Going Mobile The Right Way

By Bryson Meunier, Product Champion of Natural Search
Appeared in DM News Mobile Marketing Sector

Mobile has been the "next big thing" in marketing for a few years now. With mobile search revenues predicted to grow beyond $1.4 billion by 2012 (eMarketer), many advertisers are experimenting with the space now to be better prepared for success in the future. In some ways, mobile search today is like the search of the pre-bubble Web, in which advertisers are doing everything they can to go mobile without having a game plan or an exit strategy. What marketers learned about Web search then should be applied to the mobile search of today.

The bottom line is that marketers need to have a valid business reason for entering the space. From a mobile search perspective, success in the long-term requires defining your business strategy. Are you looking to drive sales? Just looking for impressions? What are your key performance indicators for measuring success? This is a time for experimentation, but without a plan for success you may be doomed to fail.

Create compelling, accessible mobile content. Yes, it's nice to have a usable mobile version of your desktop Web site. This will undoubtedly allow users of mobile search engines to access some of your content and should be considered the one step that brands must do if they want to do something in mobile, but aren't convinced of the value of the mobile Web.

If you're developing your sites with technologies such as Flash or JavaScript that prove difficult for search engine spiders to crawl, keep in mind that they will also be difficult for the majority of mobile browsers and mobile search engines. Layering dynamic technologies over an essential text version of the site — also known as progressive enhancement — helps with indexing content in search engines and is critical when optimizing for mobile search as well.

Next, think about the mobile user experience and highlight those aspects of your content that speak directly to it in a mobile-specific Web site. Google user experience designer Leland Reichis has defined the mobile user experience as “bored now,” for the user who is waiting around and looking to be entertained, “repetitive now,” for the user who is putting in the same query in order to find up-to-the-minute information such as sports scores or stock quotes, and “urgent now” for users who need to find answers immediately, such as directions, movie times or information to resolve a bar bet. In creating your mobile Web site, take a look at your desktop Web site and highlight those areas that address these three mindsets.

To find an example of a site that does this particularly well, one need not look any further than Yahoo, which has at least three versions of its site available to mobile users: a desktop site, a mobile site and a site optimized for iPhones and other smartphones. Comparing the desktop site to the mobile sites, it's clear that Yahoo has eliminated a lot of content that doesn't speak to the mobile user experience, leaving just 16 links and a search box on the mobile-specific page.

Install mobile analytics. Traffic in mobile is about 1%-2% of desktop queries, which is still several million queries per day. The audience is there, but if you're tracking your mobile campaigns with traditional Web analytics, you may not be seeing it.

Traditional desktop analytics like Google Analytics or Omniture currently lack mobile metrics, which makes it difficult to optimize mobile campaigns. Furthermore, JavaScript and cookies aren't universally supported by mobile handsets, so there could be widespread tracking errors that could prevent marketers from seeing and sharing their success.

Smartphones and iPhones are better supported, and desktop analytics providers are getting better at including mobile metrics, but the current situation requires mobile analytics for accurate data. There are some specific mobile analytics technologies out there. I've evaluated the most reputable ones and, while they all have some gaps, they offer a great head start for marketers that are active in the mobile search space.

Finally, keep a log of everything you do. Get positioned for long-term success by learning from your short-term gains. Don't just set it and forget it with mobile. Keep a log of every content change and inbound link to better understand how each affected the overall campaign.

There are some great mobile search marketing resources out there, but educating yourself doesn't stop with the success or failure of other webmasters and marketers. Learn from your own experiences and optimize for the future.

Clearly, the mobile space is going to provide marketers with an immense opportunity to interact with searchers on the go. The best way to succeed is to prepare for the future with smart planning today.


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