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Mobile search represents an enormous opportunity for marketers: 6 million consumers have smartphones according to Nielsen Online, and that number is growing.

Mobile search represents an enormous opportunity for marketers: 6 million consumers have smartphones according to Nielsen Online, and that number is growing.

In January’s newsletter, we discussed 3 online marketing trends from 2009 that are shaping 2010, one being the mobile web (and the other two being real-time search and social media). We pointed to predictions of mobile devices outnumbering computers by 3 to 1 in the year 2012 and the mobile advertising industry reaching $3.3 billion by 2013, and recommended building a mobile version of one’s site – but what about advertising?

As the number of users accessing the web via mobile devices grows, so do the number of advertisers vying for their interest. While the long-term potential of mobile advertising remains to be seen, marketers are realizing mobile can be leveraged not only to drive mobile site traffic but also, foot traffic, purchase decisions, brand awareness, and word-of-mouth. Likewise, the nature of mobile search existing primarily as a means to locate actionable data in real-time suggests an attractive potential for ROI higher than that of online search.

Couple these factors with massive growth expected in the smart phone sector and Kelsey Group predicts mobile search will account for an impressive 73% of all mobile spend by 2013.

Still, despite such momentum, the mobile advertising industry is young, and with a venue so new, it can be difficult to identify where to start. While a variety of mobile advertising tactics are available, including SMS messaging and display, the proven return of paid search makes it a sensible choice for marketers allocating their first mobile spend.

Before jumping on the mobile bandwagon, it is important to realize mobile search is unique. In turn, we’ve identified 3 ways mobile differs from online search. Once these factors are understood, it becomes easier to prioritize mobile in an increasingly complex and integrated marketing mix.

1 – Mobile search is time-bound and goal-oriented

Consumers on-the-go have less time and more urgency to click; mobile search ads should reflect this with nimble, action-oriented messaging.

Consumers on-the-go have less time and more urgency to click; mobile search ads should reflect this with nimble, action-oriented messaging.

One reason paid search works so well for marketers is because consumers searching for products and services are likely inclined to buy, but consumers performing searches from a mobile device have a sense of urgency online users do not.

The sheer act of performing a web search from a mobile device suggests an instant need and a strong intent to act. Not only are mobile queries shorter and more general than their online counterparts, they are dominated by searches for local businesses, news, reviews, scores and stock prices, and the results of these queries can be tied to specific, immediate, and revenue-generating actions such as visiting a restaurant or making a purchase.

All of this bodes well for marketers. There is huge potential to capitalize on the unique qualities of mobile search, as long as campaigns are tailored with the mobile consumer in mind: this means mobile-minded keyword lists, action-oriented messaging, landing pages designed for smaller screens, and sales funnels customized for speed..

2 – Mobile search offers unique targeting and personalization capabilities

Online search is prized for its ability to target consumers and eliminate wasted spend. In addition to targeting by demographic and geographic information, mobile search takes targeting further by allowing advertisers to target based on behavioral as well as technographic information.

Allowing advertisers to target based on mobile behavior, which is naturally different than online behavior, provides new data which can be used to optimize campaigns. Likewise, the capacity to target specific mobile devices and carriers opens up a new world of possibility for marketers who can now study user demographics for carriers and phones and target ads based on which demographic pools most match their own.

Mobile search offers technographic targeting, or the ability to target specific devices, like the iPhone, and carriers, like AT&T.

Mobile search offers technographic targeting, or the ability to target specific devices, like the iPhone, and carriers, like AT&T.

These targeting capabilities are not universal across mobile ad networks nor are behavioral and demographic targeting unique to mobile search. However, the ability to advertise to iPhone instead of Blackberry users or target consumers with a specific behavioral mobile history gives marketers valuable new information which can be leveraged to improve ROI dramatically.

3 – Mobile search offers better performance relative to online search

Likely due to the urgency-related factors and targeting capabilities discussed above, studies show mobile offers more favorable results than online search. In fact, a white paper published by the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) found mobile click-through rates averaged between 5% and 15%, while online click-through rates averaged only 2%.

By the same token, a recent study published by digital research firm InsightExpress reports mobile web users display greater purchase intent. Specifically, mobile users displayed 8 times more retail intent and 4 times more travel purchase intent, pointing to an increased likelihood of conversions.

The stats on mobile search performance are clearly impressive; however, in no way are they intended to paint online search as ineffective – we know quite the opposite is true. Moreover, while any current statistic on mobile performance must be taken with a grain of salt due the limited number of mobile compared to online users, higher click-through rates and purchase intent supports the notion of mobile users as action-oriented and mobile search as having the ability to offer marketers unmatched results.

We hope this broadens your understanding of mobile search. For more information on mobile search or help integrating mobile into your online search campaign, please contact sales@wpromote.com.


8 thoughts on “Understanding Mobile Search: 3 Reasons Mobile Is Different
  1. Levi says:

    Nice – makes sense… with a smaller amt of screen real estate and users being more goal oriented, search is definitely poised to grow the most. now if i could just figure out what i want to replace my old blackberry with!

    1. Thanks! I say go Samsung. Unless you want an iPhone!

  2. My question is what will become of mobile advertising once Google eradicates the phone companies? Don’t think it’s possible? You’re nuts. Google phone + Google voice + Skype and you’re more than halfway there. Now, Google is moving into providing way, way better fiber optic Internet access (also phone company domain) and will likely attack them in other areas where they are vulnerable.

    We may hate AT&T and Verizon but at least they keep each other in check. What’s going to happen when Google crushes them both? Stay tuned!

    1. Haha, ok Perez, now you may be taking it a bit too far. Are we saying Google would provide everyone’s cellular service? The feds wouldn’t allow that…would they?

  3. John Vantine says:

    The idea of that happening seems kind of ridiculous to me right now, but if Google were to eventually provide cell phone service, I feel that it would unveiled in such a way that people wouldn’t really be suspicious of it.

  4. mike stone says:

    I am pumped on click to call from mobile landing pages! Totally off topic, but i cant hide my excitement any longer!!!!

  5. Dan says:

    Mobile websites are so much easier and quicker to load on the phone than normal landing pages. I tend to skip right past non-mobile landing pages now.

  6. Jonathan "Goldeneye" Fischer says:

    It’s all about proximity mines….I mean proximity mobile coupon advertising! If I walk past your store and you beam me a sweet coupon will I enter? You know I can’t pass up awesome deals on womens cross trainers. Well, there may be some small kinks to work out just yet…

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