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Ipad and Search. The woes of an early adopter?.
28 May 2010
Hello, my name is Rob Shaw and I’m a gadget freak. There I said it. Anyone who knows me understands my passion for new technology, from the anticipation of a new product or device being discussed as a concept through painfully early pre-release glimpses of devices, to finally placing an order (often from the US or Japan for really hard to get stuff) and ultimately a courier arriving which announces an imminent unboxing ceremony (the packaging, the smell of polystyrene and circuit boards!). I’m also honest enough to admit that all this is often followed shortly after with disappointment that as an early adopter, the product isn’t quite as polished as you had hoped and that the supplier, in their rush to hit the market early had compromised on functionality.
Many fellow gadget freaks I’m sure will share that sinking feeling when you demonstrate what it currently the pinnacle of any specific area of technology to a non-gadget freak only to be told ‘what , so it’s can’t do…….?’ leaving you trying to explain that your gadget is very, very clever but no, it’s not that good quite yet. I’ve been going through this gadget cycle since I had pocket money to spend and while my budget may have increased somewhat the process is still the same, excitement, anticipation, joy and regret. I remember going through this in 1993 when our friends at Apple launched the Newton. If you haven’t heard of it do a quick search and you will see that it’s the distant forerunner to the iPad. I loved that product for the potential of what it could be but hated it because it was way ahead of it’s time and the technology simply couldn’t match the vision. So, 17 years on and here we are, the age of the iPad. As you would expect of a true gadget fan, I went the extra mile and got myself one shipped in from the states so I’ve been living with it for over a month now. I’d love to spend the rest of this post talking about my views on it’s functionality, it’s design, it’s amazing battery life but let’s bring this back to Search Marketing, how do I think it will impact search? With over 1 million of these devices already sold and the volumes in the UK likely to follow, the iPad is certainly a device that will have rapid penetration into the consumer market, albeit initially into the more tech savvy demographic I believe this will soon change as people realise how simple the device is to operate. From experience of using the iPad I think that it’s interface based on the iPhone and iPod Touch (which have sold over 85 million units worldwide) will mean that the less technical, once they have seen the device, will see it’s a viable alternative to using a laptop for day to day browsing. We already know the massive volume of people who are surfing the web while watching TV each evening (if you run a PPC campaign for a large brand with TV advertising you will know how quickly your volumes spike during the commercials – literally seconds), this is a perfect device for that sector. As far as PPC and SEO go, much remains unchanged. The browsing experience on the iPad is similar to that of a PC and the results render the same. What will be key is what happens when the consumer picks your site from the results (either in the sponsored links or the natural results) and arrive on your site. At that point your decision not to test your site in Safari (Apples default browser) will come home to roost. A few years ago many companies would not consider the extra expense of cross browser compatibility, with the growth of Apple and the proliferation of browsers that is no longer the case. Companies who’s sites look good in Safari will look good on the iPad (yes there is a big debate over the issues of Flash – or lack of it on the iPad but that’s a topic in itself). There is a name for making sure that when someone clicks on your results in a search engine they get an appropriate experience when they arrive at your website – Conversion Rate Optimisation. This is a rapidly expanding area of search and is being taken very seriously by the engines with the launch last year of Google’s Conversion Professional (GCP) accreditation. This is all about making sure that after going to the time and expense of getting your company ranking well through PPC and SEO the customer ultimately transacts in some way (buys a product, downloads a brochure or requests a callback) on your site. I think there will be a number of companies that will need to work on this in the future as we see time and time again companies with a good PPC and SEO strategy that is let down by the site they lead customers to. The iPad will only go to highlight this problem further. For years now we have been saying that this will be the year of mobile search and each year it isn’t quite the dramatic change we expected. I actually think this age has already arrived and in some ways passed. Many companies are now taking the presentation of their sites on mobile devices seriously and are working on improvements to the experience. The iPad will join this programme of changes. The smart companies will simply add the compatibility with the iPad (or future tablets) in with work they are already doing on mobile devices. This is a topic that will run and run, there are so many other considerations for tablets of this kind such as dedicated apps to represent retailers (I’m a big fan of the Amazon iPhone app) or the new opportunities in display advertising that such a high quality display will bring. What I do know is that after several weeks with the device I have found it a useful companion in my day to day interaction with the web and look forward to seeing which companies monopolise the opportunities it will bring to search marketing first.