Search and Mobile: The coffee debate may linger, but for mobile search Starbucks is clearly less bitter

Posted by Bill Fergus, Account Manager (Natural Search)

As mobile use continues to rise, it’s no surprise that more and more companies are trying to figure out how to leverage their online properties in the mobile space. When clients ask me what they should be doing in mobile, I like to start with the basics of brand coverage and basic user experience.

To answer these questions, I do a quick test by pulling out my Blackberry and searching for my client’s brand through my installed Google App.  Akin to desktop use, Google leads mobile search with a 63% market share (comScore M:Metrics MobiLens. September 2008) so it only makes sense to begin our research there.

As I begin to type in a brand in the Google search box on my Blackberry, I begin to see a type ahead suggestion appear. If my client’s brand appears, it’s a powerful indication of the brand’s popularity in the Google results. It is also very likely that these suggestions provide some insight into actual mobile search volume.  This is Google after all and I’d have a harder time believing that these suggestions weren’t being driven by actual data.

The next thing I do is to begin to click on some of the suggested terms.  These are keywords containing my client’s brand name so I expect that that they own the number one spot.  If this is the case, then I can put a check next to brand coverage.  If this isn’t happening, then we have some bigger problems to take care of. After validating brand coverage, I like to take it one step further by clicking on my client’s link. What is the experience like? 

This might seem very like an unsophisticated approach, but in my opinion, if you don’t even have the basics in order, then what’s the point of a more complicated analysis? Let’s see how this approach works in a real world situation.

In this first example we see a video of me searching for and finding the Starbucks location page.  The page is working just as one would expect and is fully optimized for a mobile device:

In the next example, we see that McDonalds also has a location-based query being suggested.  When I do a search for this term and click on the McDonalds links, I end up on a page that is useless because my phone can’t support the programming behind the page:

The funny thing is McDonalds actually has a mobile site with a mobile location search, but that’s not the page I got to. I guess I’ll be getting my coffee at Starbucks this time.

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