Preparing for the Age of Mobile

One thing I’ve realized while being on the road for the last two weeks has been the reliance I have had to put on my BlackBerry in order to get things done.

Searching for local restaurants, searching for directions, keeping up with the divisional playoffs for the NFL, communicating with friends, booking trying to book plane tickets… hell, even finding the nearest gas station (don’t worry Zane, it’s totally fine that your iPhone app took us to a diesel only station in the LA ghetto after dark that looked straight out of Boyz in the Hood on the first attempt).

Don’t get me wrong… I am constantly on my phone even when I’m not on the road, but in the last two weeks, I’ve had to absolutely rely on it and it made me realize that a lot of companies and websites need to get ready for the age of mobile.

Mobile rendering

First and foremost, there is nothing more frustrating than a website that isn’t optimized for mobile browsing. Wait, yes there is… a website that doesn’t work correctly on a mobile device [*cough* Expedia *cough*] especially when that device is a Smartphone. If you’ve yet to test how your website renders on a mobile phone, you need to start testing it with mobile emulators now. Because if your website doesn’t render properly, I’m simply going to hit the back button on my mobile browser and find one that does.

Mobile search

Is your website ready for mobile search? While most factors are typical to “normal SEO”, there are some differences in prepping your website to do well in the mobile search engines. Page size, low use of images (which your mobile users will thank you for as well), doc types and more are all said to be factors. Mobile search is still in its infancy, but the growth expectations for it especially on local searches over the next five years are large.

The Kelsey Group released new research statistics centering on mobile, specifically local and online. Kelsey’s Mobile Local Media Forecast (2008-2013) shows a 130.5% growth rate for local mobile search and an 81.2% growth for overall mobile ad revenues. – Source

Being early to the battle is one of the biggest factors in winning the war in search. You can start learning mobile search now or wait until it’s an absolute necessity and you’re behind in the learning curve to get started. I’d highly suggest choosing the former.

Mobile applications

Sure, we all know the fun applications for mobile devices. iPhone alone has tons of useless, but fun, apps being made daily for their devices. Sites like NFL.com have mobile apps that let you access football news, scores and schedules with quick and painless ease. But a lot of companies are failing to realize the potential importance (and monetization) of mobile applications as the use of mobile surfing grows.

For example, last week while I was in Vegas, I needed to book a plane ticket unexpectedly. We’ll forget for a second that the Expedia website didn’t work properly on my BlackBerry and that I had to walk 14,000 miles through the MGM to the Business Center to book the ticket as a result. My first thought was how the heck is there not an application for this? Imagine if Expedia put out a simple application for the various Smartphone devices that allowed you to not only search, but also book plane tickets online. It would make life easier for a lot of frequent travelers.

Let’s take that a step further and wonder what would happen if a Travelocity put one out first. Oh wait, they did (although, it’s only for the iPhone… big miss guys on the largest segment of Smartphone users – BlackBerry users). If I used an inferior iPhone or if they had a BlackBerry application, they’d have just converted me to being a Travelocity user. Why? Because mobile, to me, is all about convenience and not the ten dollar price difference in plane fares.

Yet another step further… what if an affiliate of Expedia built that application and then allowed it to have free downloads and ensured every sale was made through their affiliate link?

Get it? Good.

I’ve said it before… mobile is coming. You need to be accessible (mobile rendering), you need to findable (mobile search) and you need to find the angles to monetize it (mobile applications) whether you’re a company or affiliate while we’re still in the beginning stages of the game if you want to come out a winner in the end.

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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