Is your mobile search strategy keeping up with the Joneses?

Today’s marketers are living in challenging times.  We’re living through a consumer tech renaissance where the number of devices that consumers have access to is rivaled only by the litany of experiences marketers are attempting to use those devices to engage people with.  Trying to keep up with consumers whose habits change organically with each new device release can be overwhelming at the best of times.

In the wake of all of this, the smartphone reigns supreme with consumers and through this, the app has become the darling of marketers.  But while an app is an undeniably strong piece of branded real estate in a consumer’s pocket, the mobile phone presents another opportunity to be present for consumers when and where they need you – even when they don’t know they’re looking for you.

Since Google reinvented the search category, now nearly two decades ago, consumers have been – whether they realize it or not – sharing their collective worldview with marketers through their searches.  Now that we’re moving to a mobile world, this insight is becoming even more powerful by allowing for a more timely and contextually relevant delivery of information… and a greater opportunity to convert those marketing dollars to sales dollars.

Of course, it’s sometimes difficult to just start moving around your marketing mix, especially when performance is relatively good.  But the opportunity that mobile search provides is one that’s difficult to ignore.  Consider that Gartner is predicting that by 2013, more people will be accessing the web via mobile than PC, and according to Google, 66% of mobile websites are discovered through a mobile search.  Throw in the fact that according to Microsoft, nearly 70% of location-based mobile searches end in a conversion within an hour, there’s a pretty good argument to take a look at making mobile search a part of your mix.

To begin to evaluate your opportunity in mobile search, consider these steps:

Research

While a painfully obvious first step, research is a necessary part of defining your strategy.  Fortunately, just as with the web we all know so well, mobile web data is highly trackable and there are some great tools out there to help you along. 

  • If you’re simply looking for an overview of your target’s habits on mobile, Google’s Our Mobile Planet Tool is a great resource to allow you to quickly slice, dice and visualize region-specific data.
  • When you’re looking to begin planning for your site, Bing and Google among others have created free keyword tools to help you understand who’s searching for your keywords in the mobile and tablet space and to help you plan your spend.
  • Of course, checking your own domain’s inbound traffic is another critical indicator in understanding the number of consumers who are already finding you on their phones – and in justifying your investment in a mobile website development plan.

Reallocate

The great thing about mobile is it’s no different from the web, where presumably your brand is already playing – in fact, Google and Bing allow you to buy and manage both from the same dashboard.  From that standpoint, you can confidently dip your toes in the pool, knowing it’s easy to move some testing money over to the mobile side to start to see the results on that platform as compared to your other efforts. 

It’s important to separate out these campaigns, and depending on your objectives, consider creating a third segment for tablet, to ensure that you’re truly pinpointing what’s driving your business and motivating your customers.   If you do this, you’re already well ahead of the curve as new data from Wordstream notes that only 5% of companies that advertise in mobile search are making this important distinction. 

If you’re just beginning, it’s wise to look at this segmented mobile spend as an experimental budget and align that experiment to the traffic numbers you’re seeing on your website.  If 20% of your traffic, not an uncommon number these days, is coming from mobile, you’ll want to look at reallocating a somewhat equivalent amount of your search budget for your test.  Smaller traffic would demand smaller tests but in many cases this should be seen as an opportunity to get out ahead of this trend with your audience.

Of course, before you do this, be sure you have a destination to send your consumers that’s optimized for mobile.  While this might seem like a significant investment for a test, for many consumer groups, a mobile presence is simply table stakes.  Consider your site’s current analytics in addition to the fact that a 2012 Google survey found that 55% of consumers noted that a bad mobile experience hurts their perception of the brand overall and 67% of consumers say a mobile-friendly website makes them more likely to buy a product or service.

While it may not be possible to move mountains of budget instantly, know that by beginning to reallocate, you pave the way to evolve your use of mobile search based on how your consumers react.

Refine

Once your campaign results begin to roll in, your paid search providers arm you with the tools to begin to understand where your money is going (and where it’s sending your consumers).  From this, combined with your web analytics, you’ll gain valuable data to inform future decisions in your marketing mix. 

It’s also important to try out new things.  For instance, a 2012 Google survey showed that 61% of consumers want a click to call button for businesses advertising in mobile.  This is just one example of a key driver to look at in order to ensure you’re maximizing your experiment and refining process.

It may turn out that your audience isn’t clamouring to mobile or adopting smartphones as the trend, but you also might be surprised to learn how many opportunities you’re missing by being absent when your consumers are looking for you.

The only true way to find out is to test, learn and then adapt.

***

With so much rapid change in the consumer landscape, having real-time data is critical to keeping up.  With the evidence pointing so strongly to the critical importance of mobile to consumers isn’t it about time you found out how much catch up your brand needs to play?

Andrew Lane

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Tags: Advertising, Digital, Integration, Marketing Budgets, Measurement, Mobile, Search, Strategy

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