobile users compare to desktop users now:

BTDM post 2

That is nearly spot on with predictions made in 2012 (pictured below) that stated mobile use would surpass desktop users by the middle of 2013. You see what we mean by the “writing on the wall?”

Mobile Internet Usage vs Desktop

In an article by Dreamscape Design, the authors expressed surprise that even large e-commerce businesses have been slow in preparing for the ongoing onslaught of mobile devices. Not to be catty, but we’re a bit surprised, too. It’s true that not so long ago, only 50% of the searches were done via mobile; purchases were only made on a desktop or in the store. But that’s a paradigm long gone now. Mobile commerce has been a viable channel for sales since before 2010. Yet widespread adoption has been painfully slow.

The Dreamscape Design article was written more than three years ago, and the authors urged its readers to get ahead of the pack and get mobile-friendly. Another “ancient” article from iMarketingFactory.com exhorted the same thing, but the pleas fell on deaf ears. Fast forward to 2014, and the predictions have all come true.

According to Pew Research, as of January 2014, 58 percent of American adults have a smart phone, but perhaps for e-commerce retailers with an increasingly international audience, the bigger picture would be more important:

Penetration of Smartphone Users

According to DazeInfo, the number of smartphone users grew from 2013 to 2014 by more than 32 percent, and by the end of 2015 it should increase by another 25 percent. All the experts have agreed for years, and Google’s making it a point to emphasize that search traffic will increase for mobile-friendly sites. It might be time to throw out any template that doesn’t have a responsive cross-platform solution embedded on purchase.

It’s obvious that mobile usage is increasing and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. For our purposes, however, we should look at how all these new mobile consumers are going to actually use their smartphones.

Multi-Platforming

According to this graphic, more than half of online buyers prefer to shop using all their gadgets in turn, including mobile:

Platform Split in Retail

However, based on current trends, this pattern of device-use buying behavior isn’t likely to last. Even e-commerce experts are surprised at growth of mobile-only retail sales. According to InternetRetailer.com, there should have been an 80 percent jump in sales volume over 2013, from $47 billion to $80 billion.

ChannelAdvisor Corp. CEO Scot Wingo put it like this: “The largest growth area in shopping and on the web is mobile-only consumers.”

Amazon.com’s Paul Cousineau similarly observed that “People do not put their phone down then go find a desktop to do something. They use their phone.”

So whereas the formerly held view was that people like to use their phones for shopping and their desktops for buying, these days trust in mobile purchases has increased. And folks are feeling a lot more comfortable converting straight from their smartphones.

Why E-Tailers Should Encourage This Trend

It may at first seem that this not-so-new development would put a crimp on operations. This is especially a matter of concern for small e-commerce retailers that have been focused on learning to compete in the desktop-only environment. However, this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. Mobile solutions abound when you look at large-scale web builders and independent developers alike.

Rather than thinking of how it can be done, it might be more productive to think about why mobile online buyers are driving revenue the way they are, and therefore why a mobile solution is so necessary. It’s not so much that there are more buyers, really. It is just that they are buying more. Let’s break it down.

According to this analysis by Ian Mills of Magicdust Web Design, mobile buyers are different. They are not like desktop users, who are more patient and cautious. Mobile buyers want to get information quickly and simply. Many mobile online purchases are impulse buys, and they spend more money on a single purchase than their desktop counterparts do. By making your website mobile-friendly with a simple purchase path, you are eliminating barriers to conversion. In other words, it makes it much easier for you to make a buck than if you just stick to a desktop-only strategy.

Mobile users are impatient with cluttered websites, which may appear unproblematic to desktop users. The good news is mobile users are easier to engage than desktop users because they’re usually browsing during another (boring) activity, like commuting to work or watching commercials on TV. In other words, they have time to kill.

The Downside

If your website is not optimized for mobile browsing, a full 30 percent of visitors will click away and go find another site. Here is a visual of why this would be:

Mobile vs Desktop Website

On the left, you can see that the call to action (CTA) is clearly visible, a must if you want high conversion. On the right, the text is small and the user will have to look for the button to click to make a purchase. Not good. That’s about 50% of sales down the drain. Mobile users are more likely to favor sites that favor them, i.e. sites that are mobile-friendly.

While content is still important for your website, it is not always advisable to insist on including every scrap of it on your mobile version because it will probably slow your loading time down. Mobile users seldom tolerate slow loading, so if your website doesn’t load in 3 seconds or less, you aren’t very mobile friendly. Text-heavy content that looks fine on your desktop site will probably be unreadable on mobile, plus it may obscure your key selling points (see above).

In addition, a text-heavy website can be difficult to navigate. All of this will conspire to make your website a tight trampoline: You will have a high bounce rate. You have to prioritize the content that you want to include on a mobile display because you’ve got a very limited space in which to arrange your on-page elements.

Takeaway

You can’t ignore the fact that mobile users have become a significant part of your market. The only way that you will continue to be competitive is to make your website mobile-friendly. The good news is that because so many businesses are gearing up for the mobile market, many service providers are on hand to make your site mobile-friendly for you at reasonable prices.

The bad news is that if you don’t make the transition, you may as well close shop. You can trudge along counting on the users who still prefer to shop stationary, but you’ll be missing out on the more impulsive and easier-to-convert mobile crowd. That’s a demographic your competition will be sure to swallow up.

Overall, this trend is a good thing for many enterprising e-commerce retailers; mobile users are much easier to sell to than desktop users…provided you make it easy for them to buy.

How has increasing mobile usage affected your business model? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

 

A Guide to Blogging

What's My Next Blog Post?

Blogging doesn’t have to be difficult. Before we provide our guide to blogging, I think that it’s important to understand how to write a blog post. Here’s an inside look at how we structure our blog posts:

  1. Use Simple Words – don’t try to use fancy vocabulary as it makes blog posts harder to read and understand. As a general rule of thumb, use vocabulary that a 5th-grader can understand.
  2. Use the Word “You” – instead of using the word “we” or “them” in your blog posts, use the word “you”. You want to make your readers feel like you’re speaking with them, and only to them. Make them feel like you’re sitting across the table from them having a one-on-one conversation over coffee.
  3. Write How-To Posts – people love to learn and grow. How-to posts are the perfect way of doing this. These are typically the highest read and get the most interaction.
  4. Write Detailed Posts – don’t skimp out on the details. People are thirsty for details, especially in how-to posts.
  5. Hook Your Readers – one of the most important, if not THE most important, parts of a blog post is the Title. Be creative with your Titles and try to incorporate a sense of urgency. The purpose of the Title is to intrigue your readers enough that they click through to the blog post and start reading.
  6. Create a Conversation – try to end the blog post with an open-ended question. If you do it, it will help create a conversation with your readers, which will help you get more comments per blog post.
  7. Prove Your Points – if you don’t use stats to back up your points, you’ll start to lose credibility with your readers. So start using stats.
  8. Show Your Authority – people have tons of options when it comes to reading blogs, so why should they read yours? If you can show that you are an authority without bragging about it, it can help you win over the readers.
  9. Care About Your Readers – the most important aspect of blogging is to care about your readers. Don’t just blog for the sake of it. Do it because you want to help people out. From responding to people’s comments to responding to your readers’ emails, care about them.

Content Marketing

Now that you know HOW to write blog posts, here’s my guide to blogging:

Topics Are Everything

A good blog starts with great content. If you aren’t writing great content, no one will want to read it. If no one is clicking on your blog posts to read them, you aren’t going to get a much love from Google and the other search engines.

If you are creative, that’s great. You won’t have any problems coming up with good topics to write about. I’m not overly creative. So if you’re like me, you can use this process to come up with topic ideas:

  • Step 1: Go to all of your competitors’ blogs and look to see which of their blog posts did well on Twitter and Facebook and which ones did not. I typically list all of the headlines in an Excel spreadsheet along with the number of re-tweets and Facebook shares each post got. The other place that you can visit is article sites, like eZineArticles.com.
  • Step 2: Go to Tweetmeme, browse the topics in your industry and see what has been trending for the last 24 hours as well as the last 7 days.
  • Step 3: Head to Google Trends and Google News to see what’s trending there. You can perform a few searches to see what’s hot in your industry.

Now that you have a good understanding of what’s getting read and what’s not, you want to come up with topics similar to the most popular ones, as these are the topics that people will most likely want to read and share on the web.

Be Consistent

Now, before you start blogging, you need to know one really important fact.

You MUST blog consistently. Your traffic will continue to grow if you produce good, popular topics on a regular basis. As soon as you stop any parts of what makes up a good blog post, your traffic will stop growing, and possibly even decrease.

If you want to grow your blog continually, it is CRITICAL that you blog on a consistent basis.

Timing is Everything

Once you start getting in the swing of writing on a regular basis, you have to start timing your blog posts.

Dan Zarella from ProBlogger.com surveyed 1,400 bloggers to find out when you are most likely to read blog posts. Do you know what the answer is? It’s during the morning.

So, if you are going to publish a blog post, do so during the morning as that’s when people tend to read them.

And if you are going to pick a day to publish a blog post, Mondays and Thursdays are the best days according to Hubspot, who analyzed 170,000 blogs.

If you want to publish blog posts during other days or times, that’s OK, but you won’t get as much traction as you would if you posted them during optimum days/times. One way to solve this is to start scheduling your blog posts like I do. That way you don’t have to be physically present to have your blog posts submitted.

Social Media Marketing

Time Your Social Promotions

More than 50% of people who use the social web are based in Eastern Standard Time. So, when you are timing your social promotions, make sure you use Eastern Standard Time as your default time zone.

If you are trying to get the most re-tweets, 5 p.m. EST is when you should tweet your blog posts. It’s because 6% of all of the re-tweets on Twitter happen during 5 p.m. EST.

On the other hand, if you want to get the most traffic from Facebook, promote your blog posts at noon on Saturdays. This is when they get the most Facebook shares.

To get the most traffic from the social web, don’t just promote your blog posts on all social sites at the same time. Make sure you use different promotion times for each social site.

Time Your Emails

If you have a blog, you should be collecting emails. Whether it’s through Feedburner or aWeber, you want to collect email addresses so you can notify your readers when you have a new blog post.

Just because you are publishing your blog posts during the mornings on Mondays and Thursdays doesn’t mean you should be sending out emails during those times.

Do you know what days emails have the highest open rates? Believe it or not, it’s on the weekends. And they have the highest click-through rates at 6 a.m. EST.

By the same token, you have to control the number of emails you are sending out because if you send too many, you’ll notice that you get a lot more complaints than if you were sending only a few.

Ask Your Readers

With all of the traffic you have coming from the social web, you should have enough readers to gather information from. You can start doing creative things like surveying them. For example, you can ask your readers how you can improve your website and what topics they want you to blog about.

By surveying your readers on a consistent basis, you can continually improve your blog. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you want. It only matters what your readers want. So, start giving them what they want instead of focusing on what makes you happy.

Conclusion

If you follow everything I mentioned in this blog post, you’ll have a popular blog that thousands of people will read on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if you are starting from scratch or already have a blog. Follow the rules above, and you’ll get thousands of visitors to your blog.

Do you know of any other tips or tricks to skyrocket your blog’s popularity?

The Cloud Storage Debate

Have you ever used services like Dropbox? Skydrive? Google Drive?

Do you feel more, or less, organized with them?

With files shoved all over the place, most of us feel like we’ve been spread out all over the Internet, not knowing where to look for the files we need. One project’s files in Dropbox, another in Google, and yet another in Amazon.

Although some of these online storage services are free, eventually they get you to pay.

Dropbox is the worst (as far as massive growth). Every time someone shares a file it fills my local hard drive and counts against my storage total.

Anyway…here are the three services we are currently using for our project files, and the costs associated to each:

Dropbox – 2gb free – 100gb $99 year
Google – 5gb free – 100gb $60 year
Skydrive – 7gb free – 107gb $50 year

As you can see, both Google and Microsoft Skydrive are significantly less money.

Google and Microsoft also have 25gb plans that are even more economical.

And another thing…Google provides Google Docs, and Microsoft now has Office Online… so you can edit documents in the cloud.

We’re a big fan of using Dropbox to get organized. It will mean moving some files around, but it’ll be for the best.

We’ve also been reviewing project management solutions, bookkeeping and invoicing, support systems, and other such tools.

There are so many cloud solutions now, it’s difficult to filter through their endless numbers.

Are you using any cloud solutions? Which ones have worked well for you? And which ones have fallen short of their promises?