Mobile Search: Urgency and the Distraction Factor

Posted on June 6, 2011. Filed under: Mobile Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

What’s the main reason we perform web searches on our smartphones?


There’s some sort of information we need, immediately.

We want our news instantly, and our shopping, too.

Once we get the info we’re looking for, we’re motivated to take action. If it’s related to shopping we’ll buy something, right then and there, via our smartphone, or, if it’s a local search, we’re likely go to the place we just found online to make an in-store transaction.

Simple, right? Indeed, however, for companies and organizations there’s more to it.

From a business standpoint, the best way to capitalize on this user behavior is to understand how people search, and buy, while on a smartphone.  Don’t assume it’s the same as happens while surfing the web via a desktop computer. Because it’s not.

Cover shot to The Mobile Movement, a report by Google and IPSOS OTX Media CTA new report by Google and Ipsos OTX MediaCT, called the Mobile Movement, Understanding Smartphone Users offers insights into our smartphone habits. The study polled more than 5000 smartphone owners about their smartphone usage in general, and shopping habits, in particular.

The ubiquity of smartphones in our everyday lives

The study looked into general smartphone usage. Here are some of its findings:

Where do you use your smartphone?

93% home

87%  on-the-go, commuting or walking

77% in a store

73% in a restaurant

72% work

66% at a social gathering

54% café or coffee shop

53% doctor’s office

50% airport

32% library

29% school

What media related activities do you do while also using your smartphone

44% listen to music

33% watch TV

29% use the internet on a computer

27% play video games

22% read newspaper or magazine

16% read a book

What activities do you do while using a smartphone

59% wait (in line at the market, at a doctor’s office, for a bus, etc.)

48% eat

44% shop

40% socialize/entertain

39% use the bathroom

27% cook or do household chores

20% drive a vehicle

17% walk my dog

14% pump gas

13% play sports or exercise

8% take a shower or bath

Design your mobile website for multitasking

Basically, the majority of us will use our smartphone just about anywhere we can get a signal.  And when we’re goin’ mobile we’re usually multitasking. Our minds are only paying partial attention to our phone activity.

This has serious consequences for a business’ mobile web presence — one of the top ones being, your mobile site should be streamlined to readily enable users to find what they want, and complete tasks, in as few steps as possible. And yes, this is true for any website, but it’s even more critical in the mobile format.

You want a site where after someone clicks through to it from search results, the most important info is viewable at a glance. For one good example see how Burger King does it. And better still, the Burger King web server recognizes when a user is on a smartphone and automatically delivers the mobile site version:

Screen shot of the homepage to the Burger King mobile website

As opposed to this, from Coca Cola, which serves up about a ¾ version of its main website just like you’d get through a desktop computer. Note, some items on the lower right corner don’t even show up if you’re using an iPhone. Seriously Coke, you should know better:

Homepage to Coca Cola's website as seen on an iPhone

Mobile phone as personal shopping assistant

Of course, it’s no surprise to find out smartphones are used much like a mini netbook computer — after all, that is what they are, albeit one that has a phone attached to it. When in shopping mode a smartphone is our handy-dandy combination phone book, GPS, online catalog and price comparison device.  Of the 5000-plus people who participated in the Mobile Movement study:

74% used a smartphone to make a purchase

70% used a smartphone while shopping in a store

27% bought something via a mobile website

22% bought a product or service through an app

After finding that local info via a smartphone users were ready to swing into action:

61% called a business

59% visited a business

58% looked up business on a map or got directions

54% visited the website of a business

36% made a purchase from a business online

22% recommended a business/service to someone

20% read or wrote a review about a business

19% marked or added a business to my favorite list

Mobile search and sharing

These stats are a good indicator of how important it is for a business to optimize for local search. Also, it’s interesting to see how many users are recommending a business or service, writing a review or adding a business as a favorite. This is part of a growing trend where we want our web experience to be more personal and social. That’s why you want to make it easy for people to share and like your site.

For businesses the signal is coming in loud and clear: the time is now for mobile.

– Deni Kasrel

Have you seen good or bad examples of mobile websites? What are they? Your comments welcome.

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Is Your Website Optimized for Google Instant Previews?

Posted on January 27, 2011. Filed under: Search Engine Optimization, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

How many times have you clicked on a link in your Google search results only to find that webpage didn’t have the information or the item you wanted?

These things happen.

No matter how good the search engine, it’s not a mind reader. Only you know exactly what’s most relevant for your particular purposes.

Goggle Instant Previews helps boost the relevance of click-throughs

It would be nice to only click-through to webpages that meet your needs, and apparently Google thinks so, too. That’s why it rolled out Instant Previews, which gives you a sneak peek of your search results.

You’ve likely seen the preview tool; it’s a magnifying glass that appears next to title links in Google search results. Click on the magnifying glass, and presto, you get a graphical representation of that webpage while you’re still viewing search results. With some webpages the preview may also highlight text items relating to your search terms. Between the visual sneak peek and those text highlights, you can quickly compare all your search results to help determine which ones are best for you.

Here’s an example of results for the search query “best restaurants in Philadelphia” where I’ve highlighted the Instant Previews icon:

If you click on the magnifying glass next to the link for Le Bec Fin, you see the homepage to its website, with an announcement about the menu, plus a quote from a food critic.

FYI, Google decides if text appears in a preview. In this case, it’s a kudo from a food writer, which makes for a nice plug that can influence your decision on whether or not to visit this fancy French eatery. Right away, you have a positive impression.

Now, suppose you want to preview the other sites. Well, then your results vary. Take a look at what comes up when you preview Morimoto:

Not much to go by there. That’s because the site is built with Flash, which Instant Previews does not currently support. It doesn’t read Java applets or Silverlight, either.

Any areas Instant Previews can’t read on a website appear blank. If it can’t read any of your site, it looks like Morimoto’s. Then you’ll miss out on any potential benefit that comes from Instant Previews. And you may even forfeit business to an enterprise with a website that renders properly in preview.

Think about it: If you have several choices, and you’re deciding which to pick based solely on what you can glean from the web, and one choice instantly offers a better presentation, don’t you think you might favor the place that gives you the most confidence from the start?

Give your website an Instant Previews check-up

Google claims Instant Previews will “match your query with an index of the entire web, identify the relevant parts of each webpage, stitch them together and serve the resulting preview completely customized to your search—usually in under one-tenth of a second.”

That’s darn fast. Any website takes longer than one-tenth of a second to load. Once you get into the habit of previewing, you’re likely to keep at it. I use previews a lot, and I am surely not alone in this regard.

Which means, if you have a website, you need to pay attention to how it renders in Google Instant Previews. And not just the homepage, but all of the pages, because people can enter your site in any number of ways when coming through a search engine.

In fact, check it right now. See if there are any problems. If so, you should consider making changes to your site’s code so that it can play well with previews. Anything that diminishes your search result can hurt your click-through rate.

Can Instant Previews affect your site’s search rank?

I first found out about the potential for problems with Google Instant Previews from an article by my Twitter pal, internet marketing and SEO consultant, Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe). In his post, Google Instant Previews — Great Functionality or a Signal Back to the Mothership, Glenn suggests that Google might even use previews for its own purposes. He writes:

“It’s hard to ignore the fact that instant previews can send a powerful signal back to Google about the relevancy of the search results. For example, if a page is ranking near the top of the search results, but really shouldn’t (because it’s spammy, the page owner gamed Google’s algorithm to get there, etc.), then Google could start to identify these pages via monitoring low click-through rate via instant previews. For example, imagine a page with 175K impressions in organic search, with 3500 instant preview triggers, but no click-through. That very well could raise a red flag to Google.”

If Google does wind up utilizing Instant Previews as yet another way to determine relevance for certain keywords, that’s just one more reason to be sure your site is up to preview snuff.

More information on Google Instant Previews

For website owners:

Google has a FAQ about instant previews that can help you understand how it works and how you can adjust your website so that it renders properly in preview mode.

For the general web user:

Google provides a good explanation of instant previews, including a short video, on its official blog.

Have you used Google Instant Previews? Has it changed the way you search the web? Please share your thoughts and  comments.

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How Your Website Can Soar Above The Rest

Posted on October 20, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized, Web User Experience | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

dancers (man lifting woman) Big Stock Photo

What’s the difference between a good website and a great one?

It can be a fine line, but one you want to cross.

Recently, when discussing this very topic, I used ballet as a point of comparison.

Yes, ballet can relate to website strategy. Here’s how:

Shiny dancer

Earlier this year I went to a show by BalletX, a Philadelphia-based company. I’ve seen this ensemble a number of times and generally enjoy the performance. This one had an extra spark, much of it fired by a guy named Matthew Prescott.

Matthew was a guest artist and, wow, did he shine.

Not that Matthew was a showy dancer. He just had a wonderfully natural ease of movement combined with superb technical ability.

Now, everyone who dances with BalletX is a high-end professional. Still, Matthew stuck out like a beacon. He was exciting to watch.

No matter what, make it look easy

Matthew showed off his wide smile throughout the program, even when lifting a ballerina high above his head. And sure, she was a flyweight, but really; raising a grown-up body, no matter how light, is tough to do with grace and a grin.

Also, Matthew was keenly attuned not only to the dancers he maneuvered about, but to the audience as well. Everything he did outwardly communicated, “I’m doing this for you.”

So, what does this have to do with strategic web communications?

How to make your website shine (without being showy)

You can have an attractive website with well-written content and that surely goes a long way. But when you’re outstanding it makes a big difference. That’s how you get from good to great.

Here are ballet-inspired pointers for making a website soar:

  • Shine without being showy. Resist the temptation to have lots of bells and whistles. Unless you are an actual purveyor of bells and whistles, these are distractions rather than attractions.
  • Even if your service or product is difficult to execute, make it seem easy to accomplish. Your instinct may be to show all the effort, but the customer just wants to know you’re a real pro.  Of course, if you’re in a technical industry, certain customers will want detailed information on your process. It’s fine to have this available. But don’t make it a focal point on the homepage. Drop it down a couple tiers. The best first impression is of your exceptional value proposition. Convey this in clear compelling fashion.
  • Your site must operate flawlessly from a technical standpoint. All actions need to execute smoothly and without delay of process. On the web, performance (not patience) is the preferred virtue.
  • Every aspect of your site — design, navigation, text, functionality, search engine optimization — must focus on your audience. Your organization does not exist to serve itself and neither should your website.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of these tips to make a website soar above the rest? Can you think of other aspects that make the difference between a good website and a great one? Share your thoughts. Comments welcome.

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