7 Strategies for Creating Effective Mobile Websites

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Savvy marketers are ramping up their mobile offerings in an effort to generate attention from the 51% of consumers who say they’re more likely to purchase from retailers with mobile-specific sites. While 21.8% of small businesses say they plan on increasing the amount they spend on mobile marketing in 2012, there is still some debate as to the best practices for an SMB going this route.

Not all mobile sites are created equal, however there are some basic principles that marketers large and small can follow to ensure their mobile sites generate the greatest ROI possible. Here are seven tips from experts in the mobile marketing industry about what small business owners should keep in mind.

1. Establish a purpose. Business owners have to determine what they want to get out of their mobile websites before they start building anything new. Whether the goal is to get more customers calling, walking through the front door, or making purchases online will influence which features an SMB decides to include on its site. Businesses that simply create mobile “skins” on their existing websites are missing out on the opportunity to engage their audience in new and interesting ways. (via Dylan Montgomery, MobFriendly)

2. Make mobile websites easy to find. Customers should never have to type in the URL of a mobile site directly. Instead, businesses should put redirect codes on their desktop websites and link their mobile sites to QR codes and keywords that customers can scan and text from their smartphones. Those QR codes and SMS keywords should be printed everywhere a phone number and address would normally go, including in-store signage, print advertisements, and business cards. (via Mark Porter, InSequent)

3. Optimize for multiple networks and devices. Bounce rates go through the roof when pages don’t load within 5 seconds, and sites developed with Adobe Flash and other animations may not load at all on many smartphones and tablets. SMBs developing mobile sites with HTML need to make sure they’re using responsive layouts to account for the wide range of screen sizes and orientations on mobile devices. This is becoming even more important as tablets increase in popularity. (via Jeffrey Peden, CraveLabs)

4. Encourage visitors to take action. If retailers want visitors on their mobile sites to take a particular action—like calling, texting, or visiting their establishments in person—then they need to make the process as easy as possible. That generally means including buttons or widgets that visitors can click on to call or find a business on a map, as opposed to including a phone number or address as basic text. Businesses that want to sell gift certificates from their mobile sites need to create a special button for that action, as well. (Wiley Cerilli, SinglePlatform)

5. Use touch points to build deeper connections. Businesses that don’t necessarily have a presence on Main Street — like publishers and e-commerce retailers — can use mobile sites to connect with their customers and add more depth to their products or content. By printing QR codes that link to mobile sites on select product tags, for example, businesses can connect their products to other mediums and give their customers access to additional images, videos, blogs, and social media feeds. (Annette Tonti, MoFuse)

6. Automate the updating process. Mobile sites should be constantly updated, since inaccurate menus or out-of-date contact information will detract from a site’s usefulness to consumers. To prevent their sites from becoming mobile ghost towns, businesses should check out platforms that automate the process of updating content and pull new data directly from their social media pages. This eliminates one of the biggest headaches of maintaining a mobile site, and increases the chances that the site will remain accurate past its initial launch. (Jeffrey Peden, CraveLabs)

7. Track the results. Business owners should review their website analytics to determine which pages are generating the most views and what content is most important to visitors. If a particular page is popular on the desktop site, then it might be worth replicating that page for the mobile version. Making simple changes, like re-ordering the links on the site navigation bar to highlight the most important pages, can result in a decrease in bounce rates and an increase in calls. (Jennifer Gaines, DudaMobile)

Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.