Why It's Time to Take Mobile Seriously By Joe Bavonese, PhD on 12/4/12 - 7:28 PM

I was looking over my Google Analytics stats last month, and was shocked to see that 19% of my clicks in Google AdWords for psychotherapy searches were done on smartphones. People of all ages are now looking for a therapist on their phones, with almost all of the searches being done on iPhone and Android devices. And while Google owns about 2/3 of the search results on desktops and laptops, they command an astonishing 97% of all searches on mobile devices.

What's driving this trend, and what does it mean for marketing your psychotherapy practice?

Three things are driving the trend toward increased searching on smartphones:

1) Larger Screens—the recently-released iPhone 5 stretched to 4.87 inches high, while the most recent Android phones (especially those from Samsung, such as the Galaxy S3 and Note) are well over 5 inches high and almost half an inch wider than the latest iPhone. Larger screens mean more information can be displayed, so the phone becomes a viable alternative to the laptop or desktop computer.

2) Faster Input Options—with faster processors and better software, both Apple and Google have made significant gains in the speed and accuracy of inputting text into the search box. Both offer very accurate voice input, and in Google's latest operating system, Jelly Bean, they offer a rapid "swiping" option that allows users to keep their fingers on the screen while rapidly moving around the virtual keyboard. The virtual keyboard is less of a limitation than ever before in using your smartphone for search.

3) Faster, More Accurate Search Results—Apple offers Siri, who despite her limitations, can respond to many natural language inquiries with accurate search results. Google’s search software is even better, offering remarkably fast and accurate information in response to voice or keyboard input.

There are six important implications of these trends for marketing your practice online:

1. You now need to make sure your website displays properly on a wide range of devices, from smartphones to 7-inch tablets to full-size 10 inch tablets. The good news is that almost all websites look fine on full-size tablets, and most look okay on the 7-inch tablets. But most of the action is in smartphones, and that's where your website might not display properly. 

There are several ways to address this issue. The best way is to hire a programmer who will program your site to dynamically reconfigure based on the size of the screen. This way you don’t have to have two separate sites that need to be optimized for search.

Another option is to use a service such as dudamobile, which will walk you through a step-by-step process to create a mobile version of your existing site. They have a free version, but to get unlimited pages and your own URL, you need to pay $9/month. Google offers a free mobile site creator (with an awful user interface), but it does not integrate with your main website; for details click here.

2. When you send out email responses to potential client inquiries, you need to be sensitive to how they will format on a smartphone screen, since over half of all emails are now first read on a smartphone. It’s a good idea to have a short subject line. The last words of a long subject line may not be visible in the mobile phone's display. Also, consider sending plain text emails instead of HTML. The line width in text is almost always adapted to the display width.

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is different for mobile searching. According to Google, a typical mobile search is only 15 characters long. Google will compensate for this short entry to using “predictive search”—when you type in only 1 or 2 characters, Google will offer suggestions based on the most frequent searches which start with those characters.

For example, someone may search for "individual counseling in San Francisco" on their desktop or laptop, but on their smartphone it might be "counseling SF." What are the most common “predictive search phrases” that are related to your practice and location? Test this out by searching for your practice on a smartphone, and see which predictive phrases Google offers as suggestions, since these are the ones people are likely to click on first. Be sure those phrases are on your site and in your meta tags.

One huge bonus to Mobile SEO on smartphones is that your phone number can be clicked on, which places a direct call to your office. This is a tremendous advantage over someone visiting your website, since on average it will usually take over sixty visits to your site to trigger one phone call.

4. Google Places Profiles—be sure you have a free Google Places profile, because they often show up near the top of a mobile search results page. You can create or edit a profile at www.google.com/placesforbusiness

5. Yelp Profile—as part of Apple's competition with Google, the Siri program will initially search for services on Yelp, not Google. Many iPhone users choose Siri over Google search. To take advantage of this, get a free Yelp business profile at biz.yelp.com

6. Consider a Mobile-only Google AdWords Pay Per Click Campaign—this may be the highest return on investment of any advertising available to private practitioners today, because of the high number of direct calls to your office it will generate for very little cost. If you do this, make the “Call” button very large and prominent on the first page of your mobile Landing Page, to be seen without scrolling.

The move to mobile is accelerating every month, so the practitioner who takes advantage of these trends will have a great advantage over those who wait. The time to act is now.


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