Get Ready for the Mobile Search Boom

David Murphy

Netrank Managing Director Lucy Allen explains how to optimise your website for mobile search


Lucy_allen_netrank_md
Mobile search is going to get very big in 2008 as handsets, ad
targeting and peoples confidence in the mobile Internet grows. There
are big opportunities for brands to jump in and dominate their
competitive space while the competition is low. The available space at
the top of search engines is smaller in mobile web; hence the winners
will win big and the losers will not get a look in.
So far, the
features available on mobile phones have been largely driven by fashion
trends and price-bracketing of phones. There has been a Catch-22
situation, with users not hurrying to buy Internet access and providers
not moving to create that demand.
As Googles monopoly over the
web transfers to mobile phones, however, 2008 will offer increasing
opportunities for savvy advertisers and search marketers hoping to
transfer their skills to mobile technology. With Googles Android
collaboration opening up mobile technology for thousands of phone
models, as well as the transfer of its current web offerings to the
mobile web, no one can afford to ignore the mobile search dynamic. 
The growing  levels of access offered on phones, combined with Google Web, Google Check Out, and more recently, Google Maps with My Location, offers a very frightening or interesting (depending on your point of view) vision of the future of advertising.
At
Netrank, we believe that the single most significant change in search
marketing for 2008 will be the coming of age of mobile technology. With
the arrival of the iPhone, the HTC Touch and other handsets that
deliver a truly mobile Internet experience, we predict that mobile
search volumes will rise dramatically, in line with usage.




More specifically, well  see a big rise in local-based searches, but also in news, weather and entertainment-based searches, as people use the mobile Internet to look for information which affects them either at a micro-local level (searching for train lines, cinema listings etc.) or to receive up-to-date news and commentary.
As the mobile Internet market starts to mature, there will be a concerted shift towards a one web philosophy (as outlined by the W3C), as brands realise the need to service as many access channels with one site as possible, in order to drive cost efficiencies. This will make life easier for mobile search engines that currently have to cater for differing mark-up standards and device capabilities. As this happens, it will make using the mobile search engine a better user experience, and serve to popularise the channel.
The biggest pioneers of change in current habits are going to be existing mobile sites expanding the services on offer. Strong conventional-online brands will also drive this change, by taking the bold step of trying to engage their current user-base via a mobile Internet connection.
As improvements to mobile search engines are implemented, it will become increasingly important for brands to ensure their sites are not only optimised for regular web search, but mobile search too. Delivering mobile sites that are optimised for the user experience (across a myriad of different handsets) will also remain key.
Implementing mobile search is all about rigorous standards, compliance and good SEO best practice. Keeping the site well designed for handheld devices as well as being well optimised is absolutely crucial, much more so than for a conventional website.
Netrank offers the following advice to companies looking to increase their presence through mobile web:
Ensure that web page titles are short and concise.


Adhere to mobile standards. (Validator.w3c.org is a useful site to visit).


Connect, or link to, legitimate and popular websites much like you would with your current site.


Make sure you are not disallowing mobile crawlers from spidering your site. A reputable SEO agency should be able to examine your site architecture for this.


Use XHTML.


Design for low-end phones.


Keep the URL structure hierarchical and as simple as possible.


Specify the doc type in the XML preamble.


Specify the character encoding.


Keep links descriptive.


Throughout 2008, existing SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) agencies currently optimising sites for the web will be broadening their offerings to ensure they can provide similar SEO support based on mobile.
When looking at engaging with an SEO provider, make sure that the agency you select to implement work on your site is able to incorporate mobile search into its offering and have it integrate seamlessly with normal search. As with all pioneers, those agencies that move first are going to be in a position to claim the best rankings for their clients before the gold-rush hits.


To access Netranks most recent white paper, The Future of Search click here.