The Internet has, of course, permanently changed the way many businesses operate. The Web has opened up a host of opportunities, but the rapidly changing nature of this particular beast can make it feel like you’re building foundations on sand. Just as businesses come to terms with SEO, localization, and a variety of inbound and outbound marketing techniques, the way people search for information online has started to take a seismic shift.
According to Google, mobile searches quadrupled in the United States last year. “Roughly one in seven searches, even in the smaller categories, are happening on a mobile phone, but how many of you are putting one seventh of your resources into mobile?” asked Google’s Head of Mobile Advertising Jason Spero. “Your customer is trying to engage you … it would be like not doing business with your customers on Thursdays.”
Mobile search is important within the domestic market, but it can be even more essential for those looking to do business internationally. An infographic produced by Mobile Enquirer shows that the United States is far from being the leader in mobile phone usage. There might be a massive 327 million phones in use in the States but India has more than double that, while China has almost a billion. In addition, problems with access to high speed fixed connections have led to a higher rate of mobile Internet usage in many developing nations. Even as broadband availability begins to meet demand, mobile still offers benefits in terms of low cost and convenience.
Local Mobile Search
Many of us have used our smartphone or other mobile device to find a restaurant, hotel, store, or other service on the move. This may have been via an app on a GPS-enabled device or via a local search. Pew Research found that 88 percent of adults in the States owned some kind of mobile phone as of April 2012, with more than half of these having used their phone to go online.
Additionally, 17 percent of all adult cell owners used their phone to do most of their online browsing. The rest also used laptops or desktop computers but used their phones occasionally, often for local searches. As smartphones and tablets become more predominant and connection speeds and related technology continues to improve, the number of people using mobile search only looks set to rise.
Many businesses are now recognizing this fact. In the second quarter of 2012, year-on-year spending on mobile search showed a massive 333 percent increase. The rise in spending on search in general had slowed, which means spend on mobile search had grown from 12 to 14 percent of total search budgets. This isn’t far from Jason Spero’s magic one in seven figure, which suggests that—domestically at least—many firms are catching on.
International Mobile Search
Mobile usage varies from place to place. Recent statistics showed that only around a fifth of U.S. users used their phones for searches. This was lower in Europe but rose to almost a third in Japan. In China, on the other hand, which the Computer Network Information Center (CNIC) holds to be the world’s largest mobile Web community, 48 percent of users regularly used mobile search.
Mobile search is high in the emerging economic powerhouses of the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), as well as the CIVETS grouping (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa) and other emerging markets. The demand for mobile search is certainly there on an international scale, but there are other practical benefits to tailoring a campaign towards international mobile search.
Mobile users are more likely to click on the top search result than surfers using a desktop computer or laptop. This is, in part, because a mobile screen is much smaller. This means SEO and PPC marketing are much more important. Furthermore, search campaigns in languages other than English can be more successful because there is less competition for keywords.
Search marketing in foreign languages averages a better return on investment but it’s important to do it correctly. Native-speaking translators and SEO experts can help you in areas such as keyword research, where a straight dictionary translation of existing keywords is rarely the best approach. Research also shows that mobile advertising has a high click-through rate and pay-per-click (PPC campaigns) can pay dividends.
Many sources predict that mobile searches will have overtaken static searches by 2015. Many businesses are continuing to tailor their efforts to reflect this fact on the domestic front. Not as many are quite so committed abroad, but international mobile search looks set to be one of the biggest growth areas in digital marketing during the next few years.