5 Things to Know About Mobile Search and The Mobile User

As more mobile Internet users emerge, mobile search is heating up. Here are a few things to think about as you explore how mobile affects your business.

  1. Mobile search is not what you think it is

    Mobile search is not only using a search engine on your mobile device to find information, it’s devolved into a wide array of services, apps and engines that fetch, aggregate and display data for users of mobile platforms.

    Although search engines play a major role in the mobile search space, don’t overlook the mobile apps that allow users to search the Internet. Mobile applications play a significant role in how a mobile user interacts with your business.

    For instance, look at applications like Yelp and Foursquare — location-based social apps with user-generated reviews and tips about businesses and services. Not only are apps like Foursquare infiltrating the traditional search indices with business profiles from its Website, location-based apps are quickly becoming the search engine of choice for mobile users.

    Why? It is much easier to have an app tell you what businesses are nearby and also display reviews, tips and comments from customers. Users are able to cut to the chase: Finding information fast is key when you are mobile.

    In a nutshell, when you think of mobile search, you will have to think beyond traditional search engines. Also, your mobile search optimization efforts will need to be coupled with mobile application optimization.

    You will have to look at what mobile applications are influencing your customers and then determine how you can leverage those applications to your business’ advantage. Whether it be partnerships with the apps, promotions or interacting directly with the customers via the app — these types of marketing tactics will be critical in maximizing your potential to succeed in the mobile space.

  2. Mobile search should not be confused with the flying car

    Simply put, mobile search is here. No, mobile Internet use hasn’t taken over traditional Internet surfing, but it is trending that way. With an estimated 2 billion-plus mobile phones worldwide, it’s only a matter of time before mobile Internet usage and traditional desktop Web surfing go head to head in a digital cage match.

    According to a Harris Interactive study, one in four mobile phone users with Internet access now use their devices to buy products and services online, with one in five saying they would like to someday use cell phones as a “mobile wallet.” What does this mean for you? Take a look at #3.

  3. Get in the game now

    With about 5% of the top-500 online retailers having a mobile Website and Smartphone Internet usage on the rise, the stage is set for retailers to get in the game early and lay claim to their share of mobile customers. Not having a mobile version of your Website will soon be just as damaging to your business as not having a Website at all. Getting in now will allow you to make your presence known early on and enable you to tweak your mobile offerings as your mobile customer base evolves and grows.

  4. Geolocation, geolocation, geolocation

    This will soon be the mantra of the e-commerce marketers in the mobile space. Oftentimes, the mobile searcher’s intent is to find local results — the nearest pizza place or dry cleaner, or maybe the closest big-box electronics store or children’s museum. Regardless of the search, typically the intent is local.

    Google mobile realizes this as well, which is why it allows searchers to use their current location to determine the search results. Most mobile apps also provide this option, so your SEO efforts need to take geolocation into account.

    Make sure your site is listed in local directories like Google Local and Yahoo Local. You should also include the GIS longitude and latitude coordinates in the source of your site.

  5. Best practices

    Whether you have jumped into the mobile arena or are still on the fence, you will want to take a look at a few best practices to determine where your site is from an optimization standpoint. Below are some best practices and resources.

    For one thing, make sure your site is mobile friendly. Take a look at a mobile browser emulator like Opera Mini or iPhone’s Safari to see what your site looks like on a mobile screen. If your site cannot be easily navigated, you may find your users leaving your site for a competitor’s site where they can sort through information more easily.

    MobiForge is an independent mobile development community where you can get up to speed on mobile technology, site and app development.

    And Google Webmaster Central (Mobile) is a good place to get started; you will find some best practices from Google and information on how it views and treats mobile Websites.

    Keep in mind that mobile users are coming from many different mobile platforms and browsers. Be sure to develop a mobile site for a variety of smart phones, PDAs, Blackberries, and so on. Once the users find your site via search, you will want to make sure they can actually view your site on their devices.

    And finally, be sure to create a Mobile XML sitemap. You can find more about this on Google Webmaster Central.

Marla Bergh (mbergh@covario.com) is director of OSO product operations at Covario.

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