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Effective Use of Search-based Mobile Marketing

The most valuable uses for search-based mobile marketing occur whenever time or geographic constraints affect a pending decision or activity, such as hotels, tourist destinations, restaurants, entertainment, movie schedules, sporting events, traffic alerts, transportation schedules, driving directions, gas stations, appointment reminders, or shopping.

If your business is in one of these market sectors, SEO is critical for success. Even more essential now are the tasks of optimizing your site for search results and submitting it to city directories, mapping sites, and local services such as Local Yahoo! and Google Places.

If your business targets younger, local customers, also consider participating in one or more of the geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla.

On text-enabled feature phones, callers enter a text query by using a keyword and a zip code or address, such as Chinese food 47110. They send their message to a special, six-digit number — for example, 466453 for Google. In response, the caller receives a text message with a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers for Chinese restaurants in that zip code.

For users of browser-enabled smartphones (77 percent of whom use search engines), searching is almost identical to the desktop-based search process except that fewer results appear on the (obviously) smaller phone displays before users need to scroll.

In the following illustration, a mobile search query for the word pizza on Yahoo! appears on the left, with one result; additional results appear after tapping to open the next screen, as shown in the middle. Note the paid ad below the Search box on the left. The phone shown on the right side displays typical results for local search on Google Places.

[Credit: Left and center images reproduced with permission of Yahoo! Inc. © 2011 Yahoo! Inc. Y
Credit: Left and center images reproduced with permission of Yahoo! Inc. © 2011 Yahoo! Inc. YAHOO! and the YAHOO! logo are registered trademarks of Yahoo! Inc. Right image courtesy of Google, Inc.

A search on a mobile device produces listings almost identical to a search on a desktop computer, with two exceptions: The major search engines usually exclude real-time social results on mobile devices, and the sequence of search results may vary somewhat. Unfortunately, the variation may be enough to affect your visibility significantly.

You don’t need a special mobile site to be found in mobile searches. However, a site designed for mobile devices ensures that your site is mobile-search-friendly and helps a user who clicks your link.

Because 95 percent of smartphone users have searched for local information, try these changes when optimizing to improve your results:

  • Prioritize location-based products and services in your search term selection.

  • Include familiar locations in search terms, perhaps even at the neighborhood or zip code level, such as nob hill coffee.

  • Include a phone number in your page description tag to benefit from click-to-call capabilities; 77 percent of smartphone users contact a business within a day of conducting a search, 61 percent visit, and 59 percent call, as noted in a recent study.

  • Submit to all location-based services such as Google Places and Local Yahoo! and local directories.

  • Be sure that the title tag and page description fit within the constraints of mobile search results without using line breaks.

  • If you offer apps or music or other types of downloadable content, be sure to include the words download or app in your search phrases; this strategy usually spurs Android Market or iTunes results.

  • Create a mobile-friendly version of your site. Be sure that your street address is on your site.

  • Optimize individual product detail pages, because many smartphone users take advantage of their phones to comparison-shop for prices, features, and items in stock.

Bounce rates and click-through rates may vary between desktop and smartphone search results. Review the results separately in your analytics.

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