Google Voice Local Search – Is Mobile Search Optimization Necessary?

Google Voice Local Search and Mobile Search OptimizationI’ve been at SES in NYC this week and decided that I would attend a diverse set of sessions versus taking one track. I hit sessions on SEO, SEM, SMO, Multimedia Optimization, and Mobile Search Optimization. This post is about Mobile Search and how Google is making it a lot easier for local businesses to be found while searching on a mobile device. More on this in a minute. With over 143 million mobile phones sold the United States in 2006, you can see why this is an important topic… Mobile search is still in its infant stages, but many companies want to catch the wave now versus playing catchup a year from now.

What is Mobile Search Optimization?
In a nutshell, Mobile Search Optimization is the process by which you ensure your site content can be accessed on a mobile device. There are several paths you can take to accomplish this, but it could involve recoding portions of your site, employing redirection based on identifying specific devices, or creating a separate site just for mobile users. Needless to say, most people in charge of web marketing for their companies cringe when thinking about doing this… especially given the small amount of traffic that is currently coming from mobile web users. As part of the session at SES, Greg Markel presented second in line. He followed a great presentation by Cindy Krum (her bio wasn’t listed on the ses site) that explained best practices for optimizing your site for mobile search (how to make changes to your site in order for it to be properly viewed on a mobile device.) I took a look at the audience near the end of her presentation and I saw some confused looks… It was obvious that many of session attendees didn’t want to have to change their sites nor did they fully understand what they needed to do… So, Greg steps up to the podium and his point was concise and clear. “You might not have to change anything on your site to be found on mobile search.” And for those in the crowd (like myself) that have used Google Local Voice Search, I agree! I mean, who likes texting searches into their mobile device and then waiting for it to load, then scrolling, and trying to find what you need…it’s darn frustrating. For those of you who search on your mobile devices, you know what I’m talking about!

Google Local Voice Search
So, what is this new service by Google, also called Goog-411? By calling 1-800-Goog-411 (1-800-466-4411), you reach Google’s automated system that enables you to say what you are looking for along with a location, and Google presents you with audio listings from Google Local Search (the same listings that you access on the web). Once you find the listing you need, Google will connect you to the business free of charge. But Google didn’t stop there… They know this service will be used by mobile users, so you can say “text message” and they will text the information to your mobile device. Now compare this to searching on your mobile phone… Access your browser, find either your provider’s search functionality or Google (for those of you that know you can get past the provider’s deck!) Then text in your search, wait for the results, browse the results, visit a few sites, try and find a phone number, jot down the phone number with your other hand, and hope you don’t lose your connection during the process. Needless to say, this is a phenomenal service that I hope takes off…

How Do You Get Listed on Google Voice Local Search?
It’s easy to get listed. Just visit the Google Local Business Center and set up your business listing. This is the same information used in Google Maps, so for those of you who are small business owners, you need to be listed here… It’s free and local search is booming. Don’t hesitate…get listed now. I won’t go into all of the information you can provide while signing up, but you can provide a wealth of information about your business. Note, the process does take some time since Google wants to make sure you are who you say you are. You actually receive a postcard mailer with a code you need to enter and then you need to wait for the next Google update. That said, you should be ok with this since it will cut down on some sneaky ways for your competition to take advantage of the system…

A Quick Example:
1. Call 1-800-466-4411.
2. You are greeted by Goog 411. Say the location like “Pennington, New Jersey”.
3. Next, they ask for either the business name or the category. Say, “Party Supplies”.
4. You will be presented with the top 8 listings from Google Local Search. For this search, Party and More is number 1. When you find the listing you want, which for me was the first listing, just say “Number 1”.
5. Goog 411 now provides you with several options. You can have Goog 411 connect you for free, you can say “Details” to hear information about the business or you can say “text message” and Google will text you with the details.

It’s that simple and intuitive. I have used this service several times already and I can tell you, it crushes having to text a search into your mobile phone… It’s not even a comparison. Go ahead and try it out…I’m sure you will agree.

Back to Greg’s presentation for a minute. If you had the choice of revamping your site for mobile search (no simple task) or get listed in Google Local Search, which one would you choose? Now keep in mind that Goog 411 is new and we have no idea if it will take off. That said, I think it will. It makes complete sense… It’s easy, intuitive, and is based on Google’s listings for local search. It’s way more powerful than trying to navigate the mobile web… at least for now.

You Can Help Goog 411 Take Off!
I guess we’ll see how it goes, but you have the power to help. Yes you, sitting in your office right now reading this post. Tell your coworkers, friends, family, and random people on the street about Goog 411. Let’s collectively save the fingers of millions of people while also helping fight high blood pressure! ;-)