Posted By, by Laurie Sullivan, Friday 8th Jan, 5:26 PM
Google has been testing the inclusion of click-to-call phone numbers in search ads on high-end mobile phones, a spokesperson confirmed. It’s a feature that fits in nicely with Nexus One, Google’s mobile phone announced earlier this week.
In anticipation of rolling out the feature more broadly, Google contacted several AdWords advertisers to advise them that it plans to extend the feature to their AdWords accounts. It’s similar to a cost-per-call service where the advertiser is charged for the click to call the same way you might get charged for clicks from an ad to a Web site.
When MediaPost asked Google late last month about displaying phone numbers in ads and charging advertisers when calls are initiated, the Mountain View, Calif. search engine had nothing to report. Now the company says it will have more details when the feature is finally rolled out.
Google had few words to say about mobile search, advertising or business models during the Nexus One press conference earlier this week. That’s when it announced the phone. But as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft make investments and push harder into mobile, many industry experts believe local businesses could have the most to gain through online search and display mobile advertising.
The intersection of local and mobile creates two distinct and huge ad opportunities, especially for small businesses, according to Kevin Lee, chief executive officer at Didit, New York. “National advertisers with regional footprints will certainly need to spend on mobile,” he says. “Plus, there are millions of small businesses who would love to grow but need something other than search engine advertising.”
Andrew Shotland, owner of Local SEO Guide, a SEO in Pleasanton, Calif., has a different perspective on the topic. He says if Nexus One is the “on ramp” for more people to get into mobile search, then you will see opportunities for small businesses in mobile advertising, but he doesn’t believe Google’s phone does anything out of the ordinary that any smartphone can do.
On second thought, Shotland says, “the voice search is pretty killer and it’s a key step in the evolution of mobile search, but I don’t think it’s specific to local.”
Using search engines to comparison shop has become a major service offered by Microsoft’s Bing for mobile. The huge opportunity for retailers resides in a search query that ties eventually to a sale, whether through a browser or application through an mcommerce-enabled mobile site, or being driven into the store and finding it stocked on the aisle.
Speaking with MediaPost on Wednesday, Jamie Wells, director of global trade marketing for the Mobile Media group at Microsoft, says it’s the next opportunity and the next hot area for search. “If you look at the classic purchase funnel, this really is the last mile,” he says. “You invest all this money in television, outdoor and radio to drive awareness — the last thing you want to do is allow a competitor to swoop in and undercut all that investment. You want to make sure to complete the sale. That’s what mobile search will do.”
Many functions related to mobile search have been available, but Yahoo, Microsoft and Google are beginning to see a rise in use. Increased search activity, competitive pricing for mobile advertising between search engines, and qwerty keyboards in more mobile phones allow for longer search queries. Google’s recently announced voice search technology should help boost efforts, too.
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) estimates that wireless handsets, which contribute more than 30% of total wireless phone shipments, will become the primary driver for revenue this year for electronics. Smartphones should lead the way, generating nearly $17 billion in shipment revenue and more than 52 million unit sales in 2010, according to the CEA.
That push requires more support through agencies for companies of all sizes. Agencies have typically been shy when it comes to investing in people like Patrick Moorhead, who moved to Draftcb from Razorfish last year to become vice president and director of mobile platforms.
Moorhead’s charter at Draftcb is to help the agency realize investments in technology and strategy, and educate all aspects of company divisions, from media planning to creative services. It also means helping clients understand they can’t — and should not — ignore search and display mobile advertising, especially small companies.
A mobile campaign and strategy can put small companies on a more even footing with larger competitors. He says advertisers need to step up and create a strategy, and stop thinking they can just test mobile in a six-week campaign to see what happens. “Creating an iPhone app and calling it a mobile strategy just isn’t enough,” Moorhead says.
The barriers have been dropping to enable all the “dream” devices that consumers have been speculating about for years. For example, there has been time to add mobile into the marketing mix and invest in the basic infrastructure to support SMS messaging as a component of CRM, Moorhead says, but they haven’t taken it seriously. Now it’s time.
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