Google, Yahoo offer more mobile search opportunities

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Yahoo and Google began a battle for mobile dominance this month, giving marketers additional opportunities in this growing channel.

According to a 2006 AP-AOL-Pew Research Center mobile lifestyle survey, mobile devices now outnumber personal computers 12 to 1 worldwide. It found that the United States has nearly 200 million cell phone users and 31 percent of cell phone users surveyed said they used mobile search or wished to do so with their next mobile device.

The battle begins

The battle for mobile dominance went global in the beginning of February, with Yahoo's announcement of Go for Mobile 2.0 and new distribution agreements with Research in Motion, Nokia, Sony, Samsung, 3 Group and Opera Software. In addition, LG Electronics signed a deal with Yahoo last week.

Also this month Samsung and Google Inc. reached a deal to give mobile users access to Google products and services directly from their Samsung mobile phones.

Google also released its Google Maps service for mobile on U.S. Windows Mobile devices, enabling users to view interactive maps and satellite imagery, find local businesses, get driving directions and view live traffic updates.

A company spokesperson said the launch demonstrated Google's strategy to provide as many people as possible with access to information they need.

The spokesperson also said that the move was part of the company's wider focus to make all mobile devices more convenient and to provide dependable tools for accessing information from anywhere.

In addition to search engine platforms for mobile devices, Yahoo and Google offer a short message service linked with search keywords, letting marketers use text messaging to reach searchers with targeted offers directly.

On Feb. 12, Yahoo launched its mobile display-advertising platform on the company's Mobile Web service at m.yahoo.com in 19 countries, enabling advertisers to reach consumers via cell phone.

The company announced that advertisers including Intel, Nissan, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble Asia-Pacific and Singapore Airlines will launch campaigns on this platform. The ads will run near the top of the Yahoo Mobile Web home page.

Mobile opportunities

"As mobile devices grow more sophisticated and users get accustomed to their phone being more than just a phone, marketers that don't want to get left in the dust will have to optimize and advertise for mobile," said Deepa Maran, group manager of technical services at Digital Brand Expression, Princeton, NJ.

According to a study done by Mobile Marketing Association, awareness of mobile search is growing among U.S. consumers, creating powerful new opportunities for brands and agencies, Ms. Maran said.

She said that marketers should use XHTML code for Web sites and ensure that content is accessible to mobile users and mobile search engines. Marketers can submit their site to major mobile search engines such as Google sitemaps and Yahoo Mobile Sit Summit for quick spider crawling.

Yahoo creates a mobile landing page for a marketer's ad while Google provides a click-to-call feature.

"The Internet has become the primary medium for marketing and advertising," said Steve Koskie, CEO of mobile marketing technology firm iLoop Mobile, San Jose, CA. "This is, thanks in a large part, due to the efforts of organizations such as Yahoo and Google."

"As technologies like SMS text messaging become ubiquitous, mobile marketing and content distribution are spurring a global, mobile communications revolution," said Mr. Koskie. "The essential 'next step' for the growth of the mobile marketing industry is to reduce the number of partners necessary for brands to reach consumer devices. In some cases, organizations must partner with up to five separate companies in order to get their mobile message out."

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