About six years ago, I received a sneak preview into the future. After winning status as a Top Contributor (moderator) on the Google AdSense help forum, I received my first invitation to a summit at Google HQ in California.
Topics discussed at this event — and successive annual gatherings — are subject to non-disclosure rules, so I can’t go into specifics. But one thing I became quickly aware some years ago was that the search engine giant was well aware that things were going to shift in a big way from desktop devices to mobile phones and tablets. (The next stage — this is no secret — relates to the massively rapid progression in artificial intelligence, voice recognition and devices that can anticipate rather than simply respond to our commands.)
As I attended the Google summit, the once-venerable Yellow Pages were in a seemingly unresolvable decline. Print directories, with expensive once-a-year mandatory contract advertising commitments — were of course being destroyed by Google.
Fast forward to this week, and a meeting of the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) Sales and Marketing Council.
While advertisers don’t need the phone book any more, they still need to promote the business. While the Yellow Pages are (mostly) gone as a print directory, the organization — using the abbreviation YP — has survived in part because of a digital marketing alliance with, gulp, Google. (In fact the AdSense program is one part of the Google ecosystem where established and new publishers can earn a major share of the advertising revenue collected by Google in exchange for providing their content.)
Ryan D’Mello, national manager, digital strategy for Yellow Pages NextHome gave some numbers to show how things have changed. While these numbers are for Canada, I’m sure the data would be just as dramatic for the US and other markets.
D’Mello said nation-wide data indicates that 45 per ent of all new house and floor plan searches are now conducted on mobile phone and tablet devices.
A slightly smaller, but equally impressive, 32 per cent of housing market and real estate pricing searches are done on mobile devices.
Mobile search/usage is increasing dramatically. Canada-wide, queries grew by 33 per cent in the second quarter of 2016 for real estate prices in the housing market. The growth reached 79 per cent for mobile phones (with 18 per cent for desktop and 22 per cent for tablet devices.)
The Ottawa market is lagging behind these national trends, D’Mello said, reaching 26.98 per cent, compared to 40.93 per cent overall for visitors to the company’s YPnexthome.ca site.
“What this represents to us, is that eventually things (here) are going to catch up to this 40.93 number, and in this phase, there are a lot of high things happening here.”
D’Mello said it is easy to set up mobile ads – but it is vital that the backend including the links, sites and applications form these advertising message be designed with mobile devices in mind, because if they are not – and the visitor has an unpleasant experience — then “anything wrong is a negative judgement on the business.”
This means sites need to be fast, and they also need to render images and links properly.
“Mobile friendly companies are pushing the boundaries of speed and ease of use,” he said.
The principles of mobile site design should be to “delight the user and drive conversions,” he said. “It can be difficult to tell the story. A good question to ask may be: “What do your customers need before they need you,” he said.
I hope these numbers cause you to turn your head a bit and think about the consequences of this technological revolution. Thankfully, I’ve been able to buy into the process myself — and after a few visits to Google HQ, decided owning some shares of the company in my personal investment account would make sense. It’s been a wise choice, so far.