Appeared in the AMA's Marketing News, June 15, 2009, quoting Bryson Meunier:

As mobile marketing grows, so will mobile search engine optimization. The secret? Make it local.

In a TV ad that debuted last fall, Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel, mused, “Can you believe we still call these phones, considering all they can do?”

With so much to do on today’s cell phones, there’s little time to talk. In September, New York-based Nielsen Mobile reported that the typical U.S. mobile subscriber sends and receives more text messages (SMS) than phone calls. According to the Kelsey Group Inc., a research firm based in Princeton, N.J., 20% of U.S. mobile users, or 54.5 million people, have Web-capable phones. Worldwide, the fraction of mobile Web-capable users is much smaller, but the potential for growth is enormous: There are approximately 4 billion cell phones in use on the planet. As new smart phones and feature phones become available, mobile search is poised to surpass texting and talking.

That means, for marketers, it’s time to take mobile seriously. Mobile devices provide an opportunity to deliver customized and highly relevant messages to users who are apt to make spur-ofthe-moment decisions.

Before launching a mobile campaign, however, marketers should recognize the platform’s inherent differences from online search and consumers’ established search habits, experts agree.

Mobile devices may offer many of the same benefits as computers, but consumers don’t treat them the same. Searching the Web on a mobile device offers easy access and on-the-go portability, at the expense of limited screen sizes, data usage plans and attention spans. These expenses mean that mobile users want information that is immediately relevant—like a restaurant’s location—and may search for it via SMS, voice or mobile Web. Marketers need to understand what consumers are searching for and how they search for it to deliver the most relevant advertisement.

Most marketers assume online search engine optimization (SEO) will translate to search completed on mobile devices, which it generally does. But marketers can do so much more by creating mobile-specific content, argues Bryson Meunier, associate director of SEO at Resolution
Media in Chicago.

“Search in itself is one of the most efficient channels, and if you add mobile to that, you have one of the most efficient ways that marketers can reach consumers,” Meunier says.

To get good mobile SEO, marketers must embrace the uniqueness of mobile search. Relevancy and accuracy are critical for a positive mobile experience, notes Mike Wehrs, president and CEO of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), based in New York.

A Web search on a computer may be cumbersome on a mobile device, Wehrs says. For example, searching for a flight schedule requires several clicks through an airline’s site, which is easy to do on a computer but a hassle on a mobile device.

“In order to be competitive, you really need to do keyword research for both mobile users and desktop users,” Meunier advises. In addition, he recommends optimizing site content—or developing technical code and keywords—for any site with a search engine. By optimizing content based on high-value queries, marketers can ensure better placement in YouTube, Facebook or Apple’s App Store search results, for example.

Good mobile SEO also requires that marketers understand what information consumers are seeking. According to a recent study by Reston, Va.-based comScore Inc., searching for local information is the third most popular activity for mobile users (behind searches for ringtones and e-mail).

Demand for hyperlocal information is a driving force behind Glendale, Calif.- based AT&T Interactive’s push to increase the brand awareness of YellowPages.com. Matt Crowley, CMO of AT&T Interactive, says that to transition to mobile, search functionality needed to be more heavily oriented around local geography.

YellowPages content is now preinstalled on all AT&T mobile devices. AT&T Interactive is transferring online business profile pages to mobile platforms to provide more content for users and ensure search result visibility that extends the YellowPages.com brand. In 2008, the YellowPages network received more than 1.8 billion local search queries, unique visitors grew by 6% and it was among the top 30 mobile sites, according to comScore.

In April, Cambridge, Mass.-based mobile ad network JumpTap launched a new, pay-per-click mobile advertising program called tapMatch, which builds mobile user profiles from multiple sources, including searches, context and clickthrough history. TapMatch users can target marketing messages by category, location, demographic, mobile carrier and publisher, and for different mobile devices. Contextually relevant ads are delivered by auction, which vary in price depending upon the keyword, category and time of day. “The idea is to build relevancy with an ad communication so it is actually a value exchange,” CMO Paran Johar says.

One major obstacle to mobile marketing is deciding how to measure effectiveness. Currently, several metrics are widely referenced—click through, click to SMS and click to call—but there are other less tangible measurements, like the number of impressions, number of times users respond to a message, number of times users respond to a message and take another action, and sales tied directly to the advertising. Wehrs says the goal is for mobile trade groups to develop a system of measurement by year’s end so marketers can build a campaign with tangible goals in mind.

In March, the MMA announced that the four largest U.S. wireless carriers— Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile—agreed to a set of best practices guidelines that unify the rules for the different wireless carriers. While the agreement only applies to the distribution of SMS messages, the association’s mobile advertising group is looking at a similar agreement.

Extending existing campaigns to mobile doesn’t have to be difficult, particularly with some education and planning, Johar says. He points to some milestones that signal mobile search is reaching an inflection point, like creative standardization and interest and investment in mobile from large holding companies. “Mobile search is going to be ubiquitous; it’s going to be a cultural phenomenon,” Johar says.


Dave Nies said...

Great post! Now six months later, mobile search certainly seems to be gaining steam.

David Nies
Ballyhoo Mobile Marketing

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