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

According to IBM and many other industry observers, 2012 is shaping up to be the year of mobile. As brands roll out new apps and optimize email and websites for customers using mobile devices, one particularly rich area for growth has been mobile search. But while marketers invest more and more in engaging customers who are seeking products or services through smartphones, many believe mobile search engine marketing (SEM) has much further to go. In areas such as tracking, geolocation and ease-of-use, mobile search appears poised for significant growth.

According to Google, there has been a fivefold growth in mobile search over the last two years. Broken down into specific verticals, it makes up a significant and growing percentage of overall search, with 20% of telecom, 30% of restaurant and 25% of movie searches coming from mobile devices.

While mobile searches can occur on a mobile Web browser or an on-device search application, another crucial component to mobile SEM is ensuring mobile search results direct to a landing page designed for handheld devices. Easy mobile search navigation can make or break a relationship with consumers. Brendon Kraham, team manager of Google's global mobile sales and product strategy groups, points to recent research from Google showing 57% of users won't recommend a business if it has a poorly designed mobile site, while 40% will turn to a competitor's site after having a bad mobile experience. This makes it increasingly vital for marketers to be sure both their organic and paid search advertising is driving users to a mobile-enabled site.

“If you are driving traffic to the desktop version of your site, you are doing a disservice to your customer base,” Kraham says. “Irrespective of all other things that you think about and other tactics, the site is the most critical thing — otherwise it's very hard [for the user] to conduct the business they want to be doing.”

Kraham emphasizes the need to look at the context of how consumers are using their mobile devices to conduct searches. Google sees roughly 95% of mobile users turning to their mobile device to search for local information, and of that, some 61% of mobile users call a business following a search.

Instant gratification

Even with big-ticket purchases, mobile search enables prospects to become buyers with ever-greater speed. Kraham gives the example of hotel bookings, where a growing number of consumers use mobile search and book within 24 hours of their stay, prior to the advent of mobile search, consumers booked weeks in advance.

“[Consumers] want that immediacy and want to be able to do something at the last moment,” Kraham explains. “That's different from what you would do on a desktop,” he adds.

Besides hotel stays, cars are another pricey item that consumers have increasingly been searching for on their phones, and Cars.com has been taking steps to ensure its information is in front of mobile users. In addition to the company's mobile website and  apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, Cars.com also ramped up its SEM for both smartphones and tablets.

These marketing efforts have paid off, with the company reporting an increase in downloads of all of its apps, as well as solid lift in the traffic going to the Cars.com mobile website.

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