Mobile Search vs. Traditional Search: How User Behavior Differs and How to Optimize for It

Fighting for real estate atop search engine results pages (SERPs) has always been a challenge. Thanks to smartphones, it’s getting a lot tougher. Gone are the days of searching exclusively from your desktop from work or home; now, most people carry search engine access in their pockets and are using Google on their mobile browsers.

mobile search resultsFighting for real estate atop search engine results pages (SERPs) has always been a challenge. Thanks to smartphones, it’s getting a lot tougher. Gone are the days of searching exclusively from your desktop from work or home; now, most people carry search engine access in their pockets and are using Google on their mobile browsers.

Not only have smartphones taken over, but mobile search results pages are changing, too. When using Google on your smartphone, you’re far more likely to get results with locator maps, call buttons, hours of operation, reviews and more. To the Average Joe, this is incredibly convenient. But for online marketers, this is somewhat frightening. Now all those SEO experts are vying for top positions on tiny smartphone screens with significantly less real estate.

The players are changing, and so is the game.

This paradigm shift can’t be ignored. Cling to your desktop strategy, and eventually your website will be outranked by those adjusting for mobile. Adapting is the only way forward. Here, we’ll review some key differences between mobile and traditional searches and how to make the most of the changing behavior of Web users.

Differences Between Mobile and Traditional Web Searches

So, mobile search usage is picking up and showing no signs of slowing down — what does this mean to you?

First, consider the factors driving the change. We already reviewed the reduction of real estate; most desktops are hooked to 20-inch monitors, while the new iPhone 7 sports a relatively tiny 4.7-inch screen.

Then there’s the fact that most smartphones are viewed vertically, while desktop searches are viewed on horizontal monitors. Desktop users scroll and click; mobile users swipe and tap. Studies have also shown that mobile users tend to know what they want; mobile searches result in more short-term sales at local businesses than desktop searches.

Keep that in mind as we review these important differences between mobile and desktop search pages:

1. Top organic search results are pushed further down on pages.

First, the good news. If you have a coveted top organic SERP placement, you’ll still get good traffic to your website. However, Web users need more time to find these placements on mobile devices. A 2014 study by the marketing firm Mediative found that people took 87 percent longer to find the top placement for a car show when it was placed below a Google Knowledge Graph (that box containing a summary of information either on the top or the right side of SERPs).

There isn’t much you can do about this problem — at least, nothing in the short term — other than to make your content as unique and compelling as possible. Never before has standing out on SERPs been more important.

2. Getting a top-four placement is a MUST on mobile.

We capitalized “MUST” for a reason. Getting a top-four placement was important even on desktops considering just 16 percent of organic clicks went below the fourth-ranked result. But 16 percent is still a sizeable portion of traffic. For mobile searches, on the other hand, the Mediative study found more than 92 percent of clicks went to the top four organic results, leaving just 7.4 percent for everything below. Ouch.

This is a huge problem for marketers who haven’t optimized their websites and landing pages for mobile Web browsers. It’s not enough to be content with moderate search rankings on desktop searches. Those searches are shrinking. Mobile is the future.

Add More Traffic With Universal and Extended Search Optimization

If your organic search optimization plan does not include optimization for pertinent elements of both universal and extended search, you may be missing out on a surprising amount of traffic.

SEOIf your organic search optimization plan does not include optimization for pertinent elements of both universal and extended search, you may be missing out on a surprising amount of traffic.

In the beginning, organic search optimization was focused on the pursuit of top placements for your site’s pages. Search has evolved and so, too, must your optimization plan.

Today, instead of 10 blue links on a page, most contain 8.5. An array of universal and extended search elements enhance and complement the Google search results pages. The inclusion of maps, images, video results, the Knowledge Box and Twitter results enhance the user experience and speed searchers to their desired information.

A recent white paper from Searchmetrics looked at the results from approximately 500,000 general, frequently searched terms. Because Google increasingly is applying different algorithms for mobile vs. desktop searches, the results from both were analyzed. This study clearly shows that any optimization plan is incomplete, unless it includes the elements of both universal and extended search.

Universal Search — Vertical Search Integrated Into the Results Page

Universal search, launched in 2007, was Google’s integration directly into the search results of vertical search elements that had previously been developed as separate search engines. These included: shopping, news, videos, images and maps. Although showing up integrated into the search results page, these vertical silos of information can still be accessed from tabs on the Google results page.

The type of elements displayed vary depending on the keyword search. For example, a search for a “Zen frog fountain” yields a results page rich in images and shopping details. There is even a video. A search for your local hospital will yield a results page with a map and directions.

Each element in universal search has its own optimization requirements, and many organic SEO plans employ them. The SEO can clearly guide the optimization of images so that relevant product images will be included in the array of images shown for keyword searches.

For e-commerce merchants, it is quite important to optimize all of your images, because they can drive substantial amounts of traffic. Similarly, video content can be readily optimized using available guidelines.

Google’s emphasis on quality of the information and the authority of the source has driven the evolution of news optimization from press releases to publishers. Today, the news integration includes just the freshest and most authoritative sources. Because the news elements evolved from vertical search, there are a set of guidelines for optimization of news.

Not all elements are equally important for every business, but traffic can be gained by optimizing all the germane elements.

Extended Search — More Boxes and Features

Extended search is the term applied to the additions to the search results that are not based on vertical search engines. These results are algorithmically developed from a variety of internal and external sources available to Google. Extended search includes: The Knowledge Graph, the image carousel, the Twitter Cards, the direct answer/fact boxes, the related questions that are delivered along with the direct answers, and the app packs found in mobile searches.

Because the results pull information from a number of sources, they are much more difficult to optimize for. They are best viewed as the result of a broad footprint of information that will satisfy the demands of these elements.

For example, the Knowledge Graph relies on Google My Business and Wikipedia information. If your company has a complete profile on these two key sources, you will be feeding the information needed to drive the Knowledge Graph. Similarly, sites with recipes, events and reviews can use structured data to enhance the likelihood of appearing in the direct answers boxes.

As we move into the fourth quarter and plan for the next year, do be sure to review the universal search and expanded search elements that have the most traffic-driving potential for your business and strategize for how to include them in your optimization planning.

3 Ways to Make Your Direct Mail Maps Great

Maps are a pretty common element in direct mail. Whether it’s an insurance agent looking for leads, or a retail brick-and-mortar store trying to create traffic, maps can provide a lot of information quickly to a customer. But the effectiveness of those maps — how well they do their jobs — varies widely based on the mail I see every day.

Maps are a pretty common element in direct mail. Whether it’s an insurance agent looking for leads, or a retail brick-and-mortar store trying to create traffic, maps can provide a lot of information quickly to a customer. But the effectiveness of those maps — how well they do their jobs — varies widely based on the mail I see every day.

As the director and archivist of Who’s Mailing What!, I keep folders of mail and email details that aren’t part of our website. These are subjective things you can’t measure or quantify, or find in a database search, like great envelope teasers, best practice order forms, or emails using effective testimonials. You get the idea.

Based on what I found in my map folder, here are three tips on what to do — and what to improve upon — in creating direct mail that can drive customers to the front door of any business.

1. Make the Maps Clear
As an important supporting element in a direct mail package, a map should make it as easy as possible for a prospect to find you and do business with you. This overcomes a common objection – “I don’t know how to find you” – as your mail gets read, and, then, is acted upon, saved, or tossed into the recycling bin.

Inova_01This 6”x11” postcard was mailed by Inova, a healthcare system based in Northern Virginia. Covering its entire front, the well-rendered, readable street map pinpoints the urgent care facility’s location, as well as those of nearby landmarks like parks and shopping centers. Alongside a photo of the center, the street address — perfect for finding on a GPS device — is also provided.

In sharp contrast, below is a map from a mailer for a Kia dealership. Measuring a measly 1-1/2”x1-1/2” on a 5-1/2”x8-1/2” panel, important details like street names and route numbers are blurry and nearly impossible to read.

KIA_012. Make the Maps Relevant
Providers of medical services, such as hospitals and care centers, are big users of maps in direct mail, and probably the best at it. In promoting these vital services, it isn’t enough to list the location of the nearest facility, it has to be shown on a map. New movers are a particularly good target market for this kind of mail.

Comcast_01Comcast promoted a new XFINITY store with a self-mailer that included a large map on the inside. It’s positioned near the center of one panel, across from copy and images that promote the wide array of products and services demonstrated and offered there. There’s also an incentive offered for a visit:  a “free gift”.

3. Make the Maps Personal
Why use a generic map when customized variable mapping can make the journey personal? Leveraging personal data, like an address, on a visual, printed mailpiece is a powerful service offered by a number of providers. Without getting creepy, it grabs the customer’s attention by showing his or her home’s location in relation to the business being promoted by the mailer.

Here’s a good example, from Patient First, a chain of urgent and ready care centers.

PF_01Above the indicia on this 5-3/4”x11” postcard, there’s a unique map that shows the recipient’s location (the “You are here” designation), the new Patient First Center, and the driving route between them. It’s readable and bigger than what you’ll see in almost any direct mail package, measuring 2-3/4″ x 4-3/4.”

At the same time, there’s still plenty of real estate on the left to include messaging, like letting the addressee know that they’re only “8 minutes away” from the new center. Bullet points list the center’s hours and the medical services it offers. And the call to action also pushes a gift: a first aid kit.

When you think of all the kinds of businesses that would love traffic driven to their doors — retail, insurance, financial institutions, automotive, museums and zoos, travel offices, restaurants — the power of the individualized map becomes even more apparent. And adding other relevant overlays — based on previous purchases, or gender, for example — can increase ROI even further.