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What increased competition among search engines means for mobile marketers

As mobile search continues to grow at a rapid pace, the competition between the various search engines will grow more intense, making it increasingly important for mobile marketers to think more broadly, per industry experts.

Many experts believe that Microsoft's Bing and Yahoo will increase their mobile search market share. And, as mobile search grows exponentially, marketers will need to rethink their search engine marketing (SEM) strategy and consider a different approach to mobile search.

?The growth in online search was initially gated by both PC access and Internet access penetration,? said Jonathan Tom, group manager of global trade marketing, mobile, local and commerce at Microsoft Advertising, Redmond, WA.

?Adoption of mobile devices is happening faster than that of the PC, and the device is already an always-on device,? he said. ?We think mobile will grow at an accelerated pace relative to the growth trajectory of online search.?

Competition
There are many search engines in the space, but currently Google is dominating.

But as the competition narrows, and Microsoft and Yahoo's mobile search share increases, mobile search will be about much more than just Google. Right now Google owns about 97 percent of the mobile search market. Yahoo and Microsoft account for the remaining 3 percent.

When thinking more broadly about mobile search, it is important to understand the differences between the search engines. Each has its own mobile search algorithm and works differently. In order to properly design a mobile search campaign it is important t do the research and find out the special attributes that each engine offers.

The mobile search services each offers are important to take into consideration as well.

Google offers several services, including a mobile-optimized Web site, mobile applications and Google Maps.

Microsoft has its Bing search platform that includes mobile browsers and applications, and Yahoo also offers a number of mobile search services such as its in-browser search, mobile applications and a search widget for Android devices.

Bing's mobile search engine emphasizes categorization and depth in search results.  

Mobile search provides a great opportunity for marketers. Many should take advantage of smartphone capabilities such as GPS and voice and image-recognition technology and incorporate those into their multichannel marketing efforts.

"It's really exciting to see how quickly mobile search is growing, overall," said Michael Slinger, director of mobile ads at Google, Mountain View, CA. "Worldwide, mobile search experienced a 2.3 times growth between the fourth quarter in 2009 and fourth quarter in 2010 and over the past two years, we've grown five times.

"Searches on smartphones and tablets have increased by four times in the last year alone," he said. "Marketers need to recognize that mobile is unique and optimize their campaigns accordingly. 

"We've found that when advertisers run a mobile-specific campaign, they experience, on average, an 11.5 percent increase in mobile click through rates compared to their mobile click through rates on a hybrid campaign that runs both on desktop and mobile.

According to Mr. Slinger, another important tactic is to ensure that marketers have a mobile-optimized landing page.

"We've found that 79 percent of Google's large advertisers don't have mobile-optimized landing pages, so there's plenty of room for improvement there," Mr. Slinger said.

When planning their strategies on mobile, marketers should keep five things in mind, per Mr. Slinger.

Marketers should define their objectives and define what kind of conversions make sense on mobile.

Additionally, marketers should choose the right ad formats to meet those objectives. 

Then, they should run test campaigns and understand what formats and tactics work best.

Finally, marketers should iterate and optimize. 

"Advertisers should be constantly measuring, analyzing, and re-testing, always with their marketing objective in mind," Mr. Slinger said. "If their goal is calls, they could measure the close rate on Google-supplied calls. 

"If it's page views, measure those," he said.

All about search
Searching on a PC is a different experience than searching via a mobile device.

Mobile marketers need to think about mobile as both additional PC traffic and as unique mobile traffic.

According to Microsoft?s Mr. Tom, from an SEM strategy perspective, advertisers need to consider a different approach with mobile search, as consumers tend to act immediately and impulsively while on the go. 

The executive said that there are three important ways advertisers can get the most out of their mobile SEM strategy such as starting fresh with root terms.

For their keyword and bid strategy, marketers should rule back in for mobile what they may have ruled out for the PC. It is important to test the tail, leverage geographic targeting and get aggressive with their position.

For copy and creative, marketers should feature a strong call-to-action and mobile-specific copy.

Finally, when it comes to the landing page, marketers should ensure that the microsite that users are ending up on is simple and light, as well as optimized for different smartphone devices.

?We believe consumers value having an alternative for mobile search and expect to see growth,? Mr. Tom said.

Search me
According to Daina Middleton, CEO of Performics, Chicago, mobile search will not only mimic the growth trends of online search, but it will surpass it.

The executive said that it will happen because of consumer habits when using mobile devices.

?If you think about it, people are watching television and a mobile device is sitting on their lap and that can change an increase in behavior,? Ms. Middleton said. ?People can search while they?re watching television.?

Ms. Middleton also pointed out the importance of another search engine that does not get the same recognition as Google, Yahoo and Bing.

?Facebook has one of the largest mobile platforms globally,? Ms. Middleton said. ?You don?t ever really think about it from a search platform perspective.

?Mobile is on the way up and the biggest thing marketers need to consider is how to think of mobile independently,? she said. ?Mobile is not just a channel.?

Ms. Middleton said that marketers should think differently when it comes to mobile.

The executive gave an example that when searching for a specific store, she would like companies to put the hours of operation into the search capabilities for easier access.

It is all about the content.

?The amount of content is something that all marketers should take into consideration such as the consolidation of content and paid content,? Ms. Middleton said. ?Marketers are really starting to think about this.

?Mobile is just another way to reach an individual that you?re trying to have a relationship with,? she said. ?You should be looking at the different key data points, what?s causing the most inertia and what types of products are being sold on mobile devices today.?

Final Take