As we move from 2008 into 2009, everyone seems to be getting into the forecasting business. If you wait a little, you can even get to review some of the other forecasts that people have already made. In search marketing, many seem to be suggesting little change. For example Steve Rubel has the following three points in his post on Reading Tea Leaves for 2009.
- We’re growing comfortable with social networks
- Blogging may be making a comeback
- The recession drove consumers to shop online
There is nothing particularly eye-shaking there. Many others are equally bland. However buried among them is an important change in my opinion. Let us look at what David Berkowitz highlights in his 2009 Search Trends To Keep An Eye On.
- Holistic — In Every Sense
- Search Fragmentation
- New Models for SEO
- Your Car Engine’s Your Search Engine
He is right that the first three are major factors but these have been slowly evolving over the months and even years. The really important one is the last. By this he is implying that Mobile Search is the coming thing.
Stephanie Hobbs describes it in a different way in Local Searches Set to Flip to Mobile Phone.
Given the continuing growth in the smart phone market, mobile phones are poised to become the first source people turn to when searching for local business information. Until widespread adoption of smart phones occurs, though, there will be a gap that smart businesses will seek to fill. … Presently, two-thirds (64%) of Americans say they generally turn to online resources for local search, while 33% turn to print, and 3% go to their phones. However, mobile phone users outnumber computer users by 39 million. And the market for mobile search is growing faster than expected.
I too believe that 2009 will be the year of mobile search. Although to an extent it will run independently and in parallel with regular desktop search, you can expect some strong interactions down the road. To accommodate mobile search, it is not just a question of ensuring your regular website can be seen on a smart phone. Pierre Far has an excellent account about the 8 Steps for Making Your Site Mobile Friendly.
Let me tell you this: most sites, mine included, suck when viewed on a mobile phone. It’s a horrible experience, and given the astonishing rise in mobile use, you and I, the people who build websites, better get our act together.
Another useful resource in making your site mobile friendly is SEO Principle. It is a most worthwhile blog written by Nadir Garouche that talks about the intersection of mobile and search. He spends a great deal of time on mobile search and is very familiar with mobile search engines so his site is a place to watch for developments. For example he was one of the first to publish the T-Mobile G1’s browser user agent which meant that websites can deliver suitable content to such devices.
One major initiative here is the Open Handset Alliance which is promoted and supported by Google. This is a group of more than 30 technology and mobile companies, which has developed Android: the first complete, open, and free mobile platform. To help developers get started developing new applications, the Alliance offers the Android Software Development Kit. There is a great deal of effort being put in and we can expect to see major results in what can be done with a smart phone in the very near future.
Just as Google’s Universal Search is combining the results of searches from a whole series of different channels (regular web search, videos, images, news, etc.), we can expect that mobile search may well be a further source to add to this mix. If being truly visible to the search engines means being found in whatever type of search is being done, then your mobile website is a key priority.
As a footnote there may well be another development that has major impact during 2009. Google already has all the data on how visitors move around websites and how long they spend on different web pages. The visitor behavior can well be an indicator of the value of the website. Someone immediately leaving a website after a few seconds clearly found little relevance there. Although there has been interest in using social media data such as votes in Digg or StumbleUpon as indicators of relevance, these are subject to easy manipulation. Visitor behavior is less likely to give false signals.
One person who has pushed these ideas strongly is David Leonhardt with his Sticky SEO concept. He believes that this will be an important element in the Google search algorithms, if it is not already being included. That means it is important to create sticky websites where people move around because they find what they are looking for.
Even if 2009 is not the year you create your own mobile website in support of your regular website, then at least make sure that your online properties are sticky so that people wish to visit and to stay. Best wishes for a great year.