If you read this column on a regular basis, you may think that Google is the only game in mobile search. The fact is, SEOs optimize for traffic, and Google is the mobile search market leader, so it is often the focus of our mobile optimization efforts. But it’s not the only game in town.
As someone who uses mobile search often, I am more often than not frustrated at the number of sites in the results that make me do extra work pinching and zooming to get the information I need.
I’m hoping a mobile search engine can come along that will provide a better user experience than Google. And I’m sorry Google, but with the amount of slow-loading, tiny-text, irrelevant-to-my-context desktop sites you present in mobile results, I can’t imagine that such an undertaking would be impossible to do.
Enter Bing. Honestly, I don’t know if Bing has the stuff to take on Google in the mobile search arena, but I applaud them for trying.
I wanted to know more about Bing Mobile and its approach to mobile search, so I asked Bing Mobile and Local Director of Product Management Andy Chu. What follows is his response.
Q. Google is the current mobile search market leader, with what some would say approaches 99% of the mobile search market share. Is that accurate? If it is, why should marketers optimize for and buy media on Bing?
Chu: At Bing, we are focusing on how to help people to make faster, more informed local decisions in order to help them complete tasks, save money and make search more social with their Facebook friends. From a distribution standpoint, Bing is one of the search options on the iPhone and was one of the top 10 free apps in the Appstore in 2010.
Bing is the default search engine for a number of Android, RIM and Brew devices on Verizon, as well as the default search engine on a number of RIM devices from other carriers. With the launch of Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 7.5, Bing is the default search option everywhere Windows Phone ships in the U.S.
Our unique user growth on m.bing.com on Android has grown more than 270 percent — and more than 100 percent on iPhone — over a six-month period ended April 2011. To date, our app activations in the U.S. have exceed more than 22 million.
Furthermore, we know search has evolved beyond simply typing text and navigating to third-party sites via blue links. Input options have expanded to include voice and OCR, and “signals” have expanded to include coordinates, importance, social signals and other factors that help deliver answers and decisions.
These expanded input options help Bing for Mobile better understand user intent, context, location, etc., which in turn allows Bing to provide improved answers, help with decisions and even recommend additional things to do after you’ve completed the immediate task at hand.
We are driving towards a mobile service where Bing will be the must-have mobile companion service that delivers exactly what you need — whether that is a quick answer to a simple fact, or the right tool and guidance to accomplish even a series of complex tasks.
In terms of where marketers should buy media, recent adCenter investments are making more use of mobile signals to drive greater performance for mobile advertising campaigns on Bing. Over the coming months, marketers can expect to see more focus on mobile in adCenter.
Taking each of these investments — the improvements in the Bing mobile experience, distribution across Apple, Android, Windows Phone, mobile investments in adCenter and the greater scale of the Search Alliance — Bing represents a unique, growing audience that mobile marketers can’t reach anywhere else.
Q. How does Bing plan to distinguish itself in order to gain market share from Google in mobile search?
Chu: Mobile is an important space for Bing, and mobile Internet is ramping faster than the desktop Internet did. The mobile search category has grown 90% year-over-year according to a June 2010 Comscore report. Additionally, global mobile Internet users are expected to exceed the desktop in four years, reaching 1.6 billion users.
To meet the needs of the market, we’re constantly testing and updating our applications and mobile browse experience.
As previously mentioned, Bing is currently one of the search options on the iPhone and the default search engine for a number of Android, RIM and Brew devices, and the default search option for all Windows Phone devices in the U.S.
Q. Do you recommend creating mobile websites in order to get more qualified traffic from Bing mobile search?
Chu: Yes, we encourage companies to create a mobile-specific site to optimize the small form factor mobile device experience for consumers.
Q. Why isn’t mobility more of a quality signal in Bing mobile search results? If you’re trying to provide a positive user experience, why not provide results that are device-specific and contextually relevant?
Chu: Mobile search results will vary depending on device capability and the level of integration we can do at the device and app store level.
For example, in Windows Phone 7.5, we integrated app answers as part of search results to help people discover apps more easily and developed a feature called “Local Scout From Bing,” which takes into consideration a person’s location and specific local interests to help them find things like restaurants and activities in their immediate vicinity.
Q. Do you see a high bounce rate from mobile searchers arriving at desktop content in search results, or do the majority of the searchers take the time to pinch and zoom to find the answers they need?
Chu: Mobile tasks are completed much faster than PCs, with 70 percent of mobile tasks being completed within one hour. On the PC, it can take up to a month.
Q. What percentage of mobile search has local intent?
Chu: More than 50 percent of mobile queries have local intent, and 46 percent of those queries are info-tainment related.
Q. Does Bing consider tablets to be mobile devices?
Chu: We’re paying close attention to how consumers use tablets and other advanced devices, as consumer behavior on these devices is evolving quickly. Today, we consider tablets to be part of our multi-platform mobile strategy. We provide both browser- and client-based solutions that are built to work on a variety of mobile devices such as Windows Phones, BlackBerry, Sidekick, the iPhone, Android, and the iPad.
We design our applications and experiences to be optimized for specific devices, whether that’s tablets, iPhones, Androids, etc. For example, we recently launched a feature called Lasso on our Bing for iPad app that was designed with touch-interface in mind and allows people to search with the circle of a finger.
Q. Should marketers create separate sites that are tablet-optimized?
Chu: Consumers are using tablets at times and places in ways that are different than they use PCs. As marketers look to the audiences they want to reach, they should consider whether or not a tablet-optimized site can deliver the results that they want before making that decision.
Q. Apps are popular ways of delivering a mobile user experience, but they often aren’t indexed as mobile web sites are, and aren’t able to be returned in mobile search. Google and Yahoo have tried to solve this problem by returning mobile apps for certain queries.
How does Bing plan to provide an accurate view of the best of the mobile user experience when a lot of it isn’t able to be spidered?
Chu: When using our iPhone app or m.bing.com on your iPhone, Bing offers “app search,” which surfaces a list of available iPhone apps that relate to the search, in addition to normal search results. We also offer a build-in app search capability as part of the Bing on Windows Phone 7.5 experience. Neither Apple nor Android devices currently offer built-in app search capability.
Q. The keyword suggestions in Bing mobile search appear to be actual mobile queries, as they contain queries like mocospace and ringtones that don’t show up in desktop search suggest. Is this accurate?
Chu: Yes, Bing for Mobile automatically surfaces popular searches suggested based on what’s currently hot on Bing for Mobile. We offer the same experience, called “Popular now,” on the PC.
Figure 1. Search suggest on m.bing.com shows popular mobile queries that could be used for mobile-specific keyword research
Q. I saw Steve Ballmer at SMX West 2010, and he said, “Mobile queries are just gonna keep going up and up and up. I don’t think we’ll see a drop in queries from PCs, but we’ll see a rise in mobile devices queries. Exact numbers are hard to predict. Some queries will feel similar between the two, but there’ll also be a whole new class of queries that are specific to mobile.”
Is this still accurate as we approach 2012? What would be examples of this whole new class of queries that are specific to mobile?
Chu: Yes, we continue to see mobile queries rise across the board (Android, iPhone, RIM, Windows Phone), and we recognize the importance of identifying the signals, context and location of mobile search queries in order to offer the best search experience.
We’re working to expand the search box to take new signals into consideration to help people do, not just find, on the go.
People are using new signals — like Voice and Camera features on their devices — to start searches and complete tasks, such as identifying songs by using the mobile microphone. These are just a few examples of a new class of queries that are specific to mobile devices.
Q. What are the most important things that marketers can do to optimize their content for Bing mobile search results?
Chu: For a marketer promoting a web destination, the best way is to use the webmaster tools on Bing.com. Many content developers submit a mobile URL through the webmaster tools, while others find it’s best to have their site detect what type of device is visiting [i.e., tablet, advanced smartphone, PC], and then redirect the end user to an optimized page. Both of these practices work well with Bing.
For marketers promoting a business with a local physical presence, two of the best basic SEO practices for businesses to follow are:
- Ensure that you are listed in Bing Business Portal and that all business info is correct and always up-to-date
- Provide superior service and encourage customers to give them good ratings and comments in popular review sites such as Yelp, Urbanspoon and City Search.
Thank you to Andy Chu and the Bing Mobile team for taking the time to talk to me about mobile search and SEO. Bing’s support of webmasters is well-known in the webmaster community, and nowhere is that support needed more than in the relatively nascent field of mobile search, where standards are young and the rules are still being written. It is appreciated.
And Google, whenever you’re ready to talk … we’re listening.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.