What Is A QR Code And Why Do You Need One?

We all know that one of the keys to great SEO is making sure you keep your website updated, new and fresh. Whether you do this with a blog, or you change your homepage with new offers, coupons or new products, it serves to show Google that your site is “alive.” For many small businesses in particular, this is a real challenge.

So you already have great, fresh content on your site—what’s next? Do you know what is coming that may benefit your small business?

Have you heard of QR codes yet? Here is a quick introduction:

What Are QR codes?

They look like this:

qr code

They come to us from Japan where they are very common. QR is short for Quick Response (they can be read quickly by a cell phone). They are used to take a piece of information from a transitory media and put it in to your cell phone. You may soon see QR Codes in a magazine advert, on a billboard, a web page or even on someone’s t-shirt. Once it is in your cell phone, it may give you details about that business (allowing users to search for nearby locations), or details about the person wearing the t-shirt, show you a URL which you can click to see a trailer for a movie, or it may give you a coupon which you can use in a local outlet.

The reason why they are more useful than a standard barcode is that they can store (and digitally present) much more data, including url links, geo coordinates, and text. The other key feature of QR Codes is that instead of requiring a chunky hand-held scanner to scan them, many modern cell phones can scan them. The full Wikipedia description is here.

How does the cell phone read the code?

The cell phone needs a QR code reader, like this one from Kaywa. It takes literally 1 minute for someone with an iPhone or Android phone to find and install the reader.

How do you generate a code?

You can easily generate a QR code using a site like Kaywa.com or you can use the Open Source code to generate codes for you if you have a smart developer on hand. Google also has a tool — see our separate article about that:Close-Up With Google’s New QR Code Generator.

How can you use QR codes to benefit search marketing?

We are only just scratching the surface of how they will be used. We have added one to every business listing in our directory. Here are a few examples of how others are using them.

A business card company showing how they are using them for businesses:

YouTube Preview Image In print that links the user straight to a web site: YouTube Preview Image Skip to half way in this video to see some examples: YouTube Preview Image

You can also watch this BBC Click interview on YouTube.

How will Google see them?

If you add them to your website, the search engines will see that your pages have changed, and that you are updating pages. The search engine will see a new image and index it accordingly. At some point soon, the search engines will likely recognize QR codes and possibly index the content in them.

Will your customers use them?

Today, few may use them, but those that do will certainly appreciate your tech knowledge, and those that don’t will certainly be inquisitive, which may open the door for conversation and a potential sale. Those that do use QR codes will definitely have a high tech know-how and may be more receptive to your presence on the web, your Twitter presence, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube etc.

How could you use a QR code?

Your business, no matter how small or large, could use QR codes in a number of ways. You might auto generate one next to every product on your web site containing all the product details, the number to call and the URL link to the page so they can show their friends on their cell phone. You could add one to your business card containing your contact details so its easy for someone to add you to their contacts on their cell phone.

Add them to any print advertising, flyers, posters, invites, TV ads etc containing:

  • Product details
  • Contact details
  • Offer details
  • Event details
  • Competition details
  • A coupon
  • Twitter, Facebook, MySpace IDs
  • A link to your YouTube video

Want to know more about QR codes? Check out these articles:

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

Related Topics: Beginner | Channel: Mobile | How To | How To: Mobile Marketing | Small Is Beautiful


About The Author: is co-founder of Brownbook.net, a free directory that anyone can edit. Follow Marc on Twitter: http://twitter.com/marc_lyne.

Connect with the author via: Email


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  • srowen

    Regarding Google search, I can tell you they were looking for and decoding QR codes to locate mobile-oriented links even 2 years ago. Good insight!

  • http://www.brownbook.net Marc Lyne

    Here is a great resource for all things QR code – http://2d-code.co.uk , thanks Roger.

  • http://www.brownbook.net Marc Lyne

    Here is another example of how QR codes are being used: http://www.MemorialTags.com , thanks to David Jones, Twitter id @memorialtags

  • Ian Foster

    QR codes are taking a long time to take off in Europe. 24 months ago the US and UK were on par with interest in QR codes (QRMe stats) and the last 4 months has seen the US way ahead of the UK (and Euorpe) in terms of interest. The technology has a few barriers to overcome over the next 18 months or so… Surfing plan costs, coverage, consumer awareness etc.. play a large part of this technology taking ground and gaining momentum.

  • John3436

    I been experimenting with QR codes using http://www.beqrious.com/ I like there generator and they have a few interesting things they post on there blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nathanranderson Nathan Anderson

    If you are looking to get analytics on your QR codes (including geolocation scan information) then I recommend you check our http://qrinkle.com.  You can add advanced features to your QR codes including A/B testing and expiration dates.

  • Elizabeth Ricci

    Thanks for sharing this article about QR codes, we have written several articles about QR codes on our blog as well. http://www.lucidagency.com/qr-codes/qr-codes-used-by-only-5-of-smartphone-owner/

  • http://twitter.com/BuzzyVoyager Gila Beckermann

    Interesting, thanks for the post, I just found
    it today. I use QR codes now all the time, after
    I figured out how easy it is to use them.
    Just downloaded a free QR reader onto my
    smartphone and then I scan the QR code to
    get the information quickly. No need to type 
    anything on the small mobile phone screen.
    Piece of cake. I love it.

  • Uriel Sapir

    Great tool and easy to implement 


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