Mobile Search. Yawn.

Ian Lurie

Mobile search, woopdeedoo.
Hey, internet marketing world: I don’t give a flying poo about mobile search in North America.
Why? Because:

  1. I have yet to see mobile search earn a real return on investment. A warm feeling that I’m doing Really New Stuff, yes. Dollars and cents, no.
  2. Using mobile search marketing tools is about as easy as drinking a glass of water while standing on your head.
  3. The average American or Canadian is more likely to use their cell phone to pick their nose than to browse the web, find a place to shop or otherwise search for stuff.
  4. The average American or Canadian cellular plan works where people live. Where they can already find everything they need. Where do cells tend to crap out? In other cities, in the middle of nowhere and everywhere else it might be really, really nice to use your phone to find something you really need.
  5. Data plans actually make voice plans look good. Why would I pay $.99 to find a restaurant? I keep waiting for a cell provider to charge by the letter…
  6. Cell phone browsers are awful. Yes, I know, the iPhone is the greatest thing since Vicodin, etc. etc.. But even assuming you can display a web page on AT&T’s slow-as-molasses network, there are all those other handsets out there. On those, the average browser looks like a game of Pong.
  7. Finally, no one in North America seems to understand how to code a site for easy mobile browsing. How many times do I have to explain what ‘standards compliant’ means?!

OK, done ranting. Wake me up when mobile search actually means something.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Nice rant! I have to acknowledge the irony that I clicked through to this post from Twitter on my cellphone and am using it to comment… Then again, I’m probably far from an average user and I know my Dad can’t even use the web on his internet-capable mobile! His main complaint? The keys are too small.

  2. @jane thanks. It’s not that I don’t WANT mobile to succeed. I use my trusty Palm Treo to find stuff, browse, use Twitter etc. all the time. And everyone around me looks at me like I just sprouted a second set of arms or something…

  3. I’m normally not checking my feeds at this time but the title of this post pulled me straight in! Great rant I agree, and I’m totally ‘down’ with your reasoning and points Ian. I don’t subscribe to a lot of the hype, however I still try and keep abreast of the developments and techniques just in case some miraculous surge in usage occurs.
    Jane, my parents struggle to use the internet even on their desktop PC so your dad is way ahead.

  4. Oh Ian, can I adopt you to brighten up my day? You genuinely made me laugh here (hey better laugh than cry when you work in mobile search!)
    I really hope one day, the devices and networks allow for a good user experience, but as you say, we’re not quite there yet…
    Thanks again for the rant 🙂

  5. Yep. This is what happens when we allow the cell phone providers to collude against consumers. I’m no conspiracy theorist, and I’m about as free-market as you can be, but the whole telecom industry is ass backwards and something needs to be done about it.
    We invented the internet. Why are we now last in the developed world?

  6. @Vero You’d have to take my kids too, and they’re kinda high maintenance. 8 and 6 and they don’t even have jobs yet.
    I seriously hope that the average American grows a brain and starts demanding better service, but given our taste in presidents, I’m not hopeful…

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