Greg Sterling will be speaking about “Local/Mobile Strategies and Tactics” at SearchFest 2012, which will be held February 24, 2012 at The Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. For more information or to purchase tickets, please click here.

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living?

I’m an analyst for Opus Research, a boutique strategy and consulting firm in San Francisco. I also do my own consulting. I’m an editor at Search Engine Land and now Marketing Land.

I basically cover what’s now being called the “SoLoMo” segment with a heavy helping of search in there. I used to tell people that I studied the “impact of the Internet on offline consumer purchase behavior.”

Here are the blog links: (Opus Research)

2) What’s the state of Google’s Local SERPS in 2012 and where is it trending?

This is a very broad question. It seems more and more of Google’s efforts are directed at mobile and offline transactions (e.g., Offers, Google Wallet). Multiple initiatives, in other words, impact Local at Google.

We’ve seen the continuous evolution of the Google SERP to become increasingly localized over time. People have speculated that Google Places will be merged with or replaced by Google+ Pages for business. I agree that Google needs to find a way to connect them at a minimum. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google+ Pages take over or Google Places automatically converted into Google+ Pages.

I think this will be one of the big stories in Local this year: how Google manages Pages and Places. Mobile will also continue to be huge story in local. So mobile SEO assumes a larger role. That means both apps and mobile web.

3) Is there any difference between a “mobile search strategy” and a “tablet search strategy”? If yes, what is it?

Screen size is the major difference. There are also some differences in consumer usage and behavior starting to emerge. On the iPad a PC website will render fine. There are of course some things that can be done to optimize for tablets on the mobile Web (like converting video to HTML5). A mobile website, generally speaking, provides a sub-optimal experience on a 10-inch tablet. In addition, depending on your business, you should potentially consider a tablet app.

On the Android side of the tablet world it’s more complicated. Almost all the 10-inch Android tablets so far have failed. The most successful Android tablets are Nook and Kindle Fire. There may be as many as 4+ million Kindle Fire devices now in the market.

However, to reach users on Kindle Fire with an app you’ve got to go through the Amazon Appstore. People don’t have easy access to the Android Market. The 7″ screen, which also appears to be where Android tablets will have greatest success in the near term, is a bit strange. PC sites don’t look great but neither do smartphone-optimized mobile sites. Here you should probably go with an HTML5 site optimized for smartphones and maybe an app. Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) may solve the screen size problem for developers but it’s not yet clear to me.

Search is becoming a much more fragmented and complex on smartphones. On tablets there’s more PC-like behavior. Google is widely used. On smartphones, apps loom much larger. For example, comScore just reported that slightly more people were using apps now than the mobile Web.

When people do a local search on a smartphone they’re going to be less inclined to go to a search engine than their favorite app. Navigational queries are removed from the mix in many instances. For example, I might use Google to navigate to Yelp or a specific area within Yelp (e.g., Portland Sushi) on the PC. On a smartphone I’ll just fire up the Yelp app and skip Google.

On a tablet I might also use Yelp’s app but there will be more PC-like search behavior because of the big screen. It’s less of a pain to cull through “blue links” on a 10-inch tablet than on a smartphone.

On smartphones “search” includes voice and image search and barcode scanning. It’s all getting more complicated and fragmented.

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