A Guide to Mobile Search

Guest Post by Marianne Pratt

You may not have a smartphone yet, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 million other people do. And the number of iPhones and Androids in use is growing at a steady clip. No wonder more than 20% of Google searches now originate from mobile devices.

Perhaps even more important for your business, studies show people using their smartphones to search are in the latter stages of shopping – looking for your location, hours, etc. as opposed to basic research. They are ready to buy, or nearly so.

Unfortunately your regular website isn’t necessarily very welcoming to those conducting a mobile search. You need special optimization. Otherwise your site may appear super-slow not even function properly. Even the smallest laptop screen is far larger than a smartphone screen, so you can easily see the problem.

Now is a good time to get in the mobile game. Most businesses aren’t there yet, so you can get a jump on the competition. However mobile SEO is more complex, so you’ll need to think a little differently about what you offer searchers.

What makes mobile search different?

Mobile searchers are looking for different types of information than “desktop” searchers. They have different usage habits, and there are inherent limitations due to the nature of mobile devices. Your optimization techniques have to reflect that to work well for you.

Mobile users are often focused on location, whether looking for a business, an activity or an event. This can be especially valuable for smaller, local “storefront” businesses, making it easier for people to literally get shoppers in the door.

Optimizing for mobile search also helps you by:

  • Showing your business is “with-it.”
  • Retaining searcher interest — if your website is painful to use, they’ll go somewhere else.
  • Helping you stay connected with potential customers by providing 24/7 website access from anywhere.
  • Allowing you to incorporate specific features such as maps or click-to-call.
  • Improving rankings on mobile-friendly search engines such as Google.
  • Enabling coordination of online and offline media to broaden and reinforce your marketing campaigns.
  • Offering a useful alternative to creating special apps.

How can beginners make the most of mobile search?

  • There are a couple of basic, proven techniques for making the most of your core mobile architecture: altering your content to display well on mobile devices or creating entirely new mobile-specific pages.
  • Use Google Places to capture mobile users who are using geographic references to find local results.  
  • Ask mobile searchers to bookmark your website, or offer an easy app that links them directly with your site so they don’t have to conduct a search every time.  
  • Especially if your website emphasizes your brand or product names, you’ll need different keywords that may work better for mobile search. Create parallel campaigns and compare results. Or try using your own smartphone (or borrow one) to conduct potential searches, and see how the results differ from desktop searches for the same keywords.
  • There are fewer filters above search results, and image and video results also appear on top. This is different from desktop search, so create and optimize your mobile content accordingly. The good news is that fewer filters may give you higher click-through-rates.
  • Put the most important content up front – always good advice anyway. Searchers may use slightly different terminology (or partial words), because mobile search fills in the blanks for them with auto-complete.  

So who cares about mobile search? You, we hope. Because making life easy and pleasant for mobile searchers will encourage them to return to your website, giving you more opportunities to make a sale.

You simply can’t afford to ignore the growing segment of online searchers using mobile devices. In fact, once you get your website “mobilized,” you may also want to consider adding mobile search or display paid advertising.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user robzand.

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