The year 2000 may have seen the dot-com bubble reach the limits of its inflation, but at that point the Internet marketing industry was really only getting started. Rapid increases in personal computing accessibility and the unstoppable growth of search have, among other things, facilitated a very buoyant market in online promotion via SEO – search engine optimization – and related services.
From the beginning, the various milestones, modifications and perhaps revolutions in Internet marketing stemmed largely from changes and innovations in software. Chat rooms came and went, some search engines got lost, whilst others found their way, and algorithm updates caused disruption and delight in equal measure (it’s a zero-sum game after all). However, while software will undoubtedly continue to impact, it is hardware that is now taking its turn to shake up the industry and potentially change the working landscape for internet marketers and website owners around the world.
Mobile internet usage is set to overtake desktop Internet usage by 2014, and what’s more, the way people use their mobile devices to browse is very different. This represents a colossal threat and concurrent opportunity for Internet marketers, and it is only those that can truly appreciate how the Internet will be consumed via these various new mobile devices that will prosper. Here are just some of the ways Internet (and search) usage is likely to change.
- Using mobiles to type-search. Using a traditional keyboard to enter a search query into Google is usually easier and quicker than doing the same on a mobile device. It is highly likely therefore that users will search for shorter keyword strings on mobile devices, or rely more heavily on tools such as predictive text or Google Suggest. This will likely influence the way sites optimise their content and carry out their link building.
- Voice search. In contrast to the previous point, there has been a rise in popularity of using voice search on mobile devices via Google or Yahoo search apps, or Apple iPhone’s Siri for example. This may make searching quicker and easier, but it should be noted that people tend to search differently when speaking, using more of a conversional sentence structure. For example, you may type-search “best netbooks”, but voice-search “what are the best netbooks available.” This is likely to influence a site’s keyword targeting.
- Search by image. Tools such as Google Goggles allow users to very quickly search the Web using images on their phone or photos taken on the fly. Applications of this technology include taking a picture of a book in a store to find the best price, or using the picture of a restaurant front to find customer reviews. Ensuring your content and imagery are optimised for this form of search is likely to become increasingly important.
- Industry trends. As mobile Internet data shows, uptake levels are not necessarily equal across all industries. Travel, for example, is one area where growth in mobile Internet (and search) is increasing at pace, and is therefore likely to be a strong focus for this market moving forwards.
- Sociability. 91% of mobile Internet access is to socialize, compared to 79% on desktops. If Internet marketers haven’t been listening to the “search turning social” talk of recent years, then they certainly should be now. If they still cannot engage with individuals and groups on a social level they will be missing out on a massive proportion of mobile Internet usage.
- Geo-targeting. As well as a number of apps utilizing a user’s geo-location to enhance their functionality, so too does Google use it to show localized search results. If you hadn’t noticed, mobile devices tend to be used in multiple locations, therefore search results are highly likely to fluctuate more on mobile devices. Making sure your website’s “local” offering is up to scratch should be towards the top of your priority list.
- Immediacy. At the recent World Travel Market in London, a Google spokesperson revealed stats from ebooker.com saying that 70% of mobile hotel bookings were same-day check in. They also showed stats from easyJet stating 38% of mobile bookings were for flights departing within 10 days, compared to only 13% from desktops. This clearly shows a more immediate-requirement trend in mobile usage, for travel market at least, and this certainly might influence the kinds of content/offers that sites show to their mobile visitors.
It is true that the mobile Web is still in its infancy, but given the rate of adoption and innovation in the area, it already deserves a great deal of attention from Internet marketers, regardless of specialism. Ben Wood, mobile phone analyst at CCS Insight said the mobile phone may be “the most prolific consumer device on the planet”. Much like all Internet marketing that has gone before, research, innovation and testing will form the building blocks of a stable and lucrative mobile Web campaign. However, those that cannot see a need to seriously evolve their approach as a result of this shift will struggle.
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