Mobile Search Has a Second Coming

Mobile search is among the fastest growing uses of the mobile Web. According to comScore, “the number of people using their mobile device to access news and information on the Internet more than doubled from January 2008 to January 2009.” And a recent ABI Research study finds that 70 percent of respondents reported using their mobile phones to conduct search queries. This reflects a 14 percent increase from 2007 to 2008. ABI also notes that “the jump in mobile search use is nearly double that of respondents who said they accessed mobile Web sites generally.” Now that’s substantial.

But how many people regularly use mobile search? According to comScore, 35 percent of cell phone users now access the mobile Internet daily. This represents a 107 percent increase from 2008 to 2009.

Accessed News and Information by Frequency of Access, Three-Month Average Ending January 2008 and January 2009
Frequency of Mobile Internet Access Unique Users, January 2008 (000) Unique Users, January 2009 (000) Change (%)
Daily 10,821 22,369 107
Weekly 10,312 19,283 87
Ever in the month 36,870 63,182 71
Note: News and information do not include social networking.
Source: comScore, 2009

Mobile Web Usage Factors

Mobile Internet usage continues to grow due to many factors. An obvious one is continual improvements in technology and user experience, including data transfer speeds, screen sizes, and accessibility. Even with an older BlackBerry — which isn’t necessarily optimal for Web browsing — I’m often googling to find quick information, like a phone number, a restaurant, or a statistic.

Another factor poised to dramatically increase mobile search’s prevalence is that Google will now offer the full AdSense platform on mobile devices. As the official Google Mobile Blog states, “AdSense for mobile search is a quick and easy way for carriers and mobile publishers to embed a Google search box on their mobile portals and Web sites.” Basically, it’s a cobranded partnership in that both parties (Google and the mobile network or site owner) can receive ad revenue when searches are conducted on the participant’s site. Mobile carriers and publishers will no doubt quickly jump on this bandwagon, and as more sites offer Google search technology, mobile search engine usage is poised for unprecedented growth.

The Year of Mobile

Many industry veterans are touting 2009 as the year of mobile. Though this may have been said in 2006, 2007, and 2008, I think they may just be right this time. Considering all the factors cited earlier, mobile search may finally be ready to make significant inroads into becoming an essential daily activity for the majority of us. In 5 or 10 years, we’ll probably all be questioning how we ever lived without it. So if this is truly the year of mobile, what does that mean for search marketers?

Jumping on the Mobile Bandwagon

If you don’t yet have a mobile version of your Web site (dotMobi), you might want to consider creating one. Nothing pains me more than navigating to a site on my handheld then endlessly scrolling past headers, navigation, and images to actually get to the good stuff: the text.

To easily get your site into optimal mobile shape, dotMobi offers a service to “adapt an existing Web site into a mobile-friendly version.” Try out the “Test Your Site” feature to see a preview of your site in mobile mode. But be warned: some sites, such as those built entirely in Flash, won’t generate a preview.

On the flip side, there’s much discussion about whether .mobi sites are even applicable anymore, given the proliferation of the iPhone and other smartphones, which enable easy navigation of fully functional HTML sites. After all, you don’t necessarily need a .mobi site for your Web site to be accessed by mobile browsers.

If you do elect to create a mobile version of your site, the first step is selecting and securing your domain name. Even if you’re not yet ready to proceed with a mobile site, you might want to snag your domain before someone else does.

At minimum, you should take steps to make sure your site is compliant with W3C standards for mobile. This will ensure your users have the best possible experience accessing your site from their mobile devices.

SEO for Mobile Sites

Once you have a mobile-compliant Web site, how do you make sure it’s optimized for mobile search? Most experts agree that if you apply SEO (define) best practices on your regular site, these should more or less translate to the mobile Web. In addition, be sure to comply with mobile best practices.

To wrap up, I’d advise you to check out a couple key articles on the topic that I found interesting and useful:

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