Mobile Search Battle Royal

Dec 3, 2007 - 12:17 pm 0 by
Filed Under SES Chicago 2007

Welcome to the Search Engine Roundtable coverage of Search Engine Strategies Chicago 2007. The crowd seems to be fairly large, with people trickling in and smooth lines in the registration booth. I am excited to get things cooking!

This first session will be moderated by Dana Todd of SiteLab International, who is also on the SEMPO Board of Directors. She welcomes everyone to SES Chicago, and announces some of the new formatting, including the Orion panels.

John du Pre Gaunt from eMarketer will kick the session off, with a slide deck titled “Mobile Search and Marketing Dollars.” He will be providing some information based on studies performed during July 2007. Briefly introduces eMarketer, and his mobile-defined role there. Talks about “the stakes.” This is a battle of the newest and possibly biggest digital interface that has become available since the World Wide Web. Nobody has “cracked the problem cold” circa 2007. We are still looking for the search category and/or specific mobile search needed to drive it into the mainstream. This is a process involving technical considerations combined with social engineering. There is a social environment where search is now integrated into people’s activities, but mobile search isn’t there yet – primarily he feels because there isn’t a main industry or category focused on it.

The three major industries so far are mobile telecom, web portals, and Yellow Pages/Directories charging into mobile search. With very few exceptions, the biggest web players and the biggest telecom players don’t like sharing with each other. It is hard to transfer search history and other collected data between the two, in order to better serve the searcher. The cliché that “mobile search is about answers instead of links” is not totally true. It is true that the consumer is more often on the cusp of making a decision or taking an action – the trick is how easy they can turn their search into a direct action.

The mobile search advertising objectives are typical: classic direct response content sales, local advertising, branding, etc. If you wrap them together, mobile is in fact a marketing interface. let’s start talking numbers. They feel there will be 900 million global mobile users worldwide by 2011, and shows a chart depicting the growth of mobile search revenues from 6.8m in 2006 to 2.3B by 2011. U.S. specific: by 2011 around 55M mobile search users (daily or several times a week) versus 64.8M total mobile internet users. The US revenues will grow to 700m into 2011. Kelsey Group predicts US mobile search revenues in 2011 at about 920M, which even though is 200m separate, this is statistically “close enough.”

There is a strong correlation with mobile internet use and mobile search. of the people using mobile internet, 75% will search, where those not using mobile internet regularly only 20% will use it to search. He then shows a iCrossing study result showing actual use numbers that I didn’t catch. Scale: planning for world wide smart phone shipments. You have to start planning now for during Christmas 2009 when a $99 Blackberry will be available that will be able to handle mobile html and has qwerty keyboard. In 2011, 324M units will be sold. Networks are also important. There is a correlation with mobile search use and higher speed networks. 3G versus non-3G subscribers indicate a much higher percentage of users on the 3G side.

Lastly, on the monetization aspect, initial consumer receptivity to seeing ads is there. People are willing to use systems that charge lower monthly subscription fees and include advertising. He shows a couple slides to illustrate his opinion that there will be some consolidation in this market over the next few years. Dana asks the crowd if they are taking mobile budget out of existing search budget versus other budgets like brand budget. Most say the search budget. John says that people are still often in experimental stage using “play money.” Some audience members echo this idea. Some industries are now in full blown use, like entertainment and food and beverage. They feel that travel is also starting to play a bigger role, having “more serious” mobile search campaigns.

Dana asks if we all still need to go ot and make WAP versions of our sites? John feels that WAP as a separate build over time will start to diminish towards something more html like. However, how WAP handles data is actually pretty good, so he feels there will still see a certain amount of WAP investment in another area of the stack. Dana follows up with is it important to buy up “.mobi” extensions? John feels this is still a growing area, but some people are starting to look into this.

About use: not many people are using mobile search yet for random things like being in a bar in Scotland and wanting to know who Henry the 8th’s 5th wife is. Most searches still involve local services etc, which is a problem since so many of the smaller local sites have not built m specific landing pages.

Jeff Torgeson, Idearc Media Corp. he starts about the difference between mobile local and mobile local search. he is coming from it from the mobile local space, and he kind of thinks of it as a feed like product. He talks about the players that do great things in mobile local, like Google,, en pocket, admob, ad infuse, Idearc, third screen media, and Yahoo!. The mission for them is to make this an easy industry/marketing tactic for executives to understand. Others include Android and Moorestown, which is coming out from Intel in about 2009 with a new mobile ad platform. These two show that people are thinking differently about what will happen in this space in the future. If you start talking about having a WAP site and there is no proven money there, executives will not like this. We have to engage the small business owners to get on board, and then once they have success there will be a hockey stick effect and lots more larger companies joining in.

They are trying to figure out through their YP sites and how to best move forward in this space. They are trying to solve the problems of landing on irrelevant or non content-rich pages, which lowers user experience (paraphrased). He hopes that people will start using more of an adaptive rendering type of system in order to display the proper content – we need to make some technology progress there.

They found that Mobile Local users are definitely transactional in nature, like John did. Types of things people search for: large retails chains (surprising considering you would think people would know where they are in their area), dine out/go out, home improvement, and traditional brand. They have been testing limiting the number of categories coming back to users. For example, a search for “coffee” will not return the bulk/wholesale coffee results, since it unlikely that m users are looking for that.

Shows a slide of a baby trying to grab a big jug of milk, captioned “want.” This describes how people are when they are on Mobile Local Search. If someone is looking for a service, and they have a GPS phone, and you can prove to them that they showed up at the doorstep, this would be a cool way to add value to the MS ad market. Need to be more forward thinking on the types of ads served.

They are focused on User Experience. Blackberry: keyword versus category searches are an example of the types of things they can analyze to improve UX – since most users on both Blackberry (around 55%) and iPhone (around 75%) use category searches. He doesn’t believe in the need to build out .mobi sites, etc, but feels that you should focus on the one site and provide better technology to sniff the browser.

Dana says she is sick to death of hearing “it’s great – go buy it.” Asks the audience what kind of traffic/results they have been getting? One audience member is not satisfied at all with the traffic. She asks from a “newby” perspective how to actually setup a mobile ad. Jeff says that the industry is very fragmented right now so it is difficult to learn how to do it. Not pushing YP, but that is a good way to approach the space John adds that if you are learning, you better have “funny money” because it may take some time to test to fruition. He thinks that we are in a similar stage to mobile search as regular search was in the mid-nineties. So, buy mobile space through YP or ad networks. “It truly is a ‘one check’ kind of deal right now.”

Dana had asked Yahoo! why there isn’t a single interface to deal with all these systems? She said their answer made her kind of mad, because they suggested that SEMs should be creating this. What are the emerging technologies for managing and tracking this stuff? Jeff encourages that advertisers should think about the differences in the space – it is presently more difficult to provide just one platform for all this since everything is still so fractured.

That will be all for now…catch the rest of the Q/A at the next SES. Note that the new SES format of having moderator-led discussion after the presentations and prior to audience questions went nicely, as Dana was able to handle this well.

***Note this is “live” unedited blog coverage of SES Chicago 2007. Some typos, grammatical errors, or incomplete thoughts may exist.


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