The world of SEO is continuously morphing. Whereas optimizing a business or organization’s website has long been the primary goal of search engine optimization, the tables of the game are just starting to tilt in a new direction. What is this change, and why did it happen?

To start with the latter question, new technologies in the consumer marketplace have transformed the way people engage with online content, and with e-commerce websites. These new technologies are social media and mobile devices, mainly smartphones and tablets. The changes these have brought about are that now people interact more with their profiles on social media sites than they do with particular websites, and more with their mobile devices than they do with traditional desktop computers and laptops. What this means is that the practice of SEO now has to be applied to social media brand pages and profiles, to start generating that traffic back to original websites.

A recent article on Search Engine Land addresses this issue directly, and offers tips for businesses to optimize their Facebook pages in order to drive mobile traffic back to their pages. It cites the public filing that Facebook made in February 2012, which stated that 50 percent of the site’s traffic is driven by mobile devices. It’s pretty clear that a wealth of opportunities for driving this traffic to company websites lie waiting for businesses to start taking advantage of them.

What are some of the tips the article provides? It focuses on optimizing Facebook brand pages for both mobile organic search and mobile paid search. The former can be addressed by paying a lot of attention to the content of a brand’s Facebook page, making good use of the right keywords, as well as by connecting to a brand’s other social media pages. Both of these tactics have proven highly effective for brands that have utilized them.

In this increasingly mobile device-centered world, both businesses and the world of SEO have to adapt to the new technologies and the changing trends in consumer behavior. Businesses should really start evaluating the options open to them of building their social media brand pages, so that they can drive the traffic to their original websites.

Google mobile search

Research out from Google this past week sheds light on the most recent behavior regarding mobile search and activity. Google conducted a small survey of 1,000 individuals in theĀ US, UK, France, Spain, Germany, and Japan. We have discussed here on this blog before about the explosion of smartphone use and by extension general internet usage and search on smartphones. Now, Google reports that mobile search is just shy of 100% in terms of adoption with smartphone users, with the majority searching at least one time per week. For a look across the studied countries, Japan showed the highest usage of search engines on smartphones in general at 99% of users, followed by the UK and Spain at 96%, then the US and France showed 95% usage, and 92% for Germany.

These numbers illustrate the reality of mobile usage and its potential for future tech innovation as well as search engine optimization geared specifically for the mobile web. The figures are also promising for companies looking to market via the mobile platform as they show the interest and activity is present. However, for marketers to fully embrace mobile search and its optimization, then the practice of using search engines on smartphones needs to be sustained and Google’s numbers showed this as well. Only France and Germany were in the 70′s percentage-wise in relation to the rate of using search engines on smartphones at least once a week while the other 4 countries show at least 81% of users or higher search at least once a week on the device. Smartphone owners across all surveyed countries are utilizing the technology and continuously using it to search the web bringing to light the very real potential for international SEO tailored for mobile in each of these markets.

Similarly, smartphone users are not shying away from apps either as across international markets there were favorable numbers for general installations, paid apps, and usage. Japan had the highest average number of installed apps at 42, while the others ranged from 19-29, and all except Germany (9) had an average of 6 paid apps. From there, the average number of apps used in the past 30 days ranged from 8-11. Again, usage is sustained, and with the continued growth of both apps and mobile search, platform-specific searching like that used to search for apps may become more relevant in time with some potentially new SEO implications. We will have to wait and see.

Since the launch of the iPhone, Apple has enjoyed a large percentage of the US smartphone market continually setting new heights in the sale of the product in this market. Just this past quarter, they sold 37 million iPhones, which is over twice the number a year prior. Like much of Apple’s products, the iPhone has garnered a great deal of attention from consumers and media alike and has cultivated a dedicated fan-base.

One downside of the phone is its cost though, and in taking a closer look, there is a deeper story to the cost structure of the device. The iPhone greatly relies on subsidies from wireless providers which are both a blessing and a curse for Apple; a blessing in the US and a curse in Europe, where Google (through Android-powered devices) eagerly fills the void left by slow iPhone adoption.

Due to the contract system in the United States wireless market, subsidies are a big advantage for Apple who receives roughly $400 from carriers for every customer who buys an iPhone with a two-year contract, according to The Wall Street Journal. The carriers pay the subsidies as a way to make the smartphones available to a wider audience, but the iPhone subsidies are considerably higher than those for any other smartphone. The model is to make the iPhone easier (cheaper) to buy and then make the money back on the 24-month service contracts. This puts the phones in the hands of consumers at a much higher rate (and for less consumer cost) thus allowing the iPhone to be feasible for many.

smartphones in Europe

EU Market
In Europe on the other hand, the “prepaid” rather than contract system is more widely used, and as a result, customers have to pay a higher rate for their phones. In Southern Europe, where the economy has taken the biggest hit due to the debt crisis, consumers are opting for the cheaper Android-powered device which is drawing them away from the iPhone. Apple’s market share could drop lower if carriers decide to stop underwriting a percentage of the device cost as appears to be potentially on the horizon in countries like Spain and Denmark, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In the end, Apple may need to restructure their model for the EU market further adapting how they deliver their iPhones on a per-country basis. Apple is not a web search player, but their slow growth in Europe due to economic factors and their cost structuring specifically in southern Europe has opened the door for devices running Google software to gain prominence in the market only furthering their applications such as Maps, Gmail, and Chrome, among others. Most importantly, however, all this makes their search engine that much more widely available and used in the growing mobile search market, affirming the relevance for SEO catered towards Google and mobile search. An SEO company situated to deliver such International SEO services will do well as more and more businesses will need to be optimized for SEO and mobile search across international markets going forward.