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October 4, 2006

Yahoo! Launches Mobile PPC in U.S., U.K

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Just two days after we talked about the expanding mobile search industry, Yahoo has announced a beta launch of its mobile PPC program. The beta launch expands on a trial already running in the U.K. and Japan, and will put sponsored search results on mobile phones in the United States and the United Kingdom. The service will be available to approximately 100 advertisers during the beta period.

Similar to traditional PPC advertising, once a mobile user clicks on an ad they will either be directed to the advertiser’s mobile web page (if they have one) or a special Yahoo-hosted landing page that can be designed to match the advertiser’s ad. Advertisers will be able to provide a phone number on the landing page that consumers can click on to initiate a call. Advertisers will not have to pay for these calls, for now.

Metric-minded advertisers will be able to use Yahoo!’s new Mobile Resource Center to track the effectiveness of their ads.

This is pretty cool for several reasons.

First, with this offering, Yahoo! has a chance to reclaim its title as the PPC King, as it becomes the first PPC provider to expand its offering to the mobile search realm. This, combine with a powerful Panama launch, could help them recover some of the ground lost to Google.

Second, it gives companies an incentive to create mobile Web sites. Both Google and Yahoo! have stated that mobile devices are more prevalent than personal computers, so it’s about time someone tries to capitalize on that. It’s interesting that Yahoo! will officially launch its mobile PPC program in the United States and the United Kingdom, two countries experiencing the slowest rate of mobile web adoption, but perhaps this will be the boost it needs.

Third, this should serve as a huge advancement for local search. The mobile web and local search are perfectly suited for one another. Think about it. If you’re performing a search on your cell phone, what are you most likely to be searching for? You’re certainly not doing research. You’re looking for the nearest movie theater, a 24-hour diner, the location of your favorite store or a place to drop your car which now has smoke rising from under the hood. Your search has a purpose and mobile advertising could give you your answer.

Advertisers may be fearful of investing in mobile search while the market is still so underdeveloped, but that’s exactly why they should be investing today. Your audience is already connecting via mobile devices, there’s less ad clutter associated with mobile than with other forms of advertising, and you’re feeding customers useful, targeted information. The power is there, you just have to take advantage of it.

Susan seems to thinks I’m crazy for touting mobile like it’s going to be the next big thing on the Web. She points to how few people currently search via their cell phone. I get that, but I think the low number of mobile searchers is directly related to the fact that most sites aren’t configured for mobile activity. The mobile web hasn’t had the same type of advancements traditional web has – it’s too slow, too cumbersome, too a lot of things at present – but it’s coming.

The mobile web will have to be adopted the way all things Web are adopted. The too-cool-for-you Scobles of the world will latch on, then their techy friends, then the relatively tech savvy, and then the general population. I’m not saying the mobile web is going to hit it big tomorrow, but I think it’s an adoption that will happen. It’s a process still in the works.

It will definitely be interesting to see how the U.S. and United Kingdom respond to Yahoo!’s mobile PPC beta launch. Clearly, trials must have been promising enough that Yahoo! feels comfortable launching this beta run. I think the combination of mobile and local search could be the one, two punch needed to finally get advertisers to start thinking outside the PC.

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