The End is Nigh for the WAP Site

The success of the iPhone and Blackberry storm with their full Internet browsing capability could signify a new future for mobile Internet.  The ability to view full web pages and navigate with all the ease of a desktop browser, along with the added zoom functionality that makes them readable on a small handset really does give their users full Internet capabilities in a mobile (and an 8GB iPod too in the case of the iPhone 3g!).  But what does this mean to the world of mobile Internet and mobile advertising?  And does it mean the end of WAP sites and mobile specific channels?  After all, as more and more people use handsets with this functionality where is the need for a WAP site?

In the past I have been an advocate of having a WAP site built with clear navigation and easy path to mobile based conversion.  Simplifying the user journey is such a way made mobile Internet consumption a much more pleasant experience and from a business perspective would encourage conversion also.  But since getting my iPhone and realising how usable the Internet can be made on a mobile device I am starting to think we may have seen the end of WAP sites.

Apart from some initial SEO misgivings (Mobile SEO – Stuck in the Past!) I can’t see many reasons why a business would now choose to invest in a WAP site when the future is quite clearly full browser capabilities through mobile handsets.  There is still half an argument for building a specific WAP site based around commonly used mobile functions (such as a simplified interface for balance checking on a bank site for example) but I’m sure there is a simpler way of achieving this than building and maintaining a seperate WAP site.

And its not just WAP sites we are talking here, any technology built specifically for WAP ca[abilities is at risk, including the advertising channels.  There is little or no need for a seperate channel for mobile advertising when users are consuming standard Internet through their handsets.  The wise thing for publishers and networks is to follow Google’s lead and allow advertisers to opt in and out fo mobile traffic, but continue to use the same ads and format.

It may be too soon to say for sure if this is the way things are going to go, but I know id be sweating if I owned a mobile advertising business.  I’d be looking for a way to earn my crust in the new, and much improved, future of mobile Internet.

Google iPhone Targeting – How to make the most of it

Earlier this week Google announced the launch of the ability to target iPhones and mobile devices which have full (html) web browsers on the Adwords blog.  As always happens with these announcements the news spread like wildfire and it is now all over the blogosphere and shouldn’t really be news to anyone who works in search engine marketing.

All campaigns are automatically opted in to the iPhone search results by default but to the intelligent search engine marketer this new functionality offers new opportunities for trial, refinement and maximisation of mobile search.

To the lazy or uneducated this box will remain ticked and the PPC campaign will continue to run on both standard web search and the new iPhone and advanced mobile search.  Using the same keywords, same ad text, and directing to the same website.  There is no harm in this as such given the volume and the way it follows standard search specifications.  But in many industries this would be massively missing an opportunity.  Location specific products such as hotels and national companies with regional branches could do so much more with this functionality if they put their minds to it.

Mobile campaigns need treating differently to standard web search campaigns because users interact with mobile Internet in a different way.  To realise the opportunity then there are a number of steps I would recommend;

Campaigns: deactivate iPhone search in your main campaign and set up a new campaign targeting ONLY THE NEW iPHONE SEARCH.  This will allow you to build a campaign aimed solely at the mobile users and mean you can make the necessary amends.

Keywords: build a keyword list based around mobile users.  This tends to mean simplifying your keyword list and using more broad keywords and dropping the long tail.  But make sure you include location specific keywords if your product fits with people using destinations in searches.  Most people using mobile search to find things want to find something nearby so will often include a town or area name in their search.

Ad Text: Obviously follow the standard Adwords guidelines of making it relevant the search phrase but also consider making it specific to mobile users.  If you are going to offer something special (see point below) then include it in the creative.  Also consider reaching out to mobile users in the creative, a message such as “welcome mobile Internet users!” might sound cheesy, but it’ll also make you stand out.

Website/Landing pages: It is still best practice to have a tailored site for mobile visitors even as mobile Internet advances.  But by splitting out the campaign so you can be sure the visitor is coming form a mobile device, why not send them to a page targeted at their needs?  Or even offer them something special? If you have local stores why not have a splash page offering a discount for all users who show the page in-store and make a purchase?  this would work great for hotels, coffee shops etc.  20% off if you show this page in store.

Tracking: Make sure you track it separately so that you can judge performance.  This probably wont be performance by way of conversions but it will certainly help to see bounce rates and site traffic stats.

Bid strategy: Use the fact you have split the campaign out to your advantage, use the tracking you have installed to judge keywords based on mobile search performance rather than web search performance.

Keep testing!: your unlikely to get this right first time but by trying different things you are bound to find some successes so don’t be afraid to try.  iPhone’s and other mobile devices with full browsers are set to revolutionise mobile Internet, it is better to make your mistakes now and learn from them, rather than in a couple of years when you are already behind the game!

Mobile strategy shouldn’t be something which gets lumped together in the general web pot, in the same way search shouldn’t.  Making sure you have a clear strategy and objective for mobile activity will ensure that as mobile Internet grows, you are best placed to take advantage.

Mobile Social Networking – is it the future?

If you read the digital press and Internet related news sites you will notice that the perceived future of social networking is mobile.  Both Myspace and Facebook have mobile sites which are essentially a stripped down version of the web interface.  But is this what constitutes the future of social media on the web?  Or is it something more?

At a recent seminar I attended on mobile marketing the general message portrayed by the speaker was don’t just regurgatate your website for mobile, think about people will want to use the mobile site for and provide that.  Facebook have done this to a certain degree by stripping back their main website and providing a simplified mobile interface where the most prominent feature is the profile update.  This is fine, but I cant help thinking that it doesn’t really play utilise the benefits of mobile  to make it something more.

Social networking plays into the hands of mobile phones and mobile Internet by its very nature.  Social networks are a communication tool, a tool used to connect with friends and like minded people, as are mobile phones.  But there is a huge difference to the PC based world wide web, and mobile web, and so the networks which are going to be successful need to be adapted to suit the world of mobile Internet.

Gigaom are dubious about the possibility of a social network existing purely on mobile alone quoting the example of Rabble who started as a mobile only social network and are now making strides by partnering with existing web based networks and enabling them to go mobile.

Information Week are a little more confident stating mobile social networks as an untapped market ripe for the picking.  they do however raise questions about the most appropriate monetisation model as standard advertising models don’t really suit.

So why should it work?  Here are some of the main arguments why mobile social networking should work:

Communication tools: as mentioned above, both elements are communication tools, so combined they should compliment each other.

Simplicity: the mobile web is tough to get right, but the simplicity of some key elements of social networking can bypass this if done correctly.  For example Facebook status updates are regularly done via mobile and twitter is also a big player in mobile social.

Growth in Mobile Internet:mobile Internet usage is growing as charges come down and handsets advance.  This makes the potential for those that can get it right even greater.

Reach of Mobile: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t own a mobile, that means everyone is a potential user!

And now for the converse; what are the barriers to it being the next big thing?:

Mobile Internet Usage: although growing, this still isn’t great.  For years now mobile Internet and more specifically mobile advertising has been the "next big thing" but but has never really materialised.

Handset Limitations: Linked to the need for simplicity, lets face it, viewing web pages on a handset just isn’t that good.  navigation is difficult and page load is slow, so anything that is going to take off, is going to have to be simple and compatible.

Revenue models:  Mobile advertising to date, doesn’t really work, so CPM based revenue models are out.  Subscription models could work, but you would need ot give people a pretty good reason to sign up.  Without the two obvious options it is going to take some out of the box thinking to monetise any network which does break down the initial barriers.

I’m sure there are more why’s and why not’s which I could come up with given more time.  Do I think mobile social networking is the next big thing…maybe.  I can see it working, but not in its current form, and as for it working as a stand alone network with no web presence, I’m even less sure about that.  Ill have to give it more thought before writing the business plan to take over the mobile social networking world ; )

Mobile search about to kick off – haven’t we heard this before?

Reuters reported recently that the time has come for mobile search.  In their article, “the time has come for mobile search” they claim the mobile search industry could be worth $2.4 billion by 201.  The actual data has come from Mobile Content Networks Inc. (not that they would be biased!) who make their money from placing ads alongside mobile phone search screens, mmm, why would they be predicted good times ahead I wonder?

The future of not just mobile search but mobile Internet intrigues me, it has been touted as the next big thing for a while now and I have blogged about it in the past (here, here and here) but it still isn’t at a critical mass level or even near for me at the moment.  As the article states, and I have noted in the past, the search terms people are using through their mobile handsets are not for the products and services people search for online.  The Reuters article notes mobile specific search as being the highest volume, typically music tracks or games, where as porn is also a large search term in the mobile world.

My prediction is that mobile search will become a part of the digital mix in the future but not in a way which will see it mirror standard search.  It will require a different model and a different strategy if mobile search is going to become part of a valid digital strategy.

Strongbow utilises mobile marketing

Strongbow are launching a mobile marketing campaign involving promoting a shortcode for users to text in to in order to receive a promotional text entitling them to a free pint in their local.  The offer will be promoting “Bowtime” which will run from 5pm-7pm on Tuesdays for a four week period.  This is imaginative use of mobile and I applaud strongbow for this.  Too many companies discount mobile as not fitting their industry or product but in coming up with this plan Strongbow have found a way of overcoming this.  They are obviously also attempting to try and generate a social/viral element by coming up with Bowtime in the hope people adopt this moving forward.  Also the chances of one pint becoming two, three, four are pretty high (I know from experience!) so they will still make their money on the resulting session.  The Strongbow statement claimed they were “seeking to engage with Strongbow customers in a relevant and long term way”.  I doubt this is the actual aim, I am guessing it is in response to the boom in the last two years of other cider brands (magners and bulmers in particular) as a way of reclaiming some ground.  I can also imagine the people texting in the shortcode will then be the target of further offers to keep promoting Bowtime and continue its impact beyond the four week period.  Ill certainly be tempted by a swift pint if I can get hold of the shortcode but am a little unconvinced Bowtime will become  a regular in my weekly calendar.  Full article here