It's amazing.

Today, two out of five small businesses – that's businesses with less than 500 employees – still do not have websites to promote their products or services.

And of those who do, only nine percent are optimized for mobile.

I won't go into how ridiculous it is for a business to not have a website in this day and age of competitive content marketing. But if you do not have a mobile-friendly site or do not have one in the works, you are missing out on important traffic.

And if your website isn't approachable from several different devices, then forget it. Turn off the lights and lock the doors. You're done.

It is estimated that sites not optimized for phones and tablets are letting up to $1 trillion a year in potential revenue, the gross domestic product of the state of New York, slip through their fingers.

Now more than ever people are using portable devices to find goods and services online. According to Pew Research, that accounts for 60 percent of cell phone owners in the U.S. With 33 percent making purchases.


Image Source: Pew Research

And it's predicted that those numbers are going outpace the desktop by as early as the end of this year.

So a responsive design approach to your business website is an absolute must.

You Already Know You Need A Website

I said I wasn't going to, but I am. As a business owner or liaison to your business, you should be well aware the difference maker having a website is.

  1. It makes growing your business easy because you can reach a broader audience.

  2. Not only does it make you easy to find, it helps you engage with your customer base and build loyalty, thus building up your brand.

  3. And probably the most important reason: You can use analytics data to define exactly who your customers are and refine that list to target niches within your business.

Plus, having a website makes you look more credible. Weebly found that 56 percent of consumers do not trust a company without a website.

Then there's this: 60 percent are frustrated by sites that don't work on phones and tablets and leave immediately, opting for a competitor.

consumers prefer a website that works across mulitple devices.

Still, when asked if a business without a site would eventually invest in one, 83 percent said they were unsure.

Remarkable.

Right here in my home state of Virginia, an estimated 45 percent of SMBs (small businesses) still do not have basic websites.

Obviously, those businesses do not want to succeed.

Don't be one of those businesses. Think about it. Desktops took four years to reach a user base of 50 million. Smartphones reached that number in half the time.

This year there are predicted to be as many as 4.5 billion cell phone users with more than one billion on smart phones, so positioning yourself now already gives you an advantage over those still unsure if they even need a website.

And There's No Way Around It, Your Site Has To Be Mobile-Friendly

When you look at users on mobile devices, and they are everywhere, consider this:

consurmers spend up to 15 hours on online research.
Image Source: Google

Consumers spend more than 15 hours per week on mobile research.

  • In nearly all cases, that research begins with a search engine like Google or Bing over going directly to a branded website.

  • People return to a site an average of six times before making a purchase.

  • Eighty-three percent of mobile users want to purchase that day and 55 percent within the hour.

  • And a whopping 93 percent of mobile users doing research go on to make a purchase, whether they chose to do it in-store or online.

So what does this mean for your business?

1. You have to create content that your customer is looking for.

2. Your content has to be found through search.

3. It has to be consumable on all devices: phone, tablet and desktop.

Search engines want your site to be optimized for multiple devices. A site that is, can improve its search rankings.

Now Google hasn't come out to directly say that, but they did lay out criteria for common mistakes that will bring rankings down.

The search engine giant has also hinted that taking a multi-device approach to building your site will improve your chances of being found.

That Means Going With A Responsive Design

A couple years ago when mobile was first taking off, there was the idea that you had to take a mobile-first approach to launching. What you ended up with was two websites. One for mobile devices and one for the desktop.

Forget a mobile-first approach. Go responsive.

Google Ad Chief Neal Mohan said at this year's LiveRamp's annual summit, "If you're focusing on mobile, you're solving yesterday's problems."

Besides, have you ever viewed a mobile-only site on the desktop? It's not a pleasant experience to look at a stripped down site no wider than a phone screen when you've got a 22-inch monitor.

You might as well be looking at the world through the wrong end of binoculars.

It also creates problems from an SEO perspective. Having a site with m.yoursite.com and yoursite.com creates duplicate content because both are treated as different websites by the search engines.

This means separate SEO campaigns and diluted rankings. It's better to have one URL that responds to whatever device your visitor is using.

A responsive website design also means less work. You've got the same HTML served on the same URL and your CSS controls how your site is rendered across devices.

This makes it easier for search engines like Google to crawl and index your site rather than indexing multiple versions.

And it provides a positive user experience for those transitioning from one device to another. And people do that.

According to Mohan, "ninety percent of people start a task on one device and finish on another."

I do it myself. I use Evernote in my research. A lot. Mostly to bookmark sites that have information I'm looking for. I have it installed on my desktop, on my phone and on an iPad. I like it because I can sync things from each device to the app and retrieve the information to my desktop when I finally sit down to beat out an article.

Granted Evernote is an app, but I imagine others are using multiple devices in a similar fashion when they research products or services online.

So, when you approach a redesign or build out your first site, you have to provide for smartphone and tablet adoption, in addition to designing for the desktop.

Responsive design enables your site to adapt to whatever size screen your visitor uses.

The Bottom Line Is This

We're past the point of consideration. It's no longer a question of "do I need this?" but one of "does my site include my mobile visitors?" You have to have a multiple device approach to customers if you want to continue to compete in your market.

Responsive design is the best approach to this.

1. More and more consumption happens across several devices at once.

2. It's better for SEO.

3. It cuts down on load time, which lowers your bounce rate and increases conversions.

4. And it will adapt to future screen sizes, providing a better user experience for all.

Stop thinking of things in terms of mobile and desktop and start thinking of them in terms of reach. A multiple-device approach is necessary to improve your reach into your market.

Get in on that trillion dollars that's floating around out there and get responsive.

Phil Foxwell is the senior copy writer and SEO consultant at Merry Fools. Follow and learn the ONE secret handshake that will get you into any SEO circle. Not really, but it's a good place to continue the conversation.