The continuing rise in worldwide mobile device usage has pushed mobile SEO to the forefront of marketers’ attention. This is especially true for local businesses, which benefit greatly from search results on smartphones due to the location influence of local search results. Nearly half of mobile phone owners use their device to look for local information, according to a new report from the Local Search Association.
Traditional and mobile SEO can’t continue to work as separate marketing initiatives. They must become synonymous.
According to the venture capital firm KPCB, there are more than 244 million Internet users in the United States and 358 million mobile device subscribers, 48% of which have smartphones. ComScore reports that 52.1% of U.S. mobile phone users access a browser on their device. This equates to 187 million U.S. mobile browser users.
Does this mean marketers need to shift all of their attention to mobile search? Not yet. But the trend indicates a definite shift in the devices people use for search. And that will have a significant impact on how digital marketers engage, acquire, and retain customers for years to come.
The rate of increase of mobile Internet users illustrates the need for marketers to stop thinking about traditional and mobile SEO as two distinct programs. Marketers need to start developing strategies to merge traditional and mobile SEO into a single multichannel marketing process that is device and platform agnostic.
The merger: Traditional SEO meets mobile
The rapid rise in consumer mobile phone use for local search and e-commerce necessitates an equally robust shift in a brand’s search strategy. Marketers need to cater their search and SEO campaigns to consumer interests and habits, regardless of the device used.
Mobile can no longer be thought of as a separate search component. Running a comprehensive search and SEO strategy that targets users on all devices opens up many customer acquisition opportunities for brands. Here’s a look at three such opportunities worth considering:
1. Ranking for mobile-specific searches. As more consumers switch from desktop browsing to local mobile search, there is a big opportunity for brands to launch paid and organic search campaigns aimed at mobile devices. Digital marketing on mobile devices remains less competitive than traditional desktop marketing, which makes mobile SEO-specific campaigns a low-hanging fruit.
2. Use Google’s mobile-specific search content index. Google has a separate index of content for mobile search than it does for its traditional search product. The results on a mobile device can be much different than those on a desktop for a given search query. One of the key differences in how Google selects its results on mobile is whether a webpage is user-friendly on a mobile device. A website that is not optimized for mobile will often provide a poor user experience on mobile devices. In those cases, Google will likely rank a more mobile-friendly page higher on the list of results.
3. Tap into local. Search results on a mobile device are more geocentric than desktop-based search results. Google recognizes that mobile users are on the go and are often searching for something close to them. Local businesses should have a mobile-friendly website, as well as optimized pages in each of the major local search engines, such as Google+ (formerly Google Places), Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, etc.
The Web is becoming more mobile. Marketers must realize and embrace blended desktop and mobile search and SEO campaigns to remain competitive. The mobile SEO era is now upon us.
How is your brand adapting its search strategy to take advantage of mobile-specific SEO opportunities?
Marc Purtell is director of SEO at performance marketing agency MediaWhiz (a Matomy Media Group company) and its SEO ingredient service, TLA.