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Hyperlocal ads are linchpin to holiday mobile search success

Consumers are undoubtedly using their mobile devices more this holiday season to search. The trick for marketers though, is using the medium to drive repeat traffic. 

From splitting up PC and mobile campaigns to driving relevant search results, mobile search is all about context and personalization this year. In addition to location, attaching mobile search to season-specific coupons, offers and deals can be particularly effective at this time of year.

?The most fundamental thing you can do to create repeat traffic via mobile search is to provide useful, SEO optimized, mobile optimized content ? that goes without saying,? said Rachel Pasqua, vice president of mobile at iCrossing, New York.

?So many of us are clicking on natural search results on our mobile device, and if the site is slow to load or hard to use, we're out of there, and we're not coming back,? she said.

?Local and hyperlocal search ads, and ? especially this time of year ? offer ads, are going to be pivotal in drawing users in and bringing them back to both your virtual and brick and mortar storefront.?

Context is key
Over the past year, mobile has become more sophisticated for marketers.

Consumers are increasingly turning to mobile as their first touch point with a brand, meaning that the medium is used for a wide variety of functions.

Specifically though, location is what sets mobile search apart from PC search, and marketers seem to be taking more notice of it this holiday season.

For instance, a new study from IgnitionOne found that marketers increased their mobile budgets on smartphone ads 307 percent this year over last. For tablet advertisements, marketers spent 231 percent more this year.

Although there are still wide gaps in the cost-per-clicks of PC searches compared to mobile searches, the research is proof that brands might be spending more to target consumers on multiple screens.

Gone are the days when brands can slap together a landing page with only the bare minimum amount of information and assume that it is enough to drive substantial traffic, per Ms. Pasqua.

?Think contextually ? your mobile site should feature the kind of action-oriented content that will drive your customers to purchase, but don't limit yourself to the basics,? Ms. Pasqua said.

?It used to be that if you had a decent mobile landing page, a store locator and a click-to-call button, you were way ahead of the game but not anymore,? she said. ?Smart brands are also upping the ante with things like product info, customer reviews, real-time and location-specific deals and offers. These are the things that will keep the customer coming back to your site. Provide your customers with the mobile-friendly tools and content that will help them make those real-time, in-store decisions and you get them to the register.?

Real-time information plays a big role during the holidays. Compared to other times of the year, consumers are using mobile search to aid in buying gifts for other people.

Quick access to reviews, price comparison tools and additional product information take on a greater role for mobile search queries during the holidays. Additionally, these consumers are not passive and are ready to buy then and there ? often times while inside a store.

Separate agendas
Based on the ways that consumers use their mobile devices, marketers should be splitting search initiatives into mobile and PC-based campaigns.

The mobile-specific campaigns can be tailored with separate keywords from PC versions.

Marin Software, for example, has found that at least 19 percent of search inquiries come from mobile devices. This represents a significant amount of traffic that marketers should not ignore.

?Searches on mobile devices, particularly smartphones, tend to be done while the user is out and about,? said Matt Lawson, vice president of marketing at Marin Software, San Francisco.

?Consequently, the ad experience needs to reflect such,? he said. ?After splitting out mobile campaigns from desktop campaigns, the No. 1 tactic a mobile marketer can do to optimize for mobile is write ad copy that will appeal to the on-the-go shopper.?

?After mobile-appropriate copy, some more advanced tactics include implementing features like click-to-call and location extensions.?

For example, in industries such as restaurants and automotive that are primarily geared at driving traffic to a particular location, contact information is a must in a mobile search campaign.

Acccording to Mr. Lawson, because of the quick rate of mobile adoption over the past year, this year will mark the first year that retailers without mobile-specific campaigns will lose revenue.

New tablet opportunities
This year marketers also need to view their smartphone and tablet search campaigns differently.

?More people are shopping with tablets than last year,? said Terry Costa, vice president of marketing at SLI Systems, San Jose, CA.

?Couch commerce is increasing,? he said. ?Shoppers will use mobile search not only on smartphones, and also on tablets and mini-tablets.?

Indeed, tablets are increasingly being viewed separately from smartphones for marketers.

With the increasing number of devices available to consumers this year, marketers need to plan accordingly for tablets. Although Apple?s iPad does claim the majority of tablet market share, brands need to think about all of the devices available to consumers.

?Retailers need to find ways to provide the best search user experience on multiple devices,? Mr. Costa said. ?Accounting for the different smartphone and tablet brands is a challenge, but new advances in programming languages are helping."

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter at Mobile Marketer, New York