The lead up to the so-called “Mobilegeddon” provided a strong reminder to brands about the importance prioritizing mobile-friendly site design in order to avoid suffering a hit to their mobile rankings. However, mobile-friendliness goes beyond rankings. Ultimately, brands and retailers will need to marry mobile search intent with customer-centric technology to provide the best possible mobile experience if they are to win at the moments when consumers are searching on mobile.
For those who follow the digital marketing headlines, it seems that every year is heralded as the “year of mobile.”
With the rollout of Google’s update to the mobile search algorithm on April 21, which rewards “mobile-friendly” sites, 2015 could justifiably be that year.
As of now, mobile SEO can’t be treated as a trending media buzzphrase. Instead, it forms a critical component of a brand’s overall search visibility.
The media have been quick to analyze how the change will affect the search landscape. Brands with websites that don’t provide a mobile-friendly experience, and there are many, may suffer a hit to their mobile rankings.
However, there’s also an underlying story here about the evolution of consumer’s search intent on mobile devices. Local search.
How Influential Is Local Search On Mobile?
As early as 2011, Google research revealed that 20 percent of all searches had local intent.
On mobile specifically, according to Google, 56 percent of “on the go” searches and 51 percent of in-store searches from a mobile device have local intent.
The most recent data from the search giant has revealed that searches using the “near me” modifier have increased 34X since 2011. At the end of last year, in the period Q4 2014, a massive 80 percent of these searches were made via mobile devices.
Google Data, March 28–29, 2015
Another piece of research from Google revealed that “50 percent of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone visit a store within a day, and 18 percent of those searches lead to a purchase within a day.”
The mobile-friendliness update is a testament to the rising influence of mobile on user search behavior. Mobile is a crucial part of consumer purchase journeys.
In the next few weeks, brands may be more focused on the technical element of the mobile delivery and understandably so. However, the greater lesson here will be for brands to gain a thorough understanding of the way their consumers are looking for answers via mobile search, and providing for those needs accordingly.
When you think about it, mobile search does provide a stunning picture of user intent. Especially when on the go, people pull out their smartphones when and where they are seeking out an answer to an immediate need. Perhaps they are looking for a good place to eat in the local area, or where the nearest service station is.
For brands, achieving customer-centricity will be in fulfilling these moments with relevant content, on websites that provide an excellent mobile-friendly experience.
5 Local and Mobile Search Opportunities
The smartest consumer-facing brands recognize the fundamental importance of SEO, for meeting consumers at moments of need as they navigate their purchase journeys. Some manage that journey brilliantly, providing a clear and persuasive path to purchase.
UK retailer Argos is one such example. Having an expansive understanding of customer purchase journeys is an immensely powerful concept, and one which enables brands to work out where the potential opportunities lie to better reach consumers.
In the coming months, it may be that mobile devices become the battleground for brands looking to be “number one” at those moments. Certainly the opportunities are there:
1. Hyperlocal Advertising (Apple Watch)
The much anticipated Apple Watch, which began making its way onto consumer wrists April 24, means a new opportunity for brands to bring so-called hyperlocal advertising to consumer wrists.
Taking cues from GPS location data, glance recognition, and seamless full-screen transitions, Apple Watch seeks to provide relevant and useful information to consumers, the strongest signals for intent could well stem from mobile search.
iBeacon technology is another feature of mobile devices set to revolutionize in-store shopping experiences. It provides brands with the ability to track and integrate retail shopping experiences via NFC and has already been heralded as the “savior” of brick-and-mortar stores.
The department store retailer Macy’s have already invested heavily in the platform, rolling out the technology across 4,000 U.S. stores.
3. Quadruple Play Services
Quadruple play telecommunications are fast becoming a reality in many territories. Sky Adsmart, for example, provides the opportunity to serve personalized television advertisements based on geographical location.
If further developments enable brands to retarget these ads based on desktop or mobile search, in much the same manner as display advertising is managed online, brands could find themselves in a scenario in which they are able to utilize the unique characteristics offered by video advertising, such as emotional storytelling, to meet consumers at the moments they are seeking them.
4. Inventory Management Systems
The app space is intrinsically linked to users mobile usage, and a number of retailers are developing sophisticated apps that enable hassle free buying experiences for users. Nordstrom, for example, developed an app that integrates with both Nordstrom.com, and the retailer’s inventory management system, which enables users to check stock levels for the items they are interested in and, should they want to, get them delivered to their closest store.
5. Local Inventory Ads
When it comes to mobile search, Google’s local inventory ads are perhaps the best example of how brands can leverage the growing influence of “near me” consumer intent. When combined with a sophisticated IMS, it means being able to provide visibility for users on the go, giving users the ability to find out where a product is in stock locally, and potentially picking it up that very day.
Mobile Journeys & Connected Technologies
In all the above examples, success will lie in using new technologies to maximize the opportunities on local search. Local search is so powerful because it ultimately goes beyond mobile.
In the next few weeks, marketers may justifiably be watching the mobile search results with eagle eyes. However, as important as mobile rankings are, true mobile “visibility” takes places across an entire user journey, at the many moments and queries in which consumers are searching.
Just as is the case for desktop search, overcoming Mobilegeddon will require an omni-channel commitment to mobile SEO that puts customer-centricity at the heart of a brand’s digital marketing operations.
Local search is extremely valuable on mobile because it provides a strong signal of consumer intent.
“Most search being done on mobile devices is locally relevant by nature as consumers want something near them, whether that is to look up a phone number, weather, products, or even directions,” said Adam Meshekow, Executive Vice President, Product Strategy & National Sales, SITO Mobile. “The intent of the upper funnel is already there and serving that intent moves them further down the funnel in the customer journey.”
Ultimately, it isn’t just mobile rankings that provide visibility. Technological innovations on the mobile platform will provide additional opportunities to increase a brand’s mobile presence.
“It is extremely important for brands to utilize local search techniques to provide awareness for consumers to enter into the funnel at a hyper local level,” Meshekow said. “For example, when a consumer is in a big box retailer, there are over 100,000 products that they could buy. Making consumers aware of those products, via hyperlocal geofencing for example, could enter them into the funnel for a new product. While in a hyperlocal environment, it’s an additional advertisement opportunity.”
For brands, ensuring that their sites are recognized as “mobile-friendly” will be the first priority. However, once that challenge is overcome, recognizing the importance of local intent in mobile search queries, and marrying the provision for those needs with available technology, will be important for brands that wish to look one step ahead.
What do you think is the biggest local search opportunity for brands?