Mobile Search Market
Mobile internet and mobile search is gaining ground. While surfing is inconvenient, many people are accessing their emails from their mobile phones. Google has just announced it had released a special java gmail client for mobiles, following Yahoo!, which already has been offering service for some time.
All major search engines offer a version customized for mobile devices, and are quite active in expanding market reach within mobile networks and device manufacturers. At the beginning of 2006, Yahoo! signed a distribution deal with several key manufacturers for a suite of Yahoo! services that includes email, search and photos. Google signed a deal with Motorola to ship a pre-installed Google icon on some of its devices, allowing instant access to the Google search page.
In the meantime, mobile search startups are actively striving to create an effective network of advertisers while developing mobile search tools and indices for integration into cellular devices and networks.
The mobile search experience
Search through mobiles fosters dilemmas:
1. What types of results will be returned for a given user query? Should it be wml websites, html websites that are more relevant but not fully compatible, or should it be some sort of “answer” that the search engine has compiled for the query rather than a list of links?
2. How should the user location be taken into account? Should the search engine assume mobile search is local by essence and serve local data?
3. How can search engines capitalize on the search results? Even displaying more than three results requires scrolling and frequently another access iteration, so how could the severely limited screen space be conducive for advertising?
The answers to these questions are not clear, and currently there are more experiments and trials than facts and conclusions. Some analysts have argued that search results should be answers rather than a set of links. This might be true in some cases, not appropriate in others and not feasible for many queries. Searching the normal google.com or yahoo.com through wireless devices returns the same set of results as a desktop search with the snippet modified and number of results shown ranging from 1 to 4 depending on device screen size, listing length and other factors.
This means that the websites found have been designed for desktop and will not be suitable for wireless application (WAP) browsers. Searching through Google or Yahoo mobile search engines, for example google.com/wml, will allow selection between internet results and mobile network results. Selecting the mobile network results will only return listings of wml documents. However, since the selection of content written in wml is drastically inferior compared to the wealth of options on the html web, result relevancy is generally low.
How is presence to be gained within mobile search results?
SEOing for mobile
Very scarce research and knowledge exists in the SEO community regarding mobile search algorithms. There is reason to believe that the basic algorithms, still in the making, resemble those for web search. However, all the basic elements that exist in html and matter for search engines, such as relevant inbound links and formatted content, also exist in wml and the logic behind the way robots analyze link popularity and texts prevails here as well. Nonetheless, designing your website in a W3C-compatible manner as far as xhtml and css coding, will increase visibility of websites within mobile search results along with desktop search.
Website mobile version
In the future, most website publishers will likely produce mobile versions of their websites for WAP mobile browsers. An abundance of html to wml converter tools exist on the market, but as long as standard xhtml coding was not applied initially, it is unlikely those tools could work in the general case. The operative recommendation for website owners and marketers planning a new website or redesigning the information architecture of an existing website is to comply with xhtml, or better yet, have all the content stored in xml and the display adjusted with xslt. This way a website can easily be created and maintained in an updated, valuable wml version.
Mobile search advertising
Google, Yahoo! and MSN are experimenting with mobile search advertising and the major problems inherent with highly limited screen space. MSN currently offers a pay-per-call advertising model, which seems only natural for mobiles. No integration is offered yet with any of the respective paid search advertising programs. Some startups are offering mobile advertising platforms on their proprietary search engines to be distributed on partnering devices and networks. While many potential interactive online advertisements are natural and useful for cellulars and may result in action such as ordering flowers and parking payments, the market is generally not yet mature enough to call mobile search a real venue for internet marketers.
However, search engine engineers and designers are now hard at work tackling the issues at hand to create useful concepts, models and methodologies for serving relevant mobile search results while marketers are working out feasible mobile search advertising models. It is unlikely to happen immediately, but within a few years it will be a dynamic market in its own right. So internet marketer, get prepared.
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