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Mobile search has grown massively in the past few years and is predicted to overtake desktop search by 2014.

Furthermore, according to Google 40% of mobile search has local intent and 55% of mobile search conversions happen within an hour, so there is a huge opportunity for local businesses to take advantage of this new consumer behaviour.

However we’ve previously seen evidence to suggest that although businesses are aware of the opportunity in paid search, they’re failing to properly optimise their campaigns.

Last year I looked at three valuable keywords (mortgages, insurance and loans) and found that only six out of the 15 paid search results linked to mobile sites.

To find out whether the situation was the same among local brick-and-mortar businesses, I ran a user test on restaurant, hairdressers and hotels in the Farringdon area of London.

Benefits of optimising sites for mobile search

  • Increased conversions / leads

As we previously pointed out, mobile search tends to be highly local as people are seeking things around them, and is also more focused and timely. 

This means that mobile search needs to be considered separately from desktop to account for differences in search behaviour. 

While mobile conversions are still low compared to desktop, it’s vital for brands to offer consumers a user-friendly mobile experience. If they don't, a competitor will. 

  • Quality score

But beyond the obvious benefits for improving conversions and acquiring new customers, mobile optimised sites have a positive impact on visibility in mobile search.

The quality and ease-of-use of a landing page impacts the overall Quality Score assigned to each site by Google. This Quality Score, which will soon take into account mobile sites, then affects how each site shows up in search rankings and how much search ads cost.

Google uses a number of signals for its Quality Score, and has indicated that mobile optimised sites will become more important as it assesses landing page quality. 

In a nutshell, higher Quality Scores typically lead to lower costs and better ad positions. Therefore, brands could be penalised for not having a mobile optimised site.

Farringdon Restaurants

Based on my own anecdotal evidence I would assume that mobile search could be an important source of business for restaurants. However when I searched for ‘Farringdon restaurant’ only one of the three paid search results had a mobile optimised site.

The top result was restaurant aggregator Zomato.com and the site required a great deal of pinching and scrolling to read any of the content.

                      

Sally Pussey’s Inn has an okay mobile site and the landing page includes directions, opening times and details of its Sunday carvery, which is all useful information for mobile users.

Unfortunately the restaurant is located in Wootton Bassett, which is almost 90 miles away from Farringdon.

On further inspection it appears that there is village called Faringdon near Wootton Bassett, so the Inn’s marketers are presumably affording for spelling errors.

                      

The final listing is for Tas Restaurant, which is thankfully in Farringdon but unfortunately links to a desktop site. The landing page does have links to a restaurant finder but it’s difficult to use on the small screen.

However on the plus side, Tas is the only restaurant that includes a click-to-call button in its advert.

Farringdon Hairdressers

The top result for this search term was ColourNation, which has a mobile site but the landing page only displays two buttons – ‘Call Us’ and ‘Email Us’. There is a dropdown menu with links to other parts of the site, but most of the pages either don’t render properly or fail to load at all.

The second listing is for Rush Hair, which has a store locator and click-to-call button on its mobile landing page.

                      

It’s a great example of how to cater for mobile users as the relevant information and options are presented on the first page.

Both ColourNation and Rush also had click-to-call buttons in their ads, which is a good way to enable potential customers to get in touch.

                      

Of the three hairdressers listed in the paid search results at the bottom of the page only Hair and Beauty Gallery had a mobile site. It includes large CTAs that allow users to call the salon, find it on a map and, bizarrely, link to its Facebook page.

The other listings don’t have mobile sites, but they do both have click-to-call buttons in their ads.

Farringdon Hotel

When searching for ‘Farringdon Hotel’ the top result was aggregator site Booking.com which has an excellent mobile landing page. It displays a prominent search function that allows you to search by date and location, and booking a room takes just a few clicks.

                      

There are two other hotels included in the paid search listings – Radisson and Zetter Hotel & Townhouse.

While Zetter is another culprit for linking mobile ads to a desktop site, Radisson has a mobile site but it’s poorly designed and requires you to deal with a number of fiddly dropdown menus to make a booking. 

Bizarrely the remaining two listings are both hairdressers, which suggests that they aren’t managing their PPC campaigns efficiently, or they just want to target anyone looking for services in Farringdon.

                      

Farringdon Bar

Another search term I felt it was worth noting was ‘Farringdon bar’, which yielded some strange results.

The paid search results were almost identical to those for ‘Farringdon hairdressers’, which means they are almost totally pointless.

Presumably this comes as a result of badly targeted PPC campaigns, but ultimately it’s a waste of money for the advertisers involved.

In conclusion...

Though this is just a tiny snapshot of paid search listings it highlights a few interesting points about mobile search ads.

Firstly, only around half of advertisers I looked at have mobile optimised sites which you would think is a fundamental point for anyone running a mobile PPC campaign.

Inevitably some visitors will abandon the site when they realise that it’s a desktop version, so the money spent on PPC will be wasted.

On the other hand, most of the advertisers that have created mobile sites have designed effective landing pages, with prominent click-to-call buttons and location details.

Similarly, several of the businesses that didn’t have optimised sites had implemented click-to-call buttons on their paid search ads, which is a useful tool for encouraging conversions from mobile searchers.

The second point worth noting is that several of these search terms deliver largely irrelevant PPC ads. Farringdon is only a small area of London so there probably isn’t a great deal of competition for search terms, but even so it seems strange that hairdressers appear when you’re searching for bars and hotels.

This suggests that there is potentially an opportunity for other bars and hotels in the area to take advantage of the lack of competition for PPC among similar businesses in the area.

David Moth

Published 14 May, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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