As mobile search continues to grow at a rapid pace, we cannot miss the opportunity to become better mobile search practitioners.
When I think of the current state of mobile search practices, my mind flashes to dog racing. I'm not particularly a fan, but the image of those dogs chasing a mechanical rabbit reminds me of the current state of mobile search. Right now, the mobile consumer is the rabbit and marketers and technologists are the dogs - everyone's moving quickly and trying to keep up the pace.
Mobile purchases are expected to outpace desktop purchases in the near future. Juniper Research estimated that annual retail payments on mobile handsets and tablets should reach $707 billion by 2018. Yet, according to Uberflip, only 25 percent of brands have a mobile strategy. If mobile marketing is the coming supernova it's expected to be, why aren't more enterprises first-movers in the mobile space?
Fifty-five percent of all time spent with online retail in June 2013 occurred on a mobile device. Add to that comScore's assertion that just more than 50 percent of time spent engaging with websites is being done on a mobile device, and you can see that paid, organic, and site optimization for mobile are paramount to global search success.
With thanks to mobiThinking.com, here are some additional data points regarding mobile behavior, specifically mobile search behavior:
To further push the notion that mobile search needs our full attention, Yahoo and Kenshoo partnered to survey 350 global marketers about their mobile marketing practices earlier this year. They revealed a stark reminder that multiscreen behavior is being driven by a negative impression of the mobile experience.
This is the first reason there aren't more first-movers. Marketers have been lagging when it comes to taking ownership over their mobile presence. As the BIA/Kelsey report showed, more than half of all mobile shoppers are low-funnel, high-intent buyers while searching. But if they arrive on a search result, landing page, or site not optimized for mobile use - click, they're gone. Solutions such as responsive Web design should make it easy to deploy mobile. So, where are we failing our mobile search audience? Part of the disconnect lies with search optimization practices.
While many brands recognize the need for mobile optimization, adoption drop-off remains high because of a lack of cohesive, device-driven, activity-based strategies. Here are some of the more prominent issues facing mobile optimization neophytes.
The second reason there aren't more first-movers into the mobile marketing space is the Hummingbird-spawned move to semantic search.
The evolution of semantic search poses the same challenges for mobile as it does for desktop. But mobile searchers are typically more oriented to navigational searches than research searches. In other words, they are using search to retrieve actionable information, such as a store location or product price, rather than attempting to explore any resource for information about an unknown. Therefore, the contextual attributes that exist for mobile semantic search are more likely to be structured around factors like geo-location and prior browsing activity.
Remember, we want to develop content that meets the two readability standards: those of the user and spider. The user is looking for action, while the spider is looking for relevance. Just as with desktop, Hummingbird has moved mobile optimization to a contextual approach. So metadata, page content, site structure, etc. that are built around conversational queries will tend to have better visibility and higher engagement.
For example, site pages filled with action-driving copy like "protect your skin" and "limit sun exposure" on clickable content within a skin care mobile site provides context for search engines and engagement for visitors.
Semantic search will drive localized SERPs. This, in turn, drives the need for sharper location-based optimization, which serves a more personalized experience that meets the local consumer on their terms, using their devices to shop locally.
On-page elements enable the user experience. Effective element attribution can lower the historically high abandonment rates by mobile users. Rendering instructions deploy page design elements, such as font size and color, background, white space, and other on-page characteristics. Mobile users seek a formatted page that fully displays on the horizontal axis and has robust functionality. Page rendering should quickly adapt to mobile access. Load speed is incredibly important, so is element positioning. Clean design attributes like simple navigation, concise copy, and lean imagery help drive mobile engagement. "Heavy" content such as video feeds must quickly orient, load, and stream seamlessly.
Mobile searchers look for different content cues on devices. Buttons, sliders, and image links move traffic on a smartphone. (Beware, the same doesn't hold true for feature phones.) HTML5-designed mobile sites rely heavily on CSS3 to deliver unique page views across smartphones, feature phones, tablets, and phablets. But you don't have to be immersed in code to optimize for mobile deployment. Best-in-breed tools like Adobe's Muse CC makes it easy for Web design neophytes to create a mobile site without code.
When it comes to page design, you should consider that searchers may use multiple devices for one purpose. For example, a person searching for a new vehicle on his smartphone during a lunch break may wish to return to a page on the home desktop after work. Chrome's multi-device features make this easy. Responsive design (or dedicated mobile sites) allows you to deliver the appropriate page layout for each device. Optimizing for multi-device search flow enables a better user experience with your brand.
Google has shown us that social activity, while not an official ranking factor yet, is a signal that must be accounted for in the mobile space. Semantic search optimization is important in your social campaigns as well. Social activity that is optimized for mobile viewing gets more engagement, leading to higher visibility through indexing relevancy. (Hint: video, apps, images, and links that connect followers to other mobile-centric content is typically more effective when it comes to mobile ranking.)
Within the desktop environment, search has long been the primary conduit providing a path for our brands to reach consumers. The time where we must put emphasis on our mobile search marketing practices is here. The mobile generation has sprouted quickly and is demanding. We've got to adapt to the change that this movement has thrust upon us.
So, focus on consumer intent, location, device, and time of day when we develop search campaigns. Create a search optimization strategy that continues to serve the spiders but enables end-user consumption through a variety of formats, for a variety of purposes, and in a variety of settings. As mobile search grows to its expected levels, we cannot miss the opportunity to become better mobile search practitioners.
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Dave Lloyd is Senior Manager of Global Search Marketing at Adobe Systems where he leads a global team delivering organic and site search strategy and aligns closely with all other digital and media channels. As part of the Global Demand Generation organization, his team uses the Adobe Marketing Cloud to deliver on KPI-driven results including worldwide subscriptions, trials, sales leads, and revenue-based metrics. In his prior role at Cisco, he oversaw global SEO strategy for all products. He is Google-certified, with 14 years in digital marketing, and a Business degree from U.C. Davis. He's spoken at AdTech, SMX, Adobe Summit, BrightEdge Share, and DMA events.
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