This is part two in a three part series covering SMX (Search Marketing Expo) East 2012 at the Javits Center in Manhattan. Read part one here.
Today I attended a very worthwhile session on mobile conversion optimization. As I sat there listening to some (slightly differing) opinions on mobile best practices, I was struck by how the conversation around mobile has changed. It wasn’t that long ago that I was going to meetings where mobile was very much positioned as a nice to have or phase two (or three or four) initiative.
Suffice it to say, times have changed. I’m just old enough to remember the days when some other shiny new thing was appended to the back of the deck and relegated to the last 15 minutes of the meeting (time permitting). That thing was digital marketing. The arc of the mobile conversation over the past 18 months or so reminds me of those early days of digital.
Let’s get back to that mobile conversion optimization session. Chris Goward from testing provider Wider Funnel had some really fascinating things to say about mobile testing and how you should approach it. He made the point that we are really not playing in a multi-device universe, but rather a screen size continuum. That, of course, is a really good argument for the concept of responsive design, which we all know was pretty strongly endorsed by Google over the summer. Goward and the other panelists made the same point in different ways that the expectations of users are outpacing the will or ability of marketers and web developers to deliver really satisfying experiences.
Landing pages have been important for a long time because they give users exactly what they want in context. In a best practice environment, this should happen over and over again regardless of the search term or screen size. It’s not. There were tons of examples given in this session of sites that take you to the wrong content, shoot mobile users up to the top of the mobile site when they’ve done very specific searches, and just deliver really bad mobile landing page experiences (even from paid mobile ads) that don’t, as Google’s Avinash Kaushik says, have the ability to cash the checks that the marketing is out there writing. The experience for the heavy mobile searcher is still not very good.
Test, test, and test again
So, what to do? The answer is to get down to some really hard work. Test mobile experiences with things like images, calls to action and other design elements. Find what works. Find what the consumer wants. Despite how hot it is right now, there are a whole lot of new mobile trails to blaze. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that customers would never buy things directly from a smart phone or even fill out a quick form. It’s happening.
Search marketers who are curious and open-minded about this stuff will find lots of success. That fact was driven home in the Learn with Google session I attended later in the day. Google is a premiere sponsor of this year’s event after being pretty much absent from last year’s conference. There are probably a number of nuanced reasons for that, but I’m convinced that it has at least something to do with the opportunity they see in the mobile space.
As we know, the rise of search has been additive. It’s not cannibalizing desktop search; it’s introducing more touch points with the consumer and more searches for Google to monetize. This also means new and evolving consumer behavior. Google’s head of social and mobile for the Americas Tim Reis spoke about what Google calls Winning the Moments that Matter. That’s about being in front of mobile searchers with mobile-specific campaigns with things like local extensions, click-to-call and a really satisfying experience on the other side. Reis cited some Google stats that claim that 85% of people expect mobile web experiences to be as good or better than desktop experiences and that 40% of people will abandon a bad mobile experience in favor of a competitor’s site. In short, it’s increasingly important to get this stuff right.
The new normal
So, mobile has certainly moved from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have. I don’t hear many people wondering (aloud anyway) if mobile is relevant enough to their category to invest in mobile marketing initiatives. I’ve even started to see mobile make it’s way up to the very front of the deck, and in some categories it makes sense to get the mobile experiences right first before considering desktop. That’s the little glimpse of the future I saw today.
Before we know it, conversations will be about making sure your mobile optimized content is designed responsively so it can still display properly if someone happens upon it on a good, old-fashioned desktop computer. The devices in our hands, not those on our desks or in our laps, will drive the conversations and shape the way we think about search going forward. It’s an exciting time to be a search marketer. Jump in and have fun with it. At the very least, move it up in the deck a little bit.