State-of-the Art: Trends in Mobile Search

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This post is part of our aimClear’s continued blogging coverage of the SES New York 2008 search marketing conference.
iPhone

People throughout the world are increasingly relying on cell phones and mobile devices to keep them plugged in. Obviously, search will play an ever increasing role in the evolution of mobile. When will mobile search surpass desktop search? We’ve been expecting better search capabilities from mobile devices for some time, and know that Asia is far ahead of North America in this respect at the current time. Today @ SearchEngineStrategies, experts discuss their views about the evolution of search in North America.

Speakers:
Farhan Memon, Senior Product Manager, AOL Search

Rachel Pasqua, Director of Mobile Marketing, iCrossing

Cindy Krum, Senior SEO Analyst, Blue Moon Works, Inc
.
Matt Tengler, Senior Product Manager, JumpTap

Presentations:
Krum:

To to improve mobile listings and gain market share in advance of full adoption:

3 phases … roughly 10 years apart

phase 1: (late 90’s to 2007)
– hard to use
– mostly text
– not much search
– lots of browsers

phase 2: (we’re here now) 2008-2013
– images with text, though not rich yet
– billing changes … packages
– some browser standards

phase 3: (2014-2018ish)
– access to web at large
– browsing via broadband
– flat rate billing
– rich experience

Why should we care about mobile listings? Most targeted marketing venue ever:
eg. we will know
– credit report
– location
– address book
– purchases
– email and web browsing

Why get started now rather than later?
– master the medium early before competitors
– lots of market share
– cost of failure is low … make mistakes now
– The iphone set the bar
– mobile search indicates desire for immediate action

So, what can we do today?
– Google and Google Mobile
– Yahoo OneSearch
– MSN Live
* mobile engines have different crawlers.

The experience of mobile search is much more like results of universal search. Very few results above the fold. Live and Google offer ratings and reviews in results.

So, how do we leverage this?
– test existing site on mobile devices
– optimize your existing site for mobile (don’t need a separate site)
– write compelling optimized meta data
– submit mobile site map
– submit your website
– mobile your mobile search engine listings
– no need for click through
– optimize foe porta/universal results
– get rating and reviews by review sites
– include action oriented stuff:
– address
– links to maps
– phone number
– pictures of location
– more

Tengler:

Usability of Mobile Search:

Words per query:
– one 45%
– two 29%
– three 15%

His findings show people are not necessarily finding what they are looking for via mobile search.

Do you need to build a mobile experience?
– yes … even on iphone
– page size still impacts experience

Mobile specific (off portal sites) sites are growing in numbers.

WAP vs Client Experience:

WAP:
– accessible by any user
– updates are immedately utilized
– limited interactions/displays

Client:
– much richer and faster experience
– over 60% more searches per use
– must be pre-installed or downloaded

Getting to a search box is still a challenge for most. Its still 3-5 steps away on most phones. The search box will eventually be 0-1 steps away. Some are now permitting special keystrokes (quick launch keys) to bring up a search box.

Creating a compelling mobile experience:
1. prepopulate location services (ie. in home area or away from … and how far away)
2. audio and video inputs (multi-modal inputs)
3. on demand networks … create secure connections for pos transactions
4. personalization
5. SMS and MMS

In summary, mobile is poised for tremendous growth this year for many many reasons. There are already 3.3 billion mobile phones out there. Get prepared in advance!

Pasqua:

Mobile search is about searching and finding! 46 million wireless subscribers used mobile search in 2007. The majority of these people bypassed the browser and used things like SMS.

How do we define search?

WAP

pros:
– traditional keyword based search gone mobile – familiar for users

Con:
– uptake hampered by excessive data costs and usability issues

Who to watch? Boopsie, Slifter, Yahoo, Google

Voice:
Pro:
– far easier that keying in an url or text message
– no data connection necessary

Cons:
– user awareness

Bluecasting:
Pro:
– excellent for broadcasting data across short distances
– runs on an unlicensed radio frequnecy

RFID:
Pro:
– enables one t o one distribution of personalized data
– can be embedded in mobile devices and lots else

Cons:
– privacy
– considered a supply chain technology

Image Recognition:
Pro:
-ability to tag physical spaces and products

Con:
– 2d barcode scanners are not widely deployed in US

Memon:

While AOL uses base Google data, it differentiates its listings by adding information, while it also brings in information from some of its other entities.

One goal is to optimize on multiple platforms and devices to reach users in their preferred way.

AOL is releasing an iPhone UI version of its search. Will do so for Blackberry and others too. ANNOUNCED FIRST HERE!

What mobile searchers look for?
– maps directions 69%
– weather 65%
– local information 62%
– news 51%
– entertainment 43%
But AOL has found reality does not meet expectations. They found that less than 2% of people are looking for local information. There are looking for navigation (ie. facebook, google, myspace), celebrity information, weather, directions, and much more.

Interesting note … the head and long tail patterns of queries online or via mobile are identical.

The time of day when mobile is used though is different. Mobile queries grow over the course of the day and continue to grow throughout the evening, where desktop searches decline in the evening.

queries via desktops decrease in the evening.

Monetization of Mobile:
– Sponsored links (cpc)
– Advertorial (cpm)
– Display ads (cpm and testing pay per call)

Optimization challenges for mobile:
– devise
– query
– advertiser
– business model

Distribution:
– link from AOL honepage
– serve up mobile bookmark when people search for blackberry

Jeff Quipp is President of Search Engine People Inc., a Toronto SEO, SEM, SMM firm.

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