How to Develop More Robust Mobile Local Search Applications

Trade and moonlighting software developers alike are clamoring to develop the next killer mobile local search application for one of the current mobile application stores-many now competing for attention with nearly 50,000 iPhone applications alone. This means mobile local search applications must not just stand apart in whiz-bang technology but also dominate in user experience. As Knowledge Center contributor Brian Wool explains, in order to secure and hold consumers' attention, content is the critical ingredient to creating powerful and lasting mobile local search applications.


Mobile local search application developers should closely evaluate the content providers they select. Content management can be a confusing market with a wide range of pricing models, but a data provider on the cheap may have a negative impact post-launch. Mobile searchers expect local-based applications to deliver correct and dynamic content quickly, and they will grow discouraged with inaccurate results.

Mobile local search developers have three options for culling data to populate their search directories: data scraping, advertiser feeds and content providers. Data scraping involves original research to pull contact information from other research and Internet sources and input into a database. It can be a quick startup option; however, updates are time-intensive for a small operation.

Advertiser feeds from Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites can be a quick and low-cost option for pulling local content. However, developers typically don't realize that they are not getting comprehensive business listings, as these providers typically only address 10 to 25 percent of the total local business universe in any given city. Also, with an advertiser feed, developers have no control over the presentation of the data or search results. Plus, there are limited opportunities to monetize the content as traffic generated by a search goes to the feed site versus the mobile application.

While these applications monetize their leads at a minimum of $3 per call (and typically much higher), only a nickel goes to the mobile application-which is not enough to build a sustainable revenue model. The bottom line is that inconsistent search functionality can have long-term impact and limits any short-term money savings.

If you decide that a content provider is the best option, remember these four best practices:

Best practice No. 1: Put a budget on content

Mobile applications offer limited real estate, with a maximum 3.5-inch screen, and require highly structured and contextual content. Data is essential to the long-term success of any mobile local search application and a few wrong moves can mean big consequences. Users will get frustrated quickly with poor search results.

Best practice No. 2: Consider serving a niche market need

Consider serving a niche market need and think of ways to slice and dice for the most relevant content to your application. If you are developing a vertical-focused application, you don't need access to 15 million listings. You can trim your budget by tailoring your available listings. For example, an auto aftermarket estimating tool and iPhone application wouldn't need to have data on restaurants, plumbers or doctors in its database.

Best practice No. 3: Don't underestimate the power of search engine optimization (SEO)

While mobile users today typically are not browsing the Web on their phone the way they would on a laptop or desktop, that behavior is starting to change. With hardware and software advances, browser-based mobile searches are on the rise. Good, local content drives SEO and your application should be ready to monetize its searches.

Best practice No. 4: Provide more than just an address and phone number

Local searchers today expect more than just basic contact information. To enhance the search experience and drive repeat visits, select a data provider that can offer additional business keyword feature attributes appropriate for your market. For example, make sure your data provider can execute a search for a "Chicago restaurant patio" or "Chicago child cavity."

With the growth in mobile device use and technology, mobile local search application developers today have an opportunity to make their mark. Make sure you don't waste your energy by not fully evaluating one of the critical ingredients to mobile local search success. Remember, it's all about the content.

Brian Wool is Vice President of Content Distribution at Localeze. With nearly 20 years of experience in database markets, Brian oversees all aspects of the company's client services efforts. Brian has been instrumental in the success of Localeze by establishing relationships with leading search companies and local search engine publishers alike. An expert in local Internet-search marketing, Brian has been a columnist covering various local-search issues, and is a frequent speaker at industry-leading local search conferences. Prior to joining Localeze, Brian held various positions at comScore Networks, Claritas and Equifax-National Decision Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].