Coping with Convergence: Local Search Meets Mobile and WiFi, Part 2

Consumers have huge incentive to flock to mobile search. As such, now's an excellent time for search specialists to get into the mobile search market.

This article is the second of two parts; part one is Coping with Convergence: Local Search Meets Mobile and WiFi, Part 1

Some of the key attractions of the convergence of local search, mobile and WiFi technologies include:

Audience acceptance of advertising. According to Herzog, "Both users and non-users say they would prefer to use a free 411 service with advertising over paid carrier services. Consumers are willing to accept a lot of advertising. In fact, they'll accept 100 percent [of the content being” advertising (through sponsored links) if the relevancy's there," he said.

Explosive growth. Surveys by industry analyst KPMG International tracked mobile local user growth of 30% from Jan-March 2006 alone. From $45M in 2005 to projections from industry analysts of between $1-$1.5 Billion for 2010.

High targeting. "Mobile ads lend themselves perfectly for targeting users," said Herzog. "They're always personal, and present at the point of decision and point of sale;. They're capable of rich profiling and targeting, interactive, local and location aware. Mobile advertisements lend themselves well to calls-to-action."

Rapid conversions. For example, the obvious click-to-call within an ad. "This is all moving in the local search towards pay-per-click, pay-per-call and pay-per-action coupons," said Herzog.

Ideal incentives for local merchants. "The good news for people who are in the local business is that anything local, anything related to maps and directions or any kind of local information percolates right to the top of the list," said McCabe.

"For the local searches this is a great opportunity for particular restaurants or particular hotels or even Internet providers that have local related content to buy keywords and do sponsor links around that. Mobile and local merchants can bid for targeted sponsored links and to purchase mobile impressions in appropriate places right within the mobile or WiFi application's search and browsing experience," said McCabe.

New audiences, bright future. "The younger generation being more in tune with instant messaging and MySpace is going to prove to be a great market for the future of mobile," said Gruse.

Improving technology.
New phone models for 2007 are going to be converged phones—have both cellular and WiFi capabilities. "Folks like Nokia already have WiFi-only devices as well," said Rice. "You're going to see that the ability to do location a lot better."

New revenue source for carriers. With users being tapped out on current mobile service fees, ad subsidies are going to be more necessary.

Challenges for marketers entering mobile search

Truth is, its very intimidating for the average search marketer to wrap their head around the complexities of mobile search. "When talked about the complexity of the web, this is times ten at a minimum," said Herzog. Some of the more notable obstacles facing search marketers who do choose to enter the market early will include:

Wider mix of interfaces. "To the search marketer, mobile traffic should behave and perform the same as web," said Herzog. "But mobile's a lot more complex to get that to work right."

There's a wide mix of ads whether you're talking about SMS interfaces (building mobile versions of a client web site) or mobile search interfaces or local search." In straight terms, this means that search marketers will have to be aware of how a single ad may appear across potentially many different interfaces.

Smaller screens. Mobile devices such as cell phones and PDAs have a very small screen size and typically hold only about 5-8 listings. Smaller space means smaller listings, which also means search marketers will have to be extremely succinct in both their Ad copy and URLs.

"In order to capture this key usability feature, search marketers will need to cut back on the amount of information that they deliver (to the device)," said Gruse.

More specialization. Search marketers will need to explore data on traffic and usage patterns distinct to mobile to best match their local merchant clients' advertising needs. All this should lead you the search marketer understand more about your mobile consumer, such as what do they want and when do they want it? But it also means assessing their clients to see which ones lend themselves well to the mobile search market, and a lot of that may just have to be found out through testing.

On some note of relief, Gruse said that the content in search optimization (SEO) will remain unchanged. "It'll still need to be very targeted, very relevant to the business and very important to your consumer. These will be key elements to the ranking in the search engines along with that support for the form factor of the devices and how the content is displayed."

Be prepared for future convergence

The first phase of convergence was marrying the technology to the content. The second phase? Top search engine providers, wireless carriers and performance-based advertising marketing guiding the subscriber through the highest relevant mobile search experience.

"For true convergence, local merchants must be made aware, and search marketers must educate themselves on the emerging industry," said McCabe. "Developers will make it free, powered by advertising on carrier sites."

"The market is coming," said Gruse, "and search marketers need to start making those investments and building that experience."

"Admittedly, there's still a lot of problems to solve and a lot of issues and roadblocks to get the applications distributed and to get consumers aware of them," said Herzog. "But there's definitely a lot of opportunity, and first movers to this market are often presented with the reward of having experience and also building market share."

Grant Crowell is the CEO and Creative Director of Grantastic Designs, Inc., a full-service search engine marketing, web site design, and usability firm.

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