March 18, 2010
Handset manufacturers and software providers are all champing at the bit in carving out market share for projected mobile apps sales to reach $17bn by 2012. The global appetite for mobile apps will explode over this decade, but what about mobile SEO?
What for many is glaringly obvious, mobile is set to become the primary access point of the internet in this coming decade. But where do we fit in?
In yet another encounter in the big tech wars, this time it’s Apple that titan Google is taking on. Over the past few months Google’s mobile operating system, Android, has debuted on a host of smartphones, which has riled Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs enough to tell his employees: “Make no mistake, Google wants to kill the iPhone.”
Taking this to heart, Apple this month sued Taiwan’s HTC Corp, the maker of touchscreen smartphones using Google software, accusing it of twenty hardware and software patents infringements related to the iPhone.
As if to make matters worse for Mr Jobs, a recent article in TechCrunch confirmed his fears: “I’ve been using the Nexus One with TMobile since mid-December as my primary mobile phone. This is the best Android-powered phone to date. It’s also the fastest and most elegant smartphone on the market today, solidly beating the iPhone in most ways. In this rapidly evolving market there is sure to be something better just around the corner. But if you are looking to buy a high-end smartphone right now, this is the phone for you.”
But what will come of this in a time some prematurely describe as the Year of Mobile? According to Jason Steinberg of ClickZ: “2010 is the year of mobile…Everyone in advertising and media has been hearing that statement for nearly three years running. And for the last two, it’s been followed up with a less than reassuring ‘and this time, we mean it’.”
To back that assessment up, the BBC reported: “…developer activity for the iPhone has risen 185% in advance of the iPad’s April arrival. Applications for the iPhone can be ported over to the new device. We have definitely seen a shift back to the iPhone with the anticipation of the iPad and a little bit of the disappointment with the Nexus 1 (Google phone), Simon Khalaf, chief executive of Flurry Analystics told business site MarketWatch.com.”
Already, Google’s Android Marketplace has more than 30,000 apps made for smartphones running on its mobile operating system. Chetan Sharma Consulting told the BBC that the charging model which dominates the app ecosystem is changing. “Advertising and the sale of virtual goods has helped expand choices for developers and we will see all of that ramp up in the next couple of years.”
And, of course, the possibilities are enormous, with 270 million mobile subscribers in the US alone and with 29.1 million of them smartphone users. And in addition to the high numbers in the US, the majority of users in the developing world are going online for the first time using a this device.
As David B Yoffie, a professor at Harvard Business School, told the New York Times: “The new paradigm is mobile computing and mobility…That has the potential to change the economics of the internet business and to redistribute profits yet again.”
Like many in the industry, Google recognises that more and more people are accessing the web via mobile phones rather than the desktop and has openly stated that the Nexus One represents “the next frontier” in the company’s core business.
There can be no doubt that mobile marketing will play an increasingly important role in the overall marketing mix; from searching on the move to social networking, all platforms will become the new staple of internet search.
Although Apple’s recent legal action against HTC may have wider implications for all phone makers that use Google’s Android operating system, Ian Fogg of Forrester Research said that the case against HTC, in which Apple alleges infringement of 20 of its patents, could be the first of many.
But whatever the current legal wrangles, localized content is what search instantly delivers on these devices, so products or services will increasingly need to be related to a geographic area, if they don’t already, and sites should focus on the keyword phrases that identify the geographic scope of the business.
To emphasise this trend, Google Blog comments: “If you’re like us, you’re constantly looking for things in your neighbourhood, whether it’s [restaurants in zurich] or a new [dentist in houston]. If you specify your location in your query, we often show your results on a map…”
All very interesting, but where does all this leave mobile SEO when results from internet search and mobile internet search appear so indistinct at the moment?
John Sylvester is the media director of V9 Design & Build (http://www.v9designbuild.com) and an expert in search engine optimization and web marketing strategies.