January 10, 2012 – This month’s event began with a discussion on mobile search.  Before delving into optimization strategies, Scott Fish, from ethology, shared several mobile trends to emphasize its growing importance and relevancy.  Among them were two points that especially stood out:

1) Mobile is everywhere.  Literally.  In fact, 39% use the internet on their smart phone while using the restroom.

2) Mobile drives a response.  88% of people looking for local information take action within a day.

Scott recommended www.howtogomo.com, a tool that scores how well your website is doing on mobile.  He also provided a number of optimization strategies.  One such recommendation was to be thumb-friendly.  Tablets and phones have different sizes, so design accordingly.  Also, make the user’s experience seamless.  For example, allow users to save popular searches and shopping cart contents so they can use multiple screens throughout the day without hassle.  In addition, consider paid mobile opportunities such as managing budgets of mobile targeting separately from standard search and utilizing dynamic number rotation for call tracking.  Finally, target shorter search query strings (1-3 word queries).

David Mihm walked us through the evolution of local search at Google, dating back to pre-January 2008.  Perhaps most intriguing was a large amount of change in a short 3-month period.  Between April and July of 2011, we saw a lot occur, including the creation of a new SVP position (SVP of Local and Commerce), the decision to open Google Mapmaker to U.S. users and the launch of Google+.

Looking at where we are now, David noted that title tags, links, citations, location data and reviews are all still important.  A new layer, though, must be added to the mix: social.  He shared several local search recommendations to focus on, such as finding power users to write elite reviews, seeking out special opportunities in your industry (e.g. “top 100 restaurants) and securing particular sources that competitors don’t have.

Before closing, David reminded us that the key is to take a holistic look at your strategy to stay ahead of the competition.

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