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Mobile Search: How the Convergence of Local Search, Smart Phones and Consumer Behaviour Has Made Online Marketing a Small Business Priority

Jun 27, 2008
This may be the year when the convergence of hardware, software and consumer behaviour makes a business' ability to be found through local search an online marketing necessity. The importance of having a business web page that ranks for local search terms on Google, Yahoo!, MSN and the plethora of other search engines that drive Internet commerce is particularly pronounced for small, local businesses that compete for the foot traffic that pass their storefronts in competitive marketplaces.

The hardware that is driving this convergence and fuelling the emergence of local search as a business-critical issue for small business is the new-generation of handheld mobile phones and PDAs - particularly Apple's iPhone, the next-and-latest version of which is being rolled out in 22 countries July 11th. The software is search engine giant, Google's Google Maps and the similar mapping applications on the other search engines.

More and more consumers, particularly in the youngest and most coveted marketing demographics, are using smart phone technology as a preferred method for searching the Internet. Typically, the products and services these young and mobile consumers are searching for online are local products and services - be it a coffee shop, a live entertainment venue, a clothing shop or any of the other myriad goods and services that are advertised both online and off.

Google is set as the default web browser on Apple's iPhone, and the iPhone is the leader in smart phones - a position that is only likely to be enhanced when the next generation of iPhone comes onto the market in July. Google has long been the hands-down leader in Internet search. The synergy of having the world's leading search engine as the default setting on the world's most popular smart phone gives a huge impetus to the emergence of mobile search as the rising tide in small business marketing. Already, Google - thanks to its collaboration with Apple - is riding the rising tide of mobile search. In the first quarter of 2008, Google captured 61% of the mobile search market, while Yahoo! raked in an 18% share and third-place MSN accounted for only 5% of mobile searches, according to survey numbers from Nielsen Mobile. This, of course, leaves a paltry 16% market share for all other search engines combined.

As more and more smart phones come to market with advanced Internet search capabilities and GPS functions hoping to cash in on the market already dominated by the iPhone (and RIM's BlackBerry line for business-types), Google's dominance of local search and mobile search is likely to be cast in stone. Accordingly, for small businesses who wish to turn web traffic that is already searching for products and services online into foot traffic that will drive customers to and into their storefronts, having an online presence that will rank on Google becomes ever more important.

Survey results from Nielson/NetSurvey, in conjunction with marketing firm WebVisible, indicate that 86% of all Internet users in 2008 search for local products and services online. This number is up from the 70% of Internet users who were conducting online local searches in 2007. Significantly for small, local businesses whose focus is their company's storefront, rather than an online business, the Nielson results show that 90% of the transactions that are initiated through online local searches are completed offline.

Thus, the importance of local search, mobile search and an effective online business profile for small businesses that are seeking to stay competitive in an increasingly crowded and digital marketplace. And, hence, the importance of Google Maps, perhaps the chief software application that is refining and defining the race for local business web pages that rank well in search engine - read Google - results. Google Maps gives the potential customer who is searching for a local product or service on the fly from his or her mobile handset the maps and directions that specify where the products and services can be purchased in the geographic locale where the customer is.

There are a multitude of 200+ factors that are constantly being tweaked by Google to determine a specific page's ranking, and over 45 factors that are used to determine a site's specific local ranking. Optimizing the on-site and off-site factors that determine a web page's ranking and local search ranking is no easy feat. Yet, at a minimum, small businesses will want to have a web page that sets out there products and services, and to register that site with Google's local business listings so that they can tap into the web traffic that is increasingly turning into foot traffic thanks to the emergence of mobile search and its convergence with smart phone technology.
About the Author
For more information on mobile search marketing and search engine optimization contact http://www.wolf21.com
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