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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - July 2008

This month we look at how search on the mobile web is gaining ground as a powerful source of new business for some companies and what needs to be done to websites to take advantage of this growing market sector. We also look at the issue of competitor activity within PPC advertising and how companies can keep ahead of the game and not to be drawn into distracting bid activity. Finally we look at the requirements for optimising PDF documents, which are increasingly being indexed by the main search tools and can provide another route for searchers to find your online content.

Read more about these stories below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subjects covered.

On to this month's edition...

Mobile search marketing gains ground

Mobile search marketing is destined to become the next prominent growth sector of the search market and all the main search tools are targeting resources to take full advantage of this and to grow market share as more users turn to their mobiles to access the Internet. This also means that companies who will benefit most from mobile search need to consider how to develop their online presence to full effect.

A recent report by the Nielsen Mobile survey indicated that Google is dominating the mobile search market, as it does on the web. Figures show Google holding a 61% share of mobile searches in the US, followed by Yahoo! at 18% and MSN at 5%. This pattern reflects the online search share in this market and is probably not a surprising trend as searchers are likely to use the same search tools that they find most useful on the web, although performance and results in the mobile sector will also determine usage.

Business Week recently reported on ways that the mobile web - Internet access through mobile phones - is starting to change the way that people go online and use websites. Dubbed 'the weekend web', there is now a distinct trend (at least in the US) where people are spending more time online via wireless devices, as well as tending to use a different set of sites than during the week.

Google reports that most mobile traffic to their search site comes at the weekend with mobile browsing increasing by 89% in the past year and mobile page views reported to have increased by 127%. The increase is attributed to a wider availability of one price-full access data plans plus the increasing sophistication of handheld devices such as the new Apple iPhone.

Additional research has shown that the weekends see a lot of mobile web activity around classified advertising sites, such as eBay, as well as travel/mapping sites, sport and weather sites. This means that as the mobile web begins to grow, companies that will benefit from this sector, including many local businesses and services, need to consider how to develop their online presence for mobiles.

Most traditional websites will not perform well on mobile phone browsers, with issues of scrolling and load times, as well as navigation problems. Web content needs to be simplified and very functional to be found and displayed effectively on mobiles, so as the mobile web develops, companies will need to consider designing simplified sites just for mobiles.

There can also be different mobile browser issues and problems with the diversity of hardware the TiltView website can give a perspective on how different websites may appear on a mobile phone and how different systems currently display site. It is likely that more specialist agencies will emerge to support this growing market and there is likely to be a tipping point over the next few years when the importance of mobile will drive more companies to develop their sites for this sector.

To find out more about the impact of the mobile web and how you can develop your website to take advantage of this market, please contact us now.


Considering competitor activity with PPC advertising

As PPC advertising becomes more competitive, leading to an increase in the average bid prices, any company running a campaign on one or more of these tools can't do so in isolation. The success of a campaign will depend to some degree on monitoring competitive activity, particularly in a price-driven or service comparison market. However, there are also areas where competitor activity can be a distraction and lead to a reduced ROI in this advertising channel.

As more and more companies sign up to use Google AdWords and the other PPC advertising options, each marketplace will naturally become more crowded and competitive, with rising costs and a greater need for advertisers to focus on attracting the best volumes of quality traffic and then converting these once they land on their website.

One key part of setting up and managing a PPC advertising campaign is to have an awareness of competitive activity. This can range from assessing what other advertisers are saying in their adverts, in order to make your own adverts stand out and include a convincing 'hook' to get searchers to click on your link rather than someone else's. It can also include monitoring which terms advertisers are bidding on, compared to your campaign, and there are a number of online services or reports that can do this.

However, once users click through to your website or a competitor's, you need to know how your product or service offering will compare and convert, or where you may be missing out on business to a competitor. This could be down to a single factor such as product range or price. It may also have to do with the visual appeal and usability of your website, including loading times, the contact or checkout process and the overall 'confidence' that your site may give to users compared to other sites.

When you're very close to your own business it can sometimes be difficult to accurately assess how a first time visitor may view your site against your competitors. Qualitative user panels can provide some valuable feedback on this process, but can be expensive to run, so even getting honest feedback from family or friends may help. Your website's statistics can also provide information, or indications, on what is working on your site or not, but this can't tell you how other sites might be doing in comparison.

Some areas of competitor monitoring can be a distraction however, such as having a determination to rank higher than a particular competitor, regardless of the cost-effectiveness of the bid strategy for example, if your competitor's PPC management is poor and making a loss, why should yours? Bidding on competitor's names and trademarks should also be handled carefully as this is rarely effective and usually creates antagonism from the competitor as well as searchers who don't find the website they were expecting.

So, managing competitive activity within your PPC campaign needs to be handled carefully and your main focus should remain on the performance of your own campaign and getting it to work as effectively as possible. We can help with a range of competitive analysis services or reports to help support your PPC activity, so if you'd like to find out more about this issue, please contact us now for details or a discussion.


Optimising PDF documents

Both Google and Yahoo! index PDF documents and display results from these within their search results, with an option to view content as an HTML file as well. Although PDF files don't tend to be as effective as standard web pages for search engine optimisation, they can still achieve good rankings for some targeted searches, so if your business generates PDF content which is also used online, there are some key areas to consider that will help to improve your ranking coverage.

Depending on how the original source file is developed and the PDF conversion tool used, the resulting PDF document should have the option to edit the file properties, which includes the document title, author, subject and keywords. These fields should be used and the title of the document should also match the main title of the document as well, if possible, although the Properties title field will become the link for the document within the search results and should therefore include the targeted keywords in an optimised format.

The overall structure of the PDF document can also be important, with tagged sections and a specified reading order of the document, so that the most important content comes first if the initial layout of the document is not linear. If the document is a large file then a table of contents with sectioned titles will be useful, as will be the splitting of these files into sections which can help content to get indexed faster and enable the file to be downloaded quicker for users.

Text based documents will always perform better than image-driven documents, in the same way that basic web pages also work, although tagging of the images will also be important if the number or position of these are crucial to the overall content that the search engines will be able to read. Finally the file name of the document can also be important, both of usability needs and for indexing in the search results.

Once a PDF file has been created and added to a website, it can be linked from the sitemap and, once indexed, reviewed within the search results to see how the content is being displayed and optimised, so that any further changes can be made.

If your website includes PDF documents, contact us now for further information and advice about optimising this content and making the most of these within search results.


Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench

The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:


We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.