How often have you predicted “next year will be the year mobile will make its breakthrough?” And did you make the prediction for 2010? If you did, you are not alone. But maybe you shouldn’t make the prediction this year. Not because mobile won’t break through, but because it might have actually arrived in 2009, or even before. At least, in Europe mobile has.

Europe is a continent which is very mobile minded. Compared to Europe, the American mobile market is underdeveloped. Most of Europe’s markets had exceeded 100% penetration at the end of 2007, with more than 750 million mobile subscribers. And the European mobile market still continues to grow.

76 percent of those mobile users are in the top 10 European nations. You would expect countries like the UK and France to be on top of that list. However, the UK market, with 73.1 million subscribers in 2007, “only” amounts to nine percent of the market, making it the fourth European country on the list. The largest market in Europe is Russia with a share of 22%.

Moneywise, that translates into some very interesting numbers. In the UK for example mobile ad spend was worth about $46 million dollars in 2008. The revenues were divided almost equally between mobile display ads and paid search. To give you an indication of how fast mobile is growing: 2008 mobile ad spend will be almost double the spend in 2007. KPMG has predicted revenue growth of 33% for 2010 for the mobile entertainment industry.

Not everything is great though. As I’ve explained before Europe is a very fragmented continent. Every country has its own rules and regulations. Having these different regulations makes it difficult to get a grip on the market, and the money. For example, if you travel to different European countries and you try accessing your mobile webpages through your phone you are bound to receive a huge invoice when you get home. The home network operator usually adds a mark-up of 10 to 25 cents per minute. So when traveling most Europeans now try to access the web as little as possible.

However, things are changing. European politicians in the European Committee are trying to open the telecommunications markets through liberalization measures. They want further deregulation. This year Neelie Kroes, a Dutch politician, will assume the position of European Commissioner for the digital agenda. She will likely be an activist to spur telecoms to get Europe more online. Kroes until recently was the European Commissioner for Competition, where she got Microsoft to stop “pushing” Internet Explorer in Windows.

The first signs of the new politics can already be seen. Recently a new telecom law was approved. This rule, which caused some debate because it had also some cookie/privacy regulations in it, has to be integrated in EU countries’ laws before the end of 2012. The law is meant to get the telecom providers working the same way in every country and its meant to get the competition straightened out and with protecting European citizens from paying too much for telecom services.

Meanwhile Europeans continue to be online using their mobile devices. Most Europeans use iPhones to go on the web. The iPhone browser is the most used mobile OS, followed by Symbian. Android only has about 2% market share but the new Nexus phone and the other Android phones will without a doubt help the Google mobile OS quickly gain market share.

The Nexus phone will most probably be received with less excitement in Europe than in the US however. Unlocked handsets are pretty common in Europe. Therefore the Nexus will be one of many devices on the market. However, the iPhone and the Nexus do represent a “new way” of mobile usage, with most people focusing on apps instead of web surfing and e-mail. Mobile collaboration is emerging in Europe, and this is driving the mobile industry and makes social networking using the mobile phone more common. Applications like Twitter-apps, augmented reality apps and mobile banking will see more usage in the coming year and will help the Europeans get mobile online even more.

So how about search engines? Mobile search numbers are in Europe not much different than the numbers on the non-mobile web. Last year Google was the most used mobile search engine by far with a market share of over 96%, except for Russia where Yandex dominates.

So what can we learn from all of this?

  • Going mobile should be a no-brainer. If you want to reach the Europeans chances are mobile is a good way of doing that, with especially rich opportunities for branding and advertising.
  • Ecommerce is an interesting opportunity. New applications make it possible for mobile devices to do financial transactions.
  • If you want to reach the audience, be sure to reach them using applications.
  • Get your websites mobile-ready—and search friendly. Europeans use search on their mobile phones like they do on the non-mobile web, which means they use search a lot.
  • Mobile paid search is increasing.

So is Europe how the mobile future will look? Perhaps, but even with its high mobile use Europe can learn a thing or two from the Far East where mobile is even more integrated. But because Europe has resemblances to the US in the way people live and work, it is an interesting continent for search marketers to look at. In this case Europe doesn’t come in after the US, but before.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Multinational Search

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About The Author: is a Web/search strategist, international search specialist, trainer, and well-respected blogger. Bas is well informed about what's going on in the world of Internet and search marketing worldwide and especially Europe. Bas is the owner of Stateofsearch.com and also posts regularly on his personal blog.

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