(Read in entirety at Search Engine Land. Published 2011)
Last time I made the case that you’re not mobile-friendly unless you’re friendly to searchers too. I argued that since the marginal cost of achieving basic SEO is lowered by addressing alongside development of mobile friendly content, consumer brands can benefit by making such optimization a launch requirement, thereby accelerating mobile ROI.
I also shared an illustration of what I refer to as the “mobile media matrix.” Today, I want to apply that framework to put things in bigger perspective, because I understand the counter argument to my post: From 30,000 feet, SEO is just one “media type” within a single channel that marketers need to mobile optimize.
What about other channels and other media types like Social and SMS?
Ultimately the same logic applies: If you’re developing a new mobile information architecture, it’s in your best interest as an ROI driven marketer to optimize for as many “earned media types” as possible at launch. Ironically, that’s often the last priority.
While it may not be as sinister as the matrix of film legend, I predict the mobile matrix will become a disruptive enemy to your business if you do not make it your friend, Neo.
Here is the illustration:
The matrix is dynamic. Let me explain the directional flow I see going on here:
Basically consumers engage their mobile devices using the most popular touch-points and use cases (see ComScore’s most current data). These touch-points are becoming mobile marketing channels, and include Social, Search, SMS, Apps, Email, Local, and Offline (which includes Print, PR, Direct, Broadcast, etc). Each of these channels is represented in the matrix illustration using concentric rings, leading to the brand at the bottom.
Marketers reach consumers who engage each touch-point (down the center), through both “earned media” on the left and “paid media” on the right. Each media type in each channel requires unique tactics to reach consumers and ultimately lead them to directly engage the brand website, storefront, or phone.
(Note: For simplicity sake I’ve taken liberty with these definitions, beyond what Forrester originally outlined, though I agree with their framework.)
In essence, each channel is a conversion funnel to be optimized. Each mobile consumer takes a potentially unique and complex combination of these paths to engage the fully mobile brand.
The illustration is an attempt to organize and highlight the changing dynamics and challenges facing mobile marketers – within each media type, channel, and mobile as a whole. After all, the ending point for these channels is still the brand and its website or storefront.
If you thought it was challenging navigating multiple stakeholders and complex IT/CMS systems just to optimize a few thousands web pages for search rankings, I’m afraid you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The way most brands approach mobile optimization is to first secure the base. That is, optimize for brand users (either type-in traffic or search as navigation users) by providing content and processes that are optimized for the mobile viewports. But this is just defense and no offense. There is nothing about this strategy to connect the brand to mobile channel users.
Next, they tend to optimize for “paid media” through mobile PPC, social display, geo-aware texting campaigns, or print-based QR codes. The vendors here are incented to optimize campaign ROI and make it straight-forward to execute. It’s a natural next step.
Last come the “earned media” elements like SEO, Social Media, Texting, and App rank. Marketers hesitate here because they can be complex, lack standards, and can be more difficult to quantify than the paid media brethren.
But marketers should reconsider this approach for the same reasons I articulated last time with mobile SEO – optimizing for earned media amplifies mobile ROI and minimizes ongoing paid media costs. Particularly those that are addressable through your information architecture.
SMS is still the most popular use of smartphones in America (68%), with the fastest growing use being for accessing social media content (nearly 27% as of February 2011). Both of these are inherently social activities.
If you’re building mobile content, the marginal costs of enabling consumers to socialize your content are insignificant, particularly in light of the ROI benefits.
A great example is Carnival Cruise brand’s website which I recently analyzed for mobile SEO and Social elements. Carnival sells a considered purchase. People naturally want to socialize it. Why not let me Tweet the Bahama cruise package? Or post the Alaska destination page to Facebook for feedback? Or let me text my wife a link to see what she thinks?
The SEO sees achieving such organic links for free as invaluable. Just add the buttons to each product page and make sure you’re posting branded shortlinks to maximize real-time search findability of your brand.
Another example: Carnival is very active in social media, with multiple tweets each day to over 24,000 Twitter followers and over 500,000 Facebook fans. But when Carnival pushes social campaigns with links to special offers, the mobile user gets lost.
Unbranded URL shorteners like bit.ly obfuscate the destination link, and lack helpful keyword clues. Remember, the mobile user can’t hover over a link to see where it leads, like on desktop. In Carnival’s case, if they click the link, the need for intelligent redirection rears its head again – redirecting mobile social users to the mobile home page.
Good luck hunting down that quickly expiring special offer!
A final SMS example from HSN: I love what they’re doing to promote SMS subscriptions from their mobile home page. They provide users with clear incentive (free shipping) to opt in and a link with instructions to signup.
One way HSN could increase signups is to hyperlink the promotion to the SMS app using a simple <a href=”sms:”> tag.
This way, the mobile user – who may not have their hands free to type, doesn’t have to remember the code or even type.
Clicking the link spawns the SMS application and they hit “send.” Easy. This maximizes signups regardless of mobile channel used to arrive at the site.
Just as with SEO, optimizing your mobile web architecture for “earned media” can by quite easy technically, while strategically reducing reliance on paid media costs and increasing ROI from all mobile marketing.
That may not be what paid media vendors are designed to sell, but consumer brands that nail this approach can more quickly free up resources to create strategic advantage elsewhere in the “mobile matrix.”