Last week I had the pleasure of speaking about Technical SEO at the New Venture Institute at Flinders in Adelaide.
When speaking about mobile-first indexing, and the importance of having a mobile-friendly website, a member of the audience asked a very interesting question about whether a B2B website needed to be mobile-friendly.
Now, to quickly set the scene for those who aren’t sure about some of these terms:
- B2B means Business to Business. Many businesses operate on a model that has no first-hand relationship with the consumer. Examples of B2B business could be a company that manufactures LCD screens for televisions. While there may be a small consumer market, the company’s main focus is selling to the businesses that make the actual televisions. Conversely, B2C (Business to Consumer) would be companies like Harvey Norman or JB HiFi, who sell the television to the consumer.
- Mobile-first indexing means that search engines (in this case, Google) predominantly uses the mobile version of your site to rank and index it. We have a fairly extensive article covering mobile-first indexing if that takes your fancy.
- Responsive websites are websites that are coded so they look great on any device, whether it be a mobile phone or widescreen desktop display. Having a mobile-friendly version of your site is imperative for good Technical SEO, and having a responsive website is the best way to do that.
So, getting back to the question:
The audience member explained that their company was a B2B market, so while still concerned about consumer web traffic, their main focus was to serve a business market. The audience member also said that due to the nature of what they sell, their customers would always use a large screen to view and order their wares.
For the sake of having all this tie together well, let’s call this business XYZ Sprockets.
The crux of the question was whether or not XYZ Sprockets needed to worry about having a responsive and mobile-friendly website.
In my answer, I used the example of a home builder I worked with some time ago.
The home builder with no SEO
Paul, a home builder, had a website, that although functional and attractive, was not at all SEO friendly.
When asked if he wanted any help with making it more likely to appear in search results, he declined.
His reasoning was sound. He had enough work and was booked solid for over a year into the future. He used his website solely as a portfolio of his work to show prospective clients.
Paul did not want to be ‘found’, and nor did he want to waste his time with tire-kickers as he already had plenty of work on the horizon. This was also historically how he had run his business for years, so he was not being flippant about planning for the future.
In Paul’s case, he did not care about ranking or being found, so quite frankly, he can do whatever he wants with his site as it is not a lead generating tool and he’s only using it as a mechanism to show his work.
To be clear, Paul has no interest in whether he ranks in search engines or not, and is therefore not concerned about SEO in the slightest. He is making the choice who he shows his website to.
The B2B website that isn’t mobile-friendly
Back to the question at hand.
I used the example of Paul the builder to say that nope, it didn’t really matter whether the XYZ Sprockets website was mobile-friendly or not, as their target market did not use mobile.
On my flight home that night, I realised my mistake.
In Paul’s case, he was making the decision to not use his website as a tool to be found.
In the case of XYZ Sprockets, they still want to be found, yet have made an assumption that their users only use large screen devices to view and make orders. Even if this assumption can be backed up with analytics data, it doesn’t matter, as this data will change.
If there was historical data to look at, I would guarantee there is some mobile traffic. I would also wager that that traffic has grown significantly over the last 5 years.
Why your B2B website absolutely needs to be mobile-friendly
Why you must have a mobile-friendly website in a B2B market comes down to two main points:
1. You are not your user
One of the biggest mistakes we see businesses making in the digital world is making assumptions about what their user base wants. The business owner makes assumptions on what their audience may want, based on their own opinions and biases. This is also known as the false-consensus effect.
We worked with a photographer many years ago who insisted on having hundreds of images on every page. In their mind, they were hammering home how great their photography was. In reality, the pages were overwhelming and took so long to load that many prospective clients simply closed the page before it had even finished loading.
The user didn’t want to see hundreds of images. The user wanted to see enough images (probably four) that demonstrated that this photographer was indeed excellent.
Mobile usage on B2B websites
As far as mobile usage on B2B sites, there is a common misconception that business people don’t use their phones for business transaction purposes.
According to Google, there has been a 91% increase over the last two years in B2B decision-makers using a mobile device during the B2B purchasing process. That data states that 42% of decision-makers now use mobile, not a laptop or desktop, when comparing and viewing products and pricing.
A similar study by Forbes shows that 70% of business decision-makers use mobiles or tablets to look up products or services online.
Just like everyone else, big business and their staff are using their mobiles more and more. And they’re using them to make business decisions.
2. Mobile-first indexing
We’ve already discussed mobile-first indexing earlier in this piece, as well as a dedicated mobile-first article. The point here is that if Google (or any search engine) see that your site is not mobile-friendly, it will affect your rankings.
Mobile traffic surpassed that of any other sized device back in 2016, so not having a responsive and mobile-friendly site is no longer acceptable.
So, the answer is YES, any website that you want to rank well in search engines MUST be mobile-friendly, regardless of what you think your user base prefers.