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How Mobile changes Search

Maryn Williams - Thursday, December 01, 2011

Mobile internet usage is set to overtake desktop Internet usage by 2014, but more importantly, the way people use their mobile devices is very different. This represents both a huge threat and huge opportunity for Internet marketers and companies willing to be forward thinking.  It is only those that can truly appreciate how the Internet will be consumed via these various new mobile devices that will prosper. Here are just some of the ways Internet (and search) usage is likely to change.

  • Searching by typing. Using a traditional keyboard to enter a search query into Google is usually easier and quicker than doing the same on a mobile device. It is highly likely therefore that users will search for shorter keyword strings on mobile devices, or rely more heavily on tools such as auto correct. This will influence the way sites optimize their content and carry out their link building.
  • Voice search. In contrast to searching by typing, there has been a rise in popularity of using voice search on mobile devices such as Google or Yahoo search apps, or Apple iPhone’s Siri for example. Not only can this make searching quicker and easier, but it also changes what is searched for.  Because people tend to search differently when speaking than typing.  For example, you may type-search “best netbooks”, but voice-search “what are the best netbooks available.” This is likely to influence a site’s keyword targeting.
  • Search by image. Tools such as Google Goggles allow users to very quickly search the Web using images on their phone or photos. Applications of this technology include taking a picture of a book in a store to find the best price, or using the picture of a restaurant front to find customer reviews. Ensuring your content and imagery are optimized for this form of search is likely to become increasingly important.
  • Industry trends. As mobile Internet data shows, usage levels are not necessarily equal across all industries. Travel, for example, is one area where growth in mobile Internet (and search) is increasing at pace, and is therefore likely to be a strong focus for this market moving forwards.
  • Social usage.  91% of mobile Internet access is to socialize, compared to 79% on desktops. If Internet marketers haven’t been listening to the “search turning social” talk of recent years, then they certainly should be now. If they still cannot engage with individuals and groups on a social level they will be missing out on a massive proportion of mobile Internet usage.
  • Location based or Geo-targeting. Not only do a number of apps utilize a geo-location to enhance their functionality, so do search engines to show localized search results. If you hadn’t noticed, mobile devices tend to be used in multiple locations, therefore search results are highly likely to fluctuate more on mobile devices. Making sure your website’s “local” offering is up to scratch should be towards the top of your priority list.
  • Immediacy. At the recent World Travel Market in London, a Google spokesperson revealed stats from ebooker.com saying that 70% of mobile hotel bookings were same-day check in. They also showed stats from easyJet stating 38% of mobile bookings were for flights departing within 10 days, compared to only 13% from desktops. This clearly shows a more immediate-requirement trend in mobile usage, for travel market at least, and this certainly might influence the kinds of content/offers that sites show to their mobile visitors.
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