Several U.S. companies test mobile search offerings that raise the possibility of search marketing applications.
New mobile search offerings being tested hint at a possible expansion of the lucrative search market to include wireless devices. A number of companies, including YellowPages.com, LexisNexis and SearchGuy.com, this week began deploying mobile search services that aim to improve content searching on wireless handhelds.
YellowPages.com said its entire directory of business listings will be made available on AT&T Wireless' mMode service. mMode subscribers will be able to search for local businesses in a manner similar to that used to search online. YellowPages.com reports 7 million unique users and 14 million individual searches per month.
SearchGuy.com, meanwhile, has rolled out a new search technology intended to integrate with numerous carriers at once. Called SearchGuy Mobile, the technology will let mobile subscribers browse the Web from Web-enabled phones, Palm Pilots and Blackberry devices.
The technology works by converting the content of ordinary Web sites to a simplified format that's easily readable on the tiny screens native to most wireless devices. The service is now in beta and being tested across several wireless operators in the U.S. and abroad, SearchGuy.com said. The company reported initial search result times "exceeded expectations and the overall response for the technology has been positive."
"SearchGuy Mobile will be especially important for business travelers and the high percentage of young cell phone users of the world," said Leonard Ratchinsky, CEO of SearchGuy.com.
Additionally, LexisNexis has entered the second phase of a partnership with Research In Motion (RIM) to provide its results to customers who use RIM's BlackBerry devices. Business subscribers can now use their devices to search approximately 14,000 information sources available through LexisNexis' online service.
Back in April, the paid provider of legal and business news began offering BlackBerry users access to current news on predefined topics of interest.
"We've created a simplified LexisNexis search that is easy and convenient to use on BlackBerry handhelds," said Elizabeth Rector, senior VP of LexisNexis' corporate and federal markets. "Understanding the difference between a customer's needs while using BlackBerry and their needs when using PCs is critical to helping them do business anywhere."
Some wireless search services have already found traction in Europe, Asia, and to a lesser extent the U.S. Last month, Siemens launched a mobile search function that's designed to work with numerous wireless Web standards. It's already being used by numerous carriers across Europe, the company said.
Google, meanwhile, offers a mobile version of its Web search and is testing a version of its Froogle shopping search tool for the wireless medium.
And Fast Search & Transfer, a developer of Internet search, has inked deals with numerous overseas carriers to deploy its FAST Mobile Search technology, which indexes wireless Internet sites using a method resembling traditional search.
In a lighter example from the U.K., a premium service called "Any Question Answered" promises to provide information to wireless subscribers using human search teams.
It's not clear what role there may be for sponsored search in the mobile arena. The small size of screens on mobile phones and PDAs limits the real estate available to display search results, and therefore user tolerance for paid listings on a results page may be very low. However, in the event that handset searching becomes widespread, optimization of Web sites for mobile searches could easily become a hot service offering.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.
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