The popularity and simplicity of the iPod Touch and iPhone have done what many have tried and failed to do: turned the UK on to the possibilities of the mobile web. But what might it mean for you, your business, and for the Search industry, as more people turn to hand-held devices and web access on the go?
We’re at the beginning of a mini-revolution. Experts are still saying that the web itself is in its infancy, but it seems positively aged when we start looking at the uncharted horizons of its offshoot, the mobile web.
Totally uncharted? Well, predictions may, of course, be made on the basis of those countries which were much quicker than us to adopt the mobile web, such as Japan, but we must recognize that other factors, such as cultural differences, pricing plans, and accessibility are all going to affect their accuracy.
Here are a few outcomes that we can be sure we’ll see, as more and more people start to access the web while they’re out and about:
- Everyone simply searching a lot more: This is just simple logic. If you have access to the web in your pocket, you have more hours in the day when you might use it. Suddenly, train journeys, boring meetings, or delays as you wait for the bus, all allow for extra browsing time. What does that mean for you? Potentially, lots more visitors, spending much more time on your site.
- People are much more likely to start searching for the information they need in the here and now. Where before they might turn to a stranger to ask where the nearest newsagent is, now they can ask Google. For this reason, you may want to optimize your website for search terms such as ‘nearest to’: “nearest pub to the London Eye”, for example.
- Geo-specific search results come into their own.
Having said it’s good to optimize, to a certain extent we have seen search engines start to do it for you, with geo-specific search results. Search for ‘restaurant’ on Google, and it will make assumptions about what you want, based on your IP address, delivering highly local results unless you specify otherwise.To take full advantage of this, make sure your business is listed on Google maps (it’s free) and that its purpose or services are clearly defined in terms that a searcher would be likely to use (in other words, think carefully about whether you’re a ‘pub’, ‘public house’, ‘hostelry’, or ‘bar’).
- You can take advantage of the fact that folk is searching ‘on the trot’. What do people need when they’re in a new place, searching for information? Local maps, perhaps, or lists of places of interest. Provide this sort of information, and you may find that the new class of searcher – the last-minute user who relies on their internet connection – comes flocking to your site. They may not buy anything, of course, but you will have achieved the marketers’ holy grail: your business name is now in their consciousness.
- Our devices will come on holiday with us. Who’d leave that iPod or BlackBerry at home when it’s so useful for day-to-day advice? If you can’t speak the local lingo, finding a taxi firm or a restaurant is so much easier when you have the web at hand.This will work the other way, of course: holiday-makers coming to the UK will also be looking for information in their own languages. If your business is situated in a popular tourist spot, or you sell a service that is of use to holiday-makers, you might want to think about optimizing in multiple languages.
- Don’t forget the practicalities. Mobile devices mean smaller screens – much smaller screens. Make sure you’ve tried to access your own website via a phone or similar device: you’ll see how hard, or otherwise, it is. Don’t forget that Flash can’t be seen on many phones, and very heavy sites are a no-no where the access is patchy.If mobile web looks like it has the potential to bring you many more customers, there’s really only one answer: you need to do as many of the best sites have done these days, and build a mobile version of your site.