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The convenience of having local information oozing out of our handsets whenever we need it means mobile search is becoming big business.
We search differently on our mobiles than we do on our desktops. When we are out and about we hunt for products and services we need soon, if not immediately. For example, it might be the location of, or directions to, a restaurant, entertainment venue or retailer.
Earlier this month, Google Maps 4.2 even started helping cyclists find local biking directions using mobile search. Such a service will be extremely useful if we get lost whilst peddling the countryside or risking our life on the streets of our towns and cities.
For brands that fail to take the peculiarities of mobile search on board, their entire mobile marketing strategy is doomed to failure. If they choose to embrace the differences then mobile search can be very profitable indeed.
When we search on our desktops at home we tend to purchase products, but as we fight the crowds on the high street we tend to act differently. We want our mobile device to help us compare prices between rival stores so we waste as little time as possible physically shopping.
Of course, actual sales can be achieved on mobile using clever search techniques. Think Amazon’s successful ‘search, shop and buy’ service or the success of eBay’s iPhone app which enabled it to sell more than 1.5m items via mobile last Christmas, a three-fold increase on the year before.
In an ideal world our mobile, via the brands we have a relationship with, should also enable us to redeem vouchers and scan barcodes, but brands do get their mobile search strategy wrong.
It can be tempting, with budgetary and time constraints to simply duplicate desktop website content on a mobile site, for example. This is not good. Remember:
• Everyone has a short attention span when they visit a mobile site so the content must reflect that.
• Keep content simple with a one column page layout. Include a link to desktop page if you must.
• Crucially, understand the relationship that search engines have with mobile sites and how this differs when it comes to displaying search results for desktop content. Optimising your mobile site is vital and make sure you get your mobile analytics spot on.
• Consider how different search engines deliver paid for ads.
Figures published by Econsultancy reveal that 28.3% of mobile phone users in Europe and 28.4% in the US now have 3G capability on their mobiles, which suggests that companies need to get their plans for mobile search sorted sooner rather than later.
The lack of space on mobile sites means there is more of a role in future for filtered navigation so consumers can browse from a narrower selection. Mobile content also needs strong calls to action and links.
When it comes to using keywords you must think differently and spend time researching which words and phrases are specifically used in mobile search. Forget the longtail and force yourself to be short and succinct.
Our senses will play an increasing role in mobile search. Visual search will add more value to the offline shopping experience. Consumers want to take pictures of products and then search for comparable items in nearby retailers.
Last month, Google bought mobile visual search start-up Plink. Plink’s first product allowed users to photograph and identify works of art and the technology can easily be adapted for retail use.
Ensure your strategy takes into account the growth in Voice recognition technology in mobile search. Both Google and Apple have been on the acquisition trail with Google buying internet telephony software company Gizmo 5. The rumour is Google Talk and Google Voice will be combined into one product. Apple has taken over supplier Siri, which makes a voice app for the iPhone.
In fact, the expansion of applications for smartphones makes it even more important that brands act now when it comes to mobile search.
According to the recent Econsultancy breakfast briefing ‘Apps – this changes everything’ presented by Simon Andrews of mobile agency Addictive, there are now more than 185,000 Apps for the Apple iPhone, and by April downloads had topped four billion. Yet, in the same report, it seems that only 8% of Fortune 1000 companies have a mobile strategy, let alone an effective plan for making the most of mobile search.
Marketing teams go nuts about social media and are upping their budgets in that area but many are ignoring mobile search, which has the power to drive instant sales. As we emerge from recession, it needs a bigger profile in marketing strategy meetings.