We can’t say they didn’t warn us.

Two and a half years ago, Google recommended responsive web design (or at least creating a mobile-friendly version of your site). Considering the generally swift pace of the company’s progress and algorithm updates, it’s been a lengthy honeymoon—that’s now coming to a close.

Over the past week, Google began rolling out warnings to websites that have failed their “mobile usability” standards. While the warnings don’t come with a specified penalty or deadline for compliance, stronger action can be expected, because mobile-friendly design isn’t just about aesthetics, but usability, and even the bottom line.

Google Webmaster Tools Fix

Screenshot of message in Google Webmaster Tools to fix mobile usability issues

Why Be Mobile-Friendly?

If this is completely new to you, you might want to check your site’s mobile-friendly status with Google’s test. Or maybe you’ve heard about it, but if you thought mobile-friendly design was just for blogs, sharing selfies, and finding directions to the nearest sandwich shop, you might not have the full picture of how people are using the mobile web.

Not only are people searching for local business information and checking their social networks, but they are reading personal and company email, researching products, and even spending a lot of money—all from mobile devices.

“B2Bs Don’t Need Mobile-Friendly Websites”

The consumer relevance for mobile design is clear from the statistics, but “B2Bs don’t need mobile-friendly websites.” Really? Common objections from B2B decision-makers wanting to avoid a website redesign are:

  • We sell to companies, and companies don’t buy on mobile.
  • Nobody visits our website on their phone.
  • As long as they can find our phone number, they can just call us from their phone.

Companies Don’t Buy on Mobile

It’s true. Companies don’t buy on mobile. People do. It’s easy in the B2B space to forget that the real buyers and sellers are not businesses but people, and in human-to-human selling, even B2Bs need to engage with the methods their buyers use.

We Don’t Have Mobile Traffic

Companies that say they don’t have mobile traffic are either wrong, or they’re right but for the wrong reason.

Have you looked at your analytics to be sure you don’t have mobile traffic? You may indeed have mobile traffic, and you can learn a lot about your website from that data. Do they convert? How well do they convert compared to desktop users? If they do convert well, congratulations—chances are users either find a way to make your site work adequately (even if not optimally) on mobile, or you have a very compelling product. Now imagine if you actually improved the user experience?

But if you’re right, and you don’t have mobile traffic, it’s guaranteed it’s not for the same reason as 5 years ago. Even as mobile grew, people were still accustomed to full-screen surfing, especially for business. B2B product research happened at work, at a desk. But now, all bets are off… and the workplace is increasingly mobile. So if you don’t have mobile visitors, it may be:

  • Your user experience is so bad, visitors don’t even bother.
  • Your bounce rate because of poor user experience has negatively impacted your mobile SEO (“rank”), so visitors can’t find you on mobile.
  • You’re not fooling Google—they know you’re not mobile-friendly—and you’ve been flat-out demoted (or removed).
Google Mobile Search Results

Screenshot of Google mobile search results that now spotlight sites that are mobile-friendly

There is no denying that people are searching and researching on mobile, and it doesn’t matter the category. It’s no longer just personal interactions and consumer purchasing, but B2B industry has been invaded by mobile too. Your customers are on mobile, whether or not they’re coming to you.

They Can Just Call Us

Every time we try to force website visitors to use our sites just the way we think they should, we get fooled. Seldom do users take just one path, unless a website is extremely basic and navigation is strictly linear. It’s tough enough to predict how they’ll navigate on a full-size screen, but when confronted with the need to pinch and zoom, it’s even more challenging. So it certainly makes sense that you’d wish they’d just call.

But they wish you’d give them what they’re looking for—quickly and easily.

First, can they still find your microscopic phone number on their palm-sized screen?

Second, will they be motivated to make the effort to search for it, or will they go to your competitor?

Past Why, and Onward to How

Each time Google changes the rules, the “why” becomes less urgent than the “how,” but the “why” can be simply summed up to “because it’s how people use the internet.” Every industry needs to be where the customers are, and the most effective communication speaks the customer’s language rather than trying to force them to speak the company’s.

Of course, when an authority like Google adds “go mobile… or else” to the discussion, even hesitant B2B companies should make the transition.

If you’ve already received notification from Google, you have links to resources to help you move forward. If not, and want to get started, check out these articles from Google Developers.

PrairieWeb is experience in building mobile-friendly responsive websites. If you need help optimizing or rebuilding your site, contact us to get started.