Mobile Behavior Could Finesse Search Strategy

by , Dec 9, 2011, 12:56 PM
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Michael-SlingerMobile queries on tablets spike between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. while consumers sit at home watching television -- which could support a cross-channel search and TV campaign strategy, according to Michael Slinger, director of mobile advertising at Google.

That type of insight, shared by Slinger at the Search Insider Summit, should provide brands with a road map for charting search campaigns.

For instance, Slinger said the single biggest barrier that companies have in entering the mobile search space is their mobile sites. In February, Google reported that 80% of the Fortune 500 companies have a mobile ready site. About two weeks ago, Google released a tool at HowToGoMo.com that shows companies what their Web site looks like when viewed on a mobile phone.

Industry executives suggest that the average consumer stores about seven apps on their mobile phone. And while they might have an app for banking, they might not have an app for a specific retail brand. Companies need to give consumers choice.

Slinger points to research that Google conducted with Compete on the use of mobile devices during the automotive research process. The goal was to get consumers into dealerships. About 34% of consumers use tablets throughout the research process, versus 30% on mobile devices. Still, 20% of consumers rely on tablets at the top of the purchase funnel -- compared with 22% on mobile phones -- to do research on cars. In the middle of the process, consumers use tablets 34% of the time and mobile phones 19% of the time. At the very end of the funnel, as consumers enter the buying process, 8% will rely on tablets versus 27% for mobile phones.

Google and comScore data suggests that 68% of tablet owners use their device at least one hour per day, and 34% spend more time on their tablet, compared with watching TV. Brands may be missing an opportunity to integrate TV ads with search, based on devices such as Google TV and other Internet TV services. 

On Thursday, Google released Currents for devices running the Mountain View, Calif. company's Android software, along with Apple Inc.'s iPad and iPhone. The tool will compete with Yahoo's Livestand, which launched last month.

Supporting a move to tablets, Google recently redesigned the app user interface to only serve up three search ads, similar to mobile phones. For advertisers, this huge change requires better optimization and paid-search strategy to deliver content above the fold.

Brands must consider why consumers make purchases through an application or Web site and provide the tools to complete the transaction. Search marketers believe the "two-path option" works best. It removes the friction for completing the transaction. Slinger points to Amazon as an example. The company runs Google Sitelink in organic search results, giving consumers options to finish their transaction -- either by going to their Web site or app.

Slinger declined to state the total number of search queries that Google sees through mobile, but said financial services generates about 15% of total queries on mobile phones. "Between 10% and 20% is a good number for most verticals," he said.

Supporting search ads on mobile and tablets, brands should capture the growth in mobile by building out mobile and tablet-specific services. "About 25% to 35% do a good job supporting mobile specific sites," he said -- noting that the industry remains in the early days on tablets, but is farther along on mobile.

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