When we look around, everyone’s on a mobile device these days. It’s a virtual mobile revolution. People are looking at websites and getting their email on small, hand-held electronic devices whether it’s a mobile phone (iPhone by Apple or an android phone), music device (iPod, MP3 player or media player), or a mobile computer as in a tablet or laptop. Chances are, you have a smart phone or a smart device[i] and are getting your email and viewing websites on it!
In the past four years, mobile devices have overtaken desktops as the mode of Internet access according to an April, 2015 article by comScore entitled “Mobile Internet Usage Skyrockets in Past 4 Years to Overtake Desktop as Most Used Digital Platform.” In reference to Internet usage data from 2010 to 2014, the article states, “Smartphone usage is up 394 percent, and tablet usage is up a whopping 1,721 percent as these platforms now combine to account for 60 percent of digital media time spent.”[ii]
This means that if someone is looking at your alpacas on the Internet, they are more likely than not to be using a mobile device. This number is increasing all the time as people switch to the convenience that smartphones offer: Internet access at their fingertips 24 x 7 everywhere they go, along with phone service, email service and GPS navigation!
Websites that were once viewed on a laptop or desktop screen with a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels are now viewed on screens a fraction of the width, often 320 pixels wide (about 1/3rd the width). Even if the device offers high resolution viewing, such as the iPhone 5 (with a resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels), it’s still on a very small screen (as compared to a traditional desktop screen or even laptop screen). Thus the birth of new websites that are at the least “mobile-friendly” and at best case “mobile-responsive.”
You might be saying "What is ‘mobile-friendly’ and why do I need it?" Mobile-friendly means that when someone views your website on their phone or other mobile device, they can easily see and read all the content without having to zoom in to a small portion of the page and scroll both horizontally and vertically. “Mobile-responsive” means the page contents change in response to the screen size of the viewer’s device. Contents actually shift to accommodate narrower screens. The fonts get larger for easier reading on a small screen. The photos resize to screen width. Viewers don't have to scroll both left and right as well as up and down or zoom in on a tiny portion of the page to see it.
“What makes a site mobile-friendly:
- You don't have to zoom to see parts of the page.
- You don't need to use software like Flash to see it. Most devices don't have Flash like computers do.” – Google website
At the top of this article are pictures showing the difference between the way a mobile-responsive website appears on a phone or mobile device and the way a traditional website appears.
A mobile-responsive website will detect the viewer’s screen size and present the contents in a way that looks good on that screen. According to Wikipedia, the Internet’s encyclopedia, “Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).” [iii]
A mobile-friendly website can have maps that connect directly to a viewer’s GPS for directions. The phone numbers can be set up to launch a phone call to that number with a single click. Providing these easy-to-use features for your growing number of mobile visitors can help bring potential buyers to your farm.
For more than a year now, Google has started evaluating websites to determine whether they are mobile-friendly and giving priority in the search results to websites that are mobile-friendly, when the search is made from a mobile device. Given the number of users on mobile devices, this should be more than half of the people searching for your farm. Making your website mobile-friendly will help bring it to the top of the search engine results in Google.
You can find out if Google considers your website to be mobile-friendly using this “Mobile test tool” where you can enter your website URL (your website address or Uniform Resource Locator that appears in the address bar of your search engine) and get evaluation results back from Google.
Why is it important what Google thinks of your website? Not everyone is a top fan of Google, but they are still the most used search engine in the world by far. "According to Net Marketshare, Google is the world’s most popular search engine... As of this past June, Google occupies 68.75 percent of the global search engine pie." [v] The word “Google” has even turned into a verb meaning “to search the Internet” as in for example, “Just google the phrase ‘alpacas in Virginia’ to find a farm near you.”
How do people find your farm? Who is using phone books anymore? People turn to their mobile devices and use Google to search for everything from “dentists” to “alpacas.”
What does this mean for your alpaca farm? It means you might want to think about getting a “mobile-friendly” website that is well placed in the search results. If your website isn’t well placed in the search results, then being mobile-friendly won’t help much, unless you have another effective method of getting people directly to your website (such as sending people to your website using a link in an email message or promoting your website address in a magazine or newspaper ad).
This is where “Search Engine Optimization” or SEO comes in. SEO in its simplest interpretation means that the content of your website is designed to optimize the likelihood that it will be well-placed in the search results for specific keyword phrases. For example, if you own an alpaca farm in Virginia, then you would like to be at the top of search results in Google for the key words “alpacas in Virginia.” Key words are words that people type into search engines.
You can opt to pay for ad placement at the top of the search results, but this can get pretty expensive since you will pay for every visitor who clicks onto your website, whether they are just browsing or a serious buyer. You might be approached by companies who will offer you SEO services, often for hundreds of dollars per month, likely more than all your website costs combined!
The mobile revolution adds a new layer of complexity with blogs, YouTube, RSS feeds, apps like Instagram (a social network for sharing photos and videos from smartphone or smart device) and social media websites like Facebook. Any Internet medium that you invest a significant amount of time (and sometimes money, as in Facebook ads) can reap rewards for your business, but that means less time for taking care of the alpacas and dividing your energies between various marketing avenues, so a website is a good start and may just be enough for your business. A good mobile-friendly website that is well placed in the search results will ensure that people looking to buy alpacas in your area will find you.
The mobile revolution may have snuck up on us, but now that it’s all around us, it’s time to adapt our marketing approach to suit the times with “mobile-friendly” websites. Ask your website designer if they can provide a “mobile-responsive design that is well optimized for the search engines using keywords appropriate for you target audience.” And then go out into your pastures and enjoy your alpacas!
[i] A smart device is an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different wireless protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously. Several notable types of smart devices are smartphones, phablets and tablets, smartwatches, smart bands and smart key chains. The term can also refer to a ubiquitous computing device: a device that exhibits some properties of ubiquitous computing including–although not necessarily–artificial intelligence. ) Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_device
[ii] comScore is a large market research company specializing in Internet data and analytics. Their article “Mobile Internet Usage Skyrockets in Past 4 Years to Overtake Desktop as Most Used Digital Platform” can be found here: https://www.comscore.com/Insights/Blog/Mobile-Internet-Usage-Skyrockets-in-Past-4-Years-to-Overtake-Desktop-as-Most-Used-Digital-Platform
[iv] Google’s mobile-friendly tool can tell you whether Google finds your website to be mobile-friendly. The tool is located here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/