Mobile Search 101, Part 1

According to a recent Gartner report, mobile advertising is poised to grow 74 percent this year to $913.5 million. It’s then predicted to accelerate in 2011 and then reach $13 billion in 2013. The increased consumer use of smartphones is said to be the contributing factor for the explosion.

Whether a smartphone or traditional mobile phone, users carry them wherever they go. It seems that mobile users are inseparable from their devices.

With more mobile applications coming into the market, users are finding more uses for these nifty tools. They’re becoming extensions of user’s desktops, which allow us to get away from the home or office and be more…well, mobile.

So what do you need to know to consider an advertising strategy to tap into these people on the go? Let’s look at a couple emerging technologies that will affect the way people search on mobile devices.

Mobile Site or Mobilized Site

Many organizations are developing mobile versions of their Web site so mobile visitors can view their site content in a manner that’s optimized for the smaller screen. If your business is one that people may frequent via mobile phone, you may want to look into building a mobile site. This has been done for events where the agenda and other information is available via the “mobile” site for attendees, for instance.

The alternative is to “mobilize” your site to be more mobile friendly. The iPhone, for example, allows for easy browsing of regular Web sites, but other phones have a hard time rendering the content in an easily readable way. Decide which is best for your site.

Whether you’re building a mobile site or mobilizing your site, consider optimizing for search engines. The basic principles for normal SEO are generally applicable, but there are some things you need to know that will help you achieve higher rankings. More on this in part two next week, as well as some thoughts on developing a mobile site.

Location-Based Targeting

With GPS technology becoming more ubiquitous in mobile phones, it has fueled new innovative ways to search. Especially with GPS-enabled smart phones like the iPhone.

Let’s say you’ve decided to go out to eat and you want a list of restaurants to choose from. You go to a browser and you do a search. You may use a ZIP code or a city name to get the search localized in order to find a restaurant within driving distance. You then find a couple restaurants you like and print out the map for directions.

Now contrast that to using a GPS-enabled smart phone. You head outside and use a program or “app” that lets you search for restaurants.

If you have an iPhone, you might use a GPS-aware app like Yelp, Around Me, or Urban Spoon to find one that suits your taste. The program uses the GPS technology to locate exactly where you are and then searches within a small radius around that location and displays restaurants that are near you. Instead of printing a map, you can switch to a GPS-aware map application that plots a course and helps you quickly find the restaurant.

These tools are typically utilized by young mobile users who are using their smartphones on the go and like to get out and connect with friends. With this in mind, local restaurant owners need to make sure they’ve registered their business info with local directory services. They will also need to take advantage of tools that these services provide business owners to advertise.

Yelp, for instance, lets you upload a photo, menu, and other business info to help searchers make a more informed decision. Some even allow people to vote and leave comments about their experience with the business.

iPhone Apps

Another form of advertising that’s emerging with the growth of iPhone Apps and the iTunes App store is advertising within the apps. Some apps can be downloaded for free, but with small ads that pop up within the app. If you click on one, you’ll likely be led to your mobile phone’s Web browser to the appropriate landing page for the ad. This form of advertising has a long way to go, but will likely see some growth in coming years.

Though the numbers may be slightly different, most analysts are predicting substantial growth in the mobile market industry. Knowing more about how this technology works and how you can leverage it will give you an advantage as you reach out to this mobile audience. Because mobile is still in its infancy, and there isn’t much competition yet, now is a good time to get in the game.

If you have any mobile marketing success stories, please leave a comment below.

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