Prevailing Wisdom


Go mobile first or go home

by Bill Arnold

Déjà vu all over again (Yogi Berra).  That pretty much sums up a conversation that I seem to have on a weekly basis.  A prospect converts on our website complaining that his traffic, conversions, and sales have all declined. They tell me they are doing nothing different and simply don’t understand why they are losing sales.

As with all opportunities, before we begin any discussion about what can or should be done, we do a very comprehensive Pre-sale Marketing Insight Report. All too often, one of the factors (usually, though, there are a number of them) that is causing them to lose sales, is that their site is not mobile optimized. 

What makes this pronouncement different than all the other findings is the push-back I almost always receive.  It is always said with great deference, but the underlying belief is:

 – You’re wrong. It can’t be, as I have a website that is of a responsive design. 

I paid a lot of money for it, so don’t go telling me my site is not optimized. –


                                        - You’re wrong. It can’t be, because I ran Google’s webmaster tools. My website is mobile friendly.-


I decided to write this blog, so that from now on, I can just send them a link to explain why a responsive design website is so, well 2012. In the digital realm, this is several lifetimes. So, if you have a responsive design, good for you, but this does not mean that when a person views it on their smartphone it will be optimized for their mobile device.

Before we explore how this can be, let’s first examine why this all matters in the first place.

Go Mobile or Go Home

Here are some startling facts which bring the importance of mobile into focus quickly:

  • Global eCommerce sales are projected to total $2.290 trillion for 2017. (eMarketer)
  • mCommerce sales in the U.S. is 33% of eCommerce sales and rising to $284 billion, or 45% of the total U.S. eCommerce market, by 2020. (Business Intelligence)
  • In the U.S., 25% of mobile web users are mobile-only (Mayven)
  • 91% of small business’ websites are not optimized for mobile use. (Business2Business)
  • 70% of ALL businesses do not have a mobile friendly website. (Medium)
  • A seamless mobile performance is critical. When faced with a negative mobile shopping experience, 43% of consumers will go to a competitor's site. (Radware)
  • The negative experience, that is most often the basis for that negative shopping experience, is slow performance on the mobile device. A 500ms connection speed delay results in up to a 26% increase in peak frustration and up to an 8% decrease in engagement. (Radware)
  • Approximately two-thirds (66%) of mobile users have attempted to access the site, but failed, due to a poor user experience. (Radware)

To put this in perspective, in 2015 Google fired a shot across the bow with a round of Mobilegeddon. After the dust had cleared, HubSpot reported that 15,000 customers, whose sites were not prepared for mobile, lost 5% of their organic traffic.

Google  announced a major change to the way its search index will rank sites: it will go mobile first.  In December of 2017, we started to see the first indications of that program (Techcrunch).

The takeaway is that there is a lot of mCommerce business and traditional rCommerce business that will be significantly and negatively impacted if you do not adopt a mobile first strategy.

Responsive v. Mobile Friendly v. Mobile Optimized

In every  Pre-sale Marketing Insight Report we run a test using a battery of third-party analytic tools to determine if the website is losing organic traffic or at risk because it is not designed with a mobile first vision.

We will share one real-life example for a company named Redacted. 

The following was pulled from a report where Redacted’s website was compared against six of their competitors. We are only sharing Redacted’s information. We color coded the results Green = At or Best of Class; Yellow = Needs Work; and Red = Worst of Class amongst the competitors reviewed:

Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 7.57.07 PM.png

As you can see, Redacted’s website was responsive and even deemed to be mobile friendly. Surely, that must be a win. However, a tool introduced last year by Google shows that Redacted, who happens to be in the eCommerce sector, is at risk of losing 33% of all their website visitors because they never waited for the website to load. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Responsive Design

Redacted has a responsive designed website. That is actually great, as far too many companies simply have not taken even that step.  What this means is that Redacted's website is going to scale up or down automatically to fit the size of the monitor. Unfortunately, that is all that means. You could still have the worst UX/UI experience known to humankind and still have a responsive website.

In the mobile first vision of Google, that is simply not going to cut it. It is not Redacted's fault, that they were complacent in thinking a responsive design website is adequate. They were relying upon an extremely trustworthy site for their confidence, which was understandable seeing what the report told them.


Obviously, everything is fine. The report even congratulates them, and tells them they are “ready to face the future.”  That is true ,as long as the future does not involve digital marketing.

Mobile Friendly

Redacted was sharp. They did not rely upon just one report. They used Google’s webmaster tools to see if their site was mobile friendly. That is why they were so confident when they told me their site was fine and I that I must be mistaken.

 We, of course, ran it as well and showed them exactly what they expected we would share.

 Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 8.20.00 PM.png

Redacted's website is so much better off than the vast majority of businesses. It is not unusual, when running these reports, to find 20-45% of the companies have websites that are not mobile-friendly.

Again, they relied upon a trusted source to see if their site was optimized for mCommerce. If you can’t trust Google when it comes to how they view your site, who can you trust?

Mobile Optimized

This is where a majority of companies are finding that their website is no longer adequate with Google mobile-first philosophy. Here is the information that appeared for Redacted.

 Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 8.32.32 PM.png

Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 8.33.28 PM.png

Needless to say, Redacted’s CEO and marketing team were shocked to find that a second Google report finds them unworthy to be called mobile optimized. In fact, not only are they losing 33% of the visitors who are actually finding their site, a good deal more will never know they exist because Google’s mobile first indexing will send the traffic to their competitors, who are averaging 4 to 5 second load times.

While they can do a few “quick fixes” to reduce their load time by 5 seconds, that still is not going to qualify them as a mobile optimized site worthy of Google’s mobile first indexing.

 Be Like Google - Mobile First

Google has taken a mobile first strategy for their own business, so at Prevail Marketing, we take a mobile first approach in the design and development of websites. If it is good enough for Google … well, we know where our bread is buttered.

In a mobile first strategy, a company's web presence is designed for mobile devices first and desktop second. This means, first and foremost, you consider what the site will look like on mobile and what functionality is needed to make it fast and user friendly.

  • Think AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages. This is a mobile specific page format that loads content nearly instantaneously. When building a mobile first site, you need to understand whether the platform you are working on fully supports AMP
    • BigCommerce - we can convert BigCommerce to AMP  valid mobile design! It will also LOOK nicer, because your desktop design will be converted to 100% mobile design.
    • HubSpot - HubSpot forms, head HTML, and footer HTML will not render in the AMP version of the page. So, you need to incorporate workarounds to accommodate this.
  • All Thumbs Friendly: All buttons, links, and CTAs need to be adequately sized with sufficient margins, so that a big thumb can work it easily
  • Text Phone Numbers: Phone numbers are text, so users can tap-to-call, or copy and paste the number to easily share.
  • Visual Content: We live in a visual world, so mobile first means properly sized images and videos are preferred over reading lengthy text.
  • Main Navigation: increase padding around menu again to accommodate big thumbs
  • Contact Forms: Increase form input fields, so it’s easy for the user to fill out the form.

Once the mobile version is designed, then it is a simple process to upgrade the desktop version with additional features that are only accessible to desktop users. This contrasts with a desktop first strategy in which a website is built to the company’s satisfaction and then has its non-compatible elements stripped to create a mobile site.

Over the next few years, change will happen fast, and a lot of companies will only come to terms with these changes AFTER they have lost substantial web traffic, customers, and revenue.

The time to optimize your site is now. Be the company that benefits from these changes. The path to success is never crowded, but those who can see where the world is headed and get their first, prosper.


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