Why are many great mobile Olympics sites not found by mobile search engines? Join our experiment.

The Olympic mobile search experiment

UPDATE: 25 February, 2010

mobiThinking is recruiting a small number of volunteers around the world to take part in a small case study. We invite you to conduct a search on the leading mobile search engines where you are: e.g. Yahoo; Google; AOL; Bing; Ask; Taptu. Use the terms Winter + Olympics + mobile and document how many of the best local/international mobile Olympic sites come up in the search results. This will give an interesting insight into the effectiveness of mobile search engines, publisher mobile search optimization and the difference that location makes. All helpers will be credited and will have the opportunity to share conclusions and possible remedies.

For further details and to volunteer, please email editor (at) mobiThinking.com.

What has provoked this? When mobiThinking was reviewing the excellent mobile Olympics sites below, we observed that many sites were not found by mobile search engines. The exception is NBC Mobile’s Olympic site, which topped search results on most search engines – this no doubt has helped it hit record numbers – 87 million mobile page views (after 17 days), more than 2.5 times the Beijing Summer Games total and 2 million mobile video streams, six times the Beijing total.

(NBC numbers updated on 02 March, 2010).

Why are many great mobile Olympics sites not found by mobile search engines? Is this impacting their traffic?

UPDATE: 24 February, 2010

NBC’s record statistics – it eclipsed mobile traffic for the entire Beijing Summer Games by day 10 – are ample proof that a well-publicized and promoted mobile site gets results. Searching on all leading mobile search engines NBC mobile comes up time-after-time, we’d expect the same results for all the excellent mobile Olympics sites reviewed below, but many are conspicuously absent. So if these sites aren’t found on the search engines, how are people supposed to find them?

Try entering the terms Winter + Olympics on the mobile search engines such as Yahoo; Google; Bing; AOL; Ask and Taptu. The results are pretty disappointing – the majority of search results are PC sites, even for those publishers that have mobile sites. Searching for Winter + Olympics + mobile brings some improvement – but this still doesn’t find many of the great sites below on some or all search engines.
Two notes on Yahoo: whether searching for skiing, snowboard or Olympics, Yahoo mobile search leads straight to its own Olympic mobile content, burying other search results down low, which must be good for business.
Also, it is with much lament that we note that Yahoo Mobile no longer divides up search results by PC and mobile Web. A surprising move, as this service distinguished Yahoo Mobile Search from the crowd.
One note on Google: results highlight (albeit few) mobile-friendly sites with a small cell-phone image, which helps.

This begs three questions:
1) Are publishers failing to register their mobile sites with mobile search engines?
• Remedy this with this guide to submitting your mobile site and these Discovery tactics for the mobile Web.
2) Are mobile search engines failing to serve up registered mobile sites? If so, why is this?
3) Apart from search, how else can people discover a mobile site?
• Mobile directories and portals. Directories (there are lots of them) are usually free to submit your site, while portals, particularly the mobile operator portals are premium properties.
• Publicity, through press articles – some sites, e.g. NBC and Yahoo, have received generous coverage, as journalists look for an excuse to write about the Olympics.
• Paid-for advertising, billboard, print, online or mobile. For mobile advertising, see the mobiThinking guide to mobile ad networks (2010). Consider using shortcodes or quick response codes (2D barcodes) to make things easier or consumers.
• Cross-media promotion – the media conglomerates have a particular advantage, as they can promote their mobile sites through other channels – TV, print, PC Web or social media. Make sure there’s a prominent link to your mobile site from the top of your PC Website to redirect to mobile visitors. If you’re a manufacturer, e.g. of fast-moving consumer goods, add your mobile site on the packaging. Short videos to put on YouTube etc are also popular vehicles.
• Competitions and giveaways add additional incentive to remember and visit your site and help spread the word virally.

While a few of the following sites come up occasionally in mobile search, except NBC Olympics, which comes up ever time, mobiThinking found most through mobile directories, press coverage, portals and sites that were already known to us. The listing and reviews on blog/directory Wapreview.mobi and US journalism school Poynter were particularly useful.

The sites of the mobile Olympics

POSTED: 23 February, 2010

It is essential for any event to have a helpful mobile site – just think how many people will be attending the Olympics armed equipped only with a cell-phone. The official Vancouver 2010 mobile site does a good job with its schedules of events and results, news (from AFP) local information, though mobiThinking experienced a few usability issues. For more in-depth information, such as venues, athlete profiles etc it reverts unnecessarily to the online site. The daily videos are also only available on the PC Web. The official mobile application (free) was downloaded 1.25 million times and in Canada was the No. 1 free app.

All the major Canadian mobile news sites [the main ones are listed in The Canada mobile guide] have Olympic coverage. Canada.com Mobile has a dedicated Olympic section with news and views. This coverage is mirrored on the mobile sites of CanWest’s numerous regional papers including The Vancouver Sun. Broadcaster CTV (English) and RDS (French) go one step further with mobile alerts, events schedule and results, TV schedule including reminder alerts when your event is on, medal count and photos (from Ghetty Images) and mobile applications. CTV/RDS mobile video is only available exclusively through Bell Canada. CTV/RDS tells mobiThinking the mobile sites have received over five million page views and the CTV and RDS mobile applications have been downloaded 209,000 times. Olympic sponsor Bell Canada offers a full range of mobile live streams and video clips through the portal Bell.mobi. There is a one-time, CA$10 fee (US$9.5) to access all mobile video (this doesn’t include data charges). Bell has seen a 70 percent increase in unique users on Bell Media Player and 198 percent increase in Live TV streams during the Olympics, there are more details here. Bell.mobi also links to Olympics news from: NHL, Sympatico, TSN as well as CTV.

South of the border, US mobile users are also spoilt for choice with an abundance of mobile sites offering news (often syndicated from news wires), schedules, medal boards, photos and alerts. As the official US broadcaster NBC Olympics is the most prominent, and has the broadest range of services, distinguished particularly by mobile-friendly video (US only). NBC has been reaping the rewards with 87 million mobile page views during the 17 days of competition, 2.5 times the total for Beijing Summer Games (34.7 million). There have been 2 million mobile video streams in 16 days, more than six times the Beijing Games total. Yahoo Olympics has also been well received by commentators and benefits from commandeering any skiing-related search on Yahoo Mobile. The site stands out for its interactivity and useful data. There are useful profiles of the athletes and medal tallies for each country, both with related events, results and stories. Athletes (though not events or countries) can be searched on by name. The news coverage is comprehensive, from AP, Reuters and Canadian Press, but lacks the interactivity of the rest of the site. Yahoo is promoting the site online using Google’s DoubleClick network. Examples of other US mobile sites of note include The Washington Post and ESPN.mobi.

In the UK, most mobile publishers are offering some Olympics news, but none as thoroughly as the BBC, which like NBC has national broadcasting rights for the Olympics. The BBC Mobile offers news, results, live text commentaries, downloads, event and TV schedules, and mobile video – both live streams and bite-size clips and including intros to events. This was the only site that linked to external sites: Vancouver 2010 mobile site and NBC Olympics, but like many sites it could take a few lessons from Yahoo’s profiles and other data.
The Winter Olympics is less popular in the UK than both the FIFA World Cup (held next in South Africa this summer) and Summer Olympics (held next in London 2012), and is not helped by the time difference with Canada. But that doesn’t mean the BBC isn’t taking it seriously, according to a BBC Mobile Spokesman: “As well as being a big deal in its own right, the Winter Olympics also offers the opportunity for us to look ahead to two huge events that are looming on the horizon for us: the World Cup in South Africa this summer and then, of course, the summer Olympics in our own backyard in London in 2012. We expect these events to be massive on mobile and everything we are doing for Vancouver is with an eye to how things will have moved even further forward by 2012, especially around smartphone usage.”

And don’t miss:

  • My mobile Valentine – the sites and campaigns of 2010’s festival of love
  • The insiders’ guides to mobile Web marketing:
    Canada, USA, Germany, UK, India, Australia, Spain, South Africa, Brazil
  • Interview: Tom Eslinger, digital creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide
  • How top football/soccer clubs engage fans with mobile
  • Ad networks mobile metrics reports: how they stack up
  • mobiThinking guide to mobile ad networks (2010)
  • Conferences & awards for mobile marketers, with offers
  • mobiThinking’s page of essential links
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