How are your customers accessing your small business website? And more importantly, what does it look like when they do?
The simple fact is that mobile device usage is on the rise. Last year marked the first when mobile Internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic, and recent reports show  that 60 percent of total digital media time is spent on smartphones and tablets.
What this means for your small business is that more customers are finding your website on mobile devices. And if it’s not optimized for mobile viewing, they’re clicking away to your competition. The best way to ensure a seamless mobile experience for all of your website visitors is by using responsive Web design .
What is Responsive Design?
Simply defined, a responsive website automatically displays the correct settings that will make Web pages viewable and usable according to the device it’s being accessed from. Responsive design sizes your pages, text, and link spacing to fit the size of the screen. In addition, a responsively designed website uses mobile-friendly features like:
- Eliminating Flash content and other media that doesn’t work on mobile operating systems.
- Using proper mobile redirects and mobile 404 pages.
- Ensuring fast mobile page load times.
- Eliminating full-screen interstitials that block mobile page views.
Here are some of the main reasons your small business needs a responsive website.
Users Expect Mobile Friendly Websites
Mobile devices are ubiquitous among consumers today, and more of them expect your website to display properly on their mobile screens. In fact, a Google study found that 72 percent of users expect websites to work on mobile platforms — and 61 percent will leave the site if it’s not mobile friendly.
What’s more, 85 percent of adult users  expect a mobile website to be just as good as a desktop site, which is achievable through responsive design.
Local Mobile Search Drives Results
Users rely heavily on their devices to find local businesses. More than 50 percent of mobile users rely on their smartphones for purchase decisions. And regarding local searches, Search Engine Watch finds that :
- 59 percent of users search for reputable local business on Google.
- 50 percent of mobile searches are conducted with the goal of local results.
- 61 percent of local searches result in a purchase.
Mobile Ad Spending and Mobile Traffic Increasing
As online time continues to shift to mobile, more businesses are investing in mobile ad spending. Mobile revenue increased by nearly $7 billion at both Google and Facebook in 2013, and eMarketer forecasts  that mobile ad spending will top $45 billion for 2015.
The rate of mobile traffic will continue to increase substantially, as well. According to the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index , mobile data traffic will increase more than 10 times to 97 percent by 2019.
Google Prefers Mobile-Friendly Websites
Perhaps the most compelling reason to ensure that your small business site is a responsive website is Google. The world’s most popular search engine, which currently owns 83 percent of the mobile market share, stated in 2012  that its algorithms prefer responsive design and the most recent Google algorithm update reinforces the search engine giant’s dedication to mobile-friendly pages.
Beginning April 21, mobile friendliness will be a ranking criteria for websites on Google. The algorithms will favor mobile-friendly sites, using a real-time, page-by-page basis to determine mobile friendliness, and penalize sites that display poorly on mobile devices. A website that is not a responsive website or mobile-friendly will suffer negative SEO and decreased search engine rankings.
Google has a number of criteria for determining the mobile-friendliness of a website. If you’re not sure whether your website meets the criteria, you can use Google’s free testing tool  to analyze your pages, and receive suggestions on how to improve the mobile responsiveness of your website.
Mobile Web  Photo via Shutterstock