Need to learn more about smartphone and mobile SEO best practices? Let’s start with a few statistics:
According to an infographic from Microsoft Tag, 51% of smartphone users are more likely to buy from a retailer with a mobile specific web site, however: only 4.8% of retailers have a mobile web site.
A recent study by Google, “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users” reports 77% of smartphone users visit search engine websites followed by social networks. And nine out of ten smartphone searches results in an action (purchasing, visiting a business, etc.). Mobile use is growing faster than all of Google’s internal predictions, with YouTube seeing 200 million mobile playbacks a day, according to Eric Schmidt.
To capture the market, marketers and advertisers are increasingly allocating budget to mobile. In fact, eMarketer estimates total mobile advertising spending in the US will reach $1.1 billion this year, which is up 48% over 2010. Mobile search is forecasted to account for up to 10 percent of search budgets with Google capturing 97% of that market.
How can marketers take advantage of the opportunity with mobile search & optimization?
Of course there’s paid search advertising on mobile as there is on the web, but our focus here is on content, social and organic search, so the following tips will emphasize what you can do without advertising.
Fundamental SEO Best Practices – Effective site optimization applies for mobile sites as they would for desktop websites. Search engine accessibility, keywords, content and links all matter with mobile. Keep in mind screen real estate is smaller for keyword use in titles and descriptions. As a primer, check out this post from the Google Webmaster Central Blog, Making Websites More Mobile Friendly.
Mobile Friendly Website – First, decide if you need a dedicated mobile site or if you will present mobile users with a mobile friendly version of your existing site. If you happen to know that a significant number of your customers use traditional mobile phones, then a dedicated mobile site may be warranted. See the “Mobile Filters in Google Analytics” tip below for info on determining your website’s mobile activity.
A custom CSS file can usually accomplish a mobile friendly site for traditional, internet enabled mobile phones or it may be necessary to develop mobile specific pages.
Smartphones can view most websites as a desktop browser would, only smaller and may not need such customization. Another consideration is that some features, such as Flash content, will not display on an iPhone. Hopefully HTML5 adoption will address that. While smartphone use is rapidly rising, there are still a very large number of traditional mobile phones in use. A “mobile friendly” site isn’t exactly a SEO tactic, but if people can’t view your site, there’ not much use in it attracting search traffic.
Mobile URLs & Content - Because of advice given by search engines, many Webmasters have their mobile sites detect user agent access via a mobile device and serve up a mobile friendly site using a different URL such as
That is no longer necessary and website owners can present the appropriate content using the same URL. rel=canonical can be used for desktop content. In all instances, the same content must be served to Googlebot and Googlebot-Mobile as what a user would see. Advantages to a single URL include a single destination for link building and also to facilitate social sharing of pages via mobile phones meant for desktop consumption.
Mobile Keywords – When researching keywords, it’s worth considering that mobile search query strings, on average, are 25 percent shorter than desktop searches. As for mobile keyword research tools, Google’s keyword tool provides a mobile filtering option and the stats you see for Competition, Global and Local Monthly Searches, and Local Search Trends are all specific to the device filter you pick.
Mobile Formatting and Layout - There are many resources for mobile website development. If you want to test how your mobile friendly website will appear, then Mobile Moxie offers an array of handy tools for testing websites on mobile devices. Tools include: Keyword Research, Mobile HTML Code Grader, Mobile Search Engine Indexing & mSEO, Mobile Website Emulator and Phone Comparison, Mobile Search Engine Simulation and Results Comparison.
Mobile Content – In addition to testing the mobile user experience, it’s also important to test the effectiveness of your mobile content. Delivering mobile search traffic to pages is just the beginning with effective mobile marketing. Make sure the content users are interacting with resonates and inspires desired outcomes. Achieving mobile content effectiveness draws on content marketing best practices by knowing customers, their pain points and interests, keywords and social topics. Then apply that insight to your mobile content strategy. There are numerous mobile marketing case studies to draw ideas from to see what’s worked.
Mobile Site Map – Websites that serve only mobile content can provide Google with an XML sitemap. Non mobile URLs should not be included, but URLs that return both mobile and non-mobile content can be included.
Mobile Filters in Google Analytics - On mobile analytics, Lori Ulloa says, “You can use Google Analytics to track your mobile visitors without creating a separate, filtered profile. You can get info such as those coming from mobile operating systems, mobile devices and even mobile carriers. If you do decide that an app is the right way to go, the Google Analytics for Mobile Apps SDKs make it easy for you to implement Google Analytics in your mobile apps.”
However, if you do want to use filters to extract mobile data (arguably to see if you have a mobile audience in the first place) then Google Analytics offers options in both standard and beta. Filters will inform you how much of your organic traffic is coming from mobile, how they interact with your content and if they’re converting.
By 2012 mobile searches will account for 25% of global searches (Google Smartphone User Study). Consumer use of smart phones and tablets has skyrocketed and in keeping with best practices for changing customer information discovery, consumption and sharing needs, mobile marketing warrants serious consideration by companies of all sizes, industries and locations.
You’ve read my take on determining where to allocate search marketing resources before: If it can be searched, it can be optimized. That certainly means mobile search as much as it does search on the web. The question is, how and when your business will approach mobile marketing and more specifically, mobile SEO?
The “Smart Mobile Marketing” session was a panel discussion, moderated by TopRank CEO Lee Odden. To begin the discussion, Lee opened with a question for the room of 80+, “How many people in the room have developed a mobile version of a site?” 3-4 hands slowly raise. And with that, the stage is set: There is a lot of learning to do surrounding mobile marketing.
The session panel consisted of 2 leaders and veterans of the mobile marketing industry, Deborah Hall and Michael J. O’Farrell.
Hall founded web2mobile 3 years ago, frustrated with the user experience when trying to access a site via a smart phone. One of the greatest challenges she noticed was the upload speed, or lack thereof, of sites.
Here are some interesting stats Hall shared regarding when users access their mobile device:
- 80% while shopping in stores
- 17% during movies
- 14% while on a plane
- 7% while in church
Maybe most interesting to mobile marketers, 17% of users have showed a store clerk an image of the product they wish to purchase! This stat is indicative of many of the fringe benefits mobile marketing offers brands. Although these 17% of users didn’t transact via their mobile device, they certainly were informed and aspired through mobile marketing.
To inspire the audience, Hall pointed out a few companies that are emerging as leaders in leveraging mobile technology and highlighted GetGlue. For those new to GetGlue, it is a social network for entertainment where users can check into locations as well as check into “things” (e.g. wine, Will Ferell movies, chess, etc.). The end result is a network where people can theoretically find people in close proximity with similar interests.
Michael J. O’Farell
O’Farrell’s professional experience with mobile predates text messaging and he is the founder of The Mobile Institute – a company that helps clients develop strategies for the mobile marketplace.
During his presentation he, similar to Hall, shared many compelling stats about the growth of mobile marketing. As the session opened for QA, O’Farrell and a crowd member pointed out an interesting benefit to mobile marketing revealed by data collected by Google on search habits: mobile use doesn’t dip. Unlike desktop search, where use on weekends, holidays and evenings drop significantly. That’s simply not the case with mobile, where users are consistent and unrelenting in their activity. These images tell the tale.
As the session continued, the next question needed to be asked. With a timid crowd, Lee thankfully stepped to the plate and asked “What are some tips for the audience on how they can get started?” Both O’Farrell and Hall agreed that the first step is research.
Google Analytics provides data on mobile traffic. Marketers should leverage these numbers to form a picture of their current mobile audience and prioritize their efforts accordingly. That is to say, a company with 3 visitors from mobile devices is not likely to invest the same resources into mobile as a company that has 30,000 mobile visitors.
The next step is understanding how your audience uses mobile. Google Analytics provides data on what Operating Systems (OS) visitors use. This is important and should have a big role in your mobile marketing approach, as different OS’s will require different specs for a mobile site.
Finally, get out there and try. O’Farell and Hall recommend a phased approach where marketers can dip their toes in the water by testing different mobile strategies. There will undoubtedly be some misses at the outset of any mobile marketing effort, but as mobile use continues to grow, there is no denying that it is time take the leap.
Canada is following the United States in adopting smart phones, with 50% of the Canadian population expected to own a smart phone in 2014 (55% is expected in the US).
To learn more, check out these top mobile marketing resources.
QR codes are getting quite a bit of buzz lately and as a self-professed marketing nerd, I find them to be a clever way to connect mobile consumers with online digital content. There have been some pretty creative implementations of QR codes for promotions and mobile marketing too. You can put them anywhere printing is possible and even places it’s not.
But as creative and interesting QR codes are, I’m a bit skeptical in terms of mass adoption. For some reason, I can’t imagine consumer behavior changing to start scanning codes for things when they could just search or enter a URL. There’s also the technology that needs to be adopted by more devices.
Granted, I was a bit skeptical of Foursquare and Twitter too, but also Google Wave and Second Life.
What do you think?
Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.
Feel free to elaborate why you think QR codes will be a hit or flop with the mass market in the comments below. Let’s see who can change my mind.
Thanks to Matt Dickman for the tweet that inspired this post
If you’ve read predictions about the future of Online Marketing over the past 3-4 years, you’ll undoubtedly find “mobile” mentioned in each one. For example: Mobile ecommerce is predicted to increase 65% annually through 2015.
With smart phone sales to pass personal computers, the smart phone race between AT&T and Verizon iPhones, Droid powered phones and everyone else, the impact of mobile devices on our daily lives has elevated to unprecedented levels. 2011 may finally prove to be a breakout year for mobile marketing and mobile commerce.
Mobile phone usage goes far beyond making calls and texts. There’s been significant increases in mobile social networking activity, the use of mobile phones to send email and other social/geo apps like Foursquare. It’s a compelling task to stay on top of mobile marketing / advertising opportunities, so here are 5 mobile marketing resources that will help keep you up to speed:
Mobile Marketer – Let by Editor in Chief Mickey Alam Khan and a great team including Giselle Tsirulnik and Dan Butcher, this publication covers 360 degrees of mobile marketing and commerce.
Another useful mobile marketing news site is Mobile Marketing Watch, which offers a variety of news on the mobile space and is a great example of content marketing from it’s owner, mobileStorm.
Mobile Marketing Association – The MMA is a global organization headquartered in New York with over 700 members and a charter to promote, educate, measure, guide and protect the mobile marketing industry worldwide.
The MMA also hosts 5 global forum events each year called the MMAF (Mobile Marketing Association Forum) in Singapore, New York, Sao Paulo, London and Los Angeles.
Google Mobile Ads Blog – With the acquisition of AdMob, Google’s mobile advertising resources have expanded significantly and this blog provides great insights into the world of mobile advertising. Also check out the companion Google Mobile Blog.
Another hand mobile advertising blog worth checking out comes from the folks at Mobivity.
The Marqui blog recently curated a nice collection of PowerPoint decks on Mobile Marketing like the one above covering future trends and innovation in mobile marketing and advertising.
Also check out DMA Retail Roadmap to Mobile Marketing – a presentation by Joel Morrow of Mobile Fusion giving numerous case studies and best practices for retail mobile marketing.
Finally, here is “the book” on Mobile Marketing, written by Cindy Krum. “Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are“. Getting this book is a no-brainer if you want a great foundation for mobile marketing as part of your online marketing mix.
There are many other resources including research reports, but few of value are available without requiring registration, so we can’t link to them directly. What are your favorite newsletters, blogs, events/conferences and resources for mobile marketing and advertising? Would you like Online Marketing Blog to cover more mobile marketing topics, tips, interviews and best practices?