Mobile search is a rapidly evolving as a critical Web site element that should be a priority for any brand marketer. Growth in mobile search has been enormous -- up over 400% from 2010 to 2011 –--as smartphone penetration nears 50% among adults in the U.S. This is a huge audience that cannot be ignored, for both paid and organic search.
Desktop vs. mobile
In order to take advantage of this audience and stay current with how users engage with content online, it’s important to understand the differences between traditional search and mobile search.
Presently, Google -- which controls 95% of the mobile search market -- does not deliver significantly different search results on desktops versus mobile devices for most searches. Mobile devices provide more information about user location than desktops, leading to more closely tailored results for local searches for brick-and-mortar locations. While webmasters can submit a mobile sitemap to Google highlighting their mobile pages, there are no specific tags that indicate a page as being mobile-targeted or compatible.
What, then, distinguishes a mobile search strategy?
Mobile users are a different audience
The key to good mobile search today is simple: make sure your mobile experience caters specifically to your mobile audience. Mobile users have different needs than desktop searchers. They are often searching at different points in the purchase process, and are more likely to be searching in response to other brand interactions such as offline advertising.
As mobile search continues to become more important, building content that is customized for search behavior on mobile devices is the key to success.
As is the case with any search campaign, make sure you understand your audience. Use your site analytics to determine what content mobile users engage with, and how they search for your site. Once you know what your audience wants, make sure you give it to them. Create mobile pages that emphasize the keywords your mobile audience is searching for -- and design them for the mobile devices your audience uses. Offer your mobile audience the content they search for most frequently. If you have a local business with brick-and-mortar locations, be sure that you own and optimize your Google Places page and your Web site for local search.
This mobile-optimized experience will help both search engines and customers see the value you have to offer a mobile user, improving your rankings as well as what is most important -- your bottom line.
Right now, there is not much to distinguish mobile-compatible pages. However, mobile search continues to evolve. At the end of last year, Google deployed a specific crawler for mobile. Google has also been focusing more on appearance, layout, and context, as opposed to being content-agnostic, or looking at formatting or page position.
As we move forward and search engine technology continues to improve, mobile-specific design and tags are likely to become more prominent and important for search. However, even as search marketing progresses on the technical front, the same basic marketing principles of catering to your audience and giving them what they are looking for will continue to rule mobile search.