SEMPO, a non-profit organization created to serve both the search engine industry and marketing professionals, recently held a webinar that featured two guest speakers, a moderator, and a discussion of the mobile search experience. Google recently announced that it prefers responsive web design to purpose-built mobile sites, and the discussion centered on which businesses would benefit from dedicated mobile sites and how people use their mobile devices.

Responsive web design is built for desktop users, but adapts to work for mobile users too. It costs less than making a dedicated mobile site, because it addresses both audiences, but it often doesn’t look as nice or function as easily for mobile users. Purpose-built mobile sites are made for mobile users and present the information a mobile user would be looking for in a clean, simple format, but require a greater investment up front.

Mobile Restaurant Search Screenshots
The way users see your site on a mobile device may determine whether they visit your business.

The discussion was moderated by Sherwood Stranieri, CEO of Skypromote, a Boston-based SEO agency. Stranieri has been working in search since 1998 and has provided SEO consulting to healthcare, tech financial and automotive companies. He specializes in mobile search. Bryson Meunier and Adam Boalt were the panelists. Meunier is the Director of Content Solutions at Resolution Media, Omnicom’s search agency. He works to drive SEO strategy and execution for Resolution Media clients and has worked for companies like Lowes, Apple and Groupon. Boalt is the president of BOALT, an interactive agency that designs and develops performance-driven user experiences with intelligent online marketing strategies. He has provided marketing solutions to companies like Bacardi, Sony and Royal Caribbean.

The speakers agreed that some types of businesses need to create purpose-built mobile sites. As Meunier said, “There is a time and place for creating dedicated mobile experiences.”

A chart showing the number of keywords for each business category and the number of mobile searches for the group of keywords demonstrated which businesses need to consider dedicated mobile sites. The dining and nightlife category, for example, had 1,095 keywords. Of those, 33 percent were searched on mobile devices. 21 percent of the keywords – 225 sets of keywords – had more mobile searches than desktop searches. The amount of mobile searches in the dining and nightlife industry would justify the expense of a dedicated mobile site. Other sites that would benefit include retailers, general merchandise, sports, and fitness.

Real estate websites, on the other hand, have 1,033 keywords. Only 16 percent of those are searched on mobile devices. Only 1 percent – 10 sets of keywords – have more mobile searches than desktop searches. In the case of real estate businesses, the extra expense of a dedicated mobile site isn’t merited. Other businesses with low mobile searches were apparel, home, garden, occasions, gifts, jobs and education.

Tokyo Subway View

Sites that aren’t designed for mobile users can drive a user who has found a business via mobile search from using the website – and the business. If information like hours, menus, stock, and location isn’t easily and readily available without of tapping, clicking, and zooming on a mobile screen, users are likely to navigate back to search and move on to the next site.

Ultimately, the panel concluded that the business type should determine whether it builds a responsive website or invests in a purpose-built mobile site.

Tags: business mobile websites, business websites, creating mobile sites, dedicated mobile, designing mobile websites, mobile site tips, purpose built mobile applications, purpose-built mobile, Responsive Design vs Mobile Website