Pinpointing mobile search

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More than ever, consumers turn to smartphones to find information on products and services
More than ever, consumers turn to smartphones to find information on products and services

Some online purchases are too complex for mobile. Jason Tabeling, associate partner of search and social media at marketing agency Rosetta, gives the example of a banking client that conducts student lending and mortgages hesitant to embrace mobile SEM efforts. “They have 10-page-long applications — no one is going to fill that out on mobile,” he says.

In these situations, Tabeling believes that the marketer should find other ways to generate conversions, such as offering a click-to-call option where the application can be filled out over the phone. Working with a mutual insurance client that decided not to create an app to offer online quotes, he advised them to drive users to a simple mobile landing page with a photo of an agent and a number they could click to call.

“They know their conversion rate is higher via phone than online — why not let someone call when they have a phone in their hand?” Tabeling says. “The mental model is there, and they've supported it without having to build a complete mobile site.” Tabeling says.

State Farm similarly integrates the voice channel within its mobile SEM strategy. The insurance provider simplifies its mobile presence, while promoting its click-to-call extension to direct users to one of the company's 18,000 agents.

“Every month we see calls going up and up, and [have] seen calls more than double year-over-year — part of that's just a function of the growth of consumer usage of mobile, but we would've bought more calls if we could get them,” explains Matt Johnson, digital media manager at State Farm. “The mobile device is supposed to be simple, it has its limits.”

Fully focused on mobile

As mobile search explodes, brands and agencies have shifted it from an afterthought to a central plank in their marketing strategies. While every plan Rosetta develops somehow incorporates mobile, within the last year, the agency has established two taskforces of up to five members dedicated to search, one team working on paid search, the other on organic search. The two groups meet weekly.

This coordinated effort around mobile search is something Tabeling says would not have been considered a year earlier.

Kraham believes that the companies at the forefront of mobile search are able to do so by having a dedicated person specifically focused on mobile.

“It's not a percent of time for someone in the marketing department, it's a true core function, and they should be going at it aggressively,” Kraham says. “The companies that are winning are investing more of their resources, whether the marketing budget is increasing, or they're building landing pages or beefing up analytics spend, so there is more time on mobile — just as they would have a sound digital strategy with multiple components of the organization focused on that.”

Much more work needs to be done in what Kraham calls “closing the loop” from initial search to final sale. Google Wallet has helped simplify and track the payment process, but he believes more solutions will roll out in the near future.

Challenges remain

Tracking and metrics remain big challenges in mobile SEM. Measurement and reporting options have not advanced in mobile as much as they have in other areas of traditional search marketing, which means the marketing team is often required to fill in the blanks about where it is getting a return on investment.

Ultimately, this inability to provide as comprehensive a picture as brands would ideally like means mobile SEM solutions are largely experimental deployments.

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