Google’s search emphasis on mobile websites could be boon for Bellingham tech firm

A local technology startup could have a big opportunity on its hands as Google changes the way people find information on mobile phones.

On Tuesday, April 21, Google plans to put more mobile-friendly websites in its search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices, the company said in a statement.

That’s a big deal for WompMobile, a Bellingham outfit that helps companies make their websites easier to use on smartphones and other mobile devices. Owner Madison Miner estimates that about 70 percent of business websites are not mobile-friendly, so WompMobile soon could be working with many more companies that are finding themselves penalized in search result lists.

“So far it’s been a steady climb,” Miner said. “But this (Google announcement) provides a ton of opportunity for growth.”

WompMobile is one of several companies that went through the Bellingham Innovation Group in 2011. BIG was a company incubator where Miner was able to get advice and work on the lab’s equipment as it went through its startup phase. WompMobile eventually received some funding from local investors. It now has seven employees and is expected to be a profitable firm in 2015, Miner said.

SPIE’s Scott Ritchey was impressed how quickly WompMobile was able to make his organization’s website mobile-friendly, completing the project in three weeks.

“It was a painless experience,” he said. “They were very responsive to what we needed.”

SPIE organizes travel conferences around the world for researchers on the scientific applications of light. Many of those researchers rely on mobile devices to track conference information.

A mobile-friendly website “is now a required cost of doing business,” said Ritchey, the organization’s director of information technology.

When he was first coming up with WompMobile’s business model, Miner thought he would have to sell his Bellingham home and try his luck in the Seattle area. Back in 2011 smartphone usage was growing, but it has really taken off in the past two years. According to data from eMarketer, more than one-quarter of the global population will be using a smartphone in 2015; by 2018 that will increase to more than one-third of the global population. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 220 million people will be using smartphones by 2018, up from the current estimate of 165 million.

Ritchey said they’ve seen a similar trend, because most of their clients are traveling and tend to rely on smartphones and tablets.

“I expect the growth to continue,” he said.