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Small business owners who think their standard company website is all the online presence they need may be missing out on a large and growing segment of potential customers. A recent web-traffic analysis has found that consumers are increasingly using mobile devices, specifically smartphones and tablets, to browse the internet for product and service information, rather than desktop and laptop computers.

The web-traffic study, conducted by Rogers OutRank, a service specializing in website construction, search engine optimization and web analytics, tracked the browsing device of choice used by visitors to 1,000 small business websites throughout 2012. Over the course of the year, web traffic to the sites originating from smartphones and tablets rose from 18% of all traffic in the first quarter to 29% of total traffic in the fourth quarter, a whopping 60% increase. But as more people migrate to mobile devices to do their web browsing, that creates a problem for small business owners that have not yet optimized their online presence for these devices.

“We know that 40% of small business owners don’t even have a desktop website, so it’s unlikely that many have a mobile site,” says Milind Mehere, general manager of OutRank by Rogers. “And of the 60% that do have a desktop website, the customer experience for mobile users is poor because the content isn’t optimized for those devices. The website needs to immediately address the consumer behaviour, or they will just move on and find a site that they can easily navigate.”

Since their introduction into the mobile communications marketplace, the popularity of smartphones and tablets has grown exponentially. In its 2012 Communications Market Report 2012, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) found that while the use of cellphones rose only slightly between 2007 and 2011, smartphone adoption increased by more than 400% in that time. The CRTC report also found that 85% of Canadians who own a mobile device now use a smartphone or tablet, and browsing the internet is the second most popular mobile device activity after texting.

In addition to making sure their website delivers a good experience for mobile users, Mehere says small business owners also need to consider how their site is found by consumers browsing on mobile devices. Because the setup for mobile content is different than for traditional web content, sites that are not optimized for these devices simply won’t come up in some searches. In addition, business owners also need to make sure their site is included in all the relevant search directories.

Given the obvious trend lines, Mehere says small business owners who chose to stick with an increasingly inadequate web strategy to market their product or service online run the risk of being overlooked by consumers. “It’s not difficult to implement a web strategy that addresses the needs of all consumers, but business owners have to be committed to it,” Mehere explains. “Unfortunately, too many ignore it or see it as an IT issue, rather than a marketing and promotions issue.”

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