Mobile search marketing is still a small part of the search ecosystem. The number of G3 cell phones capable of providing mobile Internet service is still a small fraction of the roughly 200 million mobile phones now in use in the United States. But industry analysts have forecast robust growth for mobile search marketing. Mobile industry-watcher Informa predicts $1.7 billion in revenues for 2007 ramping up to $11 billion by 2011, making it a promising frontier for search marketers.

The search engines are naturally interested in extending their self-serve ad platforms to the cell phone. In early September, Google began allowing its Adwords marketers to create mobile ads to run on the networks of cellular carriers in Germany (T-Mobile, Vodafone, E-Plus, O2), the United Kingdom (T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2, Orange), and the United States (Cingular, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Nextel). Yahoo has been working since early 2005 with Nokia to provide search services, and is providing search marketing services to mobile carriers in Japan and Britain. Microsoft recently partnered with mobile phone giant Nokia to bring its Live Search platform onto Nokia’s latest generation of phones, and has announced that a cell phone add-on to its soon-to-be-introduced Zune MP3 music player is in the works.

All agree that mobile search marketing is hot, but this new platform does introduce new issues and complexities that search marketers haven’t had to grapple with before. Fundamentally, traditional (i.e. PC and browser-based) paid search marketing has been straightforward: marketers place messages which most closely relate to a user's query, both in terms of message relevance and on-screen position, and those willing to pay more will achieve the highest volume of clicks. The share of these clicks, which convert to sales or other desirable actions, is a function of the marketer’s ability to design attractive, relevant landing pages (as well as marketing good products at competitive prices).

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