In Mobile: Sex Sells (And SEO Will)

Adult content is a big application for mobile search, says Farhan Memon, senior product manager of AOL Mobile Search. Speaking at a iBreakfast meeting in New York, Memon noted that AOL blocks terms that would look for illegal content (think "teen" or "underage"), but is looking for ways to appropriately allow other searches, and monetization of the search, for adult content. Mobile is "about things that are not meant to be consumed in public," he said. Pressed privately, later, he wouldn't say how much of search adult counts for.

Other things discussed:
  • PPC -- Pay Per CALL (not click) ... in other words, someone clicking on an ad on their phone to call a number. Something only phones can do.
  • Localization on phones. Geographically targeted ads can be served because a lot of queries on phones are geographically specific -- what times the movie here, or where's a restaurant. Phone numbers can be correlated, too, though they're less reliable for obvious reasons (people move around and take their numbers with them). Can't yet triangulate location based on cell towers because the carriers aren't allowing it. One targeted ad from a company called Apptera let a singer, Rianna, tell folks who'd asked for a message from her tell them that she'd be in concert in their city (New York).
  • No single form of advertising is enough to cover the cost of content. That's why AOL is putting as many as four different kinds of ads on mobile search pages (SERPs), according to Memon.
  • There's a burgeoning market of women over the age of 35 using text messages to communicate with their children, according to Randy Haldeman of Apptera.
  • Mobile is 99% spam free, he says. (Carriers are the main culprits, he says, while blocking spam in general.)
  • Mobile search takes off at the time when computer-based search lessens. IE, as people leave their desks at the end of the day and on weekends, they're using their devices, instead.

On the last point: I wouldn't be surprised if mobile content takes money away from computer based search over time -- if people doing localized ads in Google and Yahoo start to put them into mobile in a couple years. In fact, I think it's fairly likely that it will. Which is probably one of the reasons Google is coming on strong in mobile. (And it's not talked about a lot, but Yahoo already has a big presence.) Today, mobile search has not developed to where folks are finding mobile sites serendipitously -- so a lot of marketing is being done to get folks to use the mobile sites that are created. That will change, over time, and I bet we'll start to see SEO and SEM for mobile sites.

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