I may ride the CTA on a regular basis, but there’s little I think they do right in terms of my public transportation needs. I even signed up as a Mystery Shopper so I could take them to task for making me sit on someone’s lap every morning on my way to work. However, as far as mobile is concerned, their CTA Bus Tracker service exploits mobility, makes content accessible, and advertises it where mobile users are, and thus gets the honor of being the first site in my mobile SEO best practices series that actually does mobile SEO right.
First of all, the service: CTABusTracker.com is a concept that has a desktop site, but seems to be most useful in a mobile context. To illustrate, I’ve been in social situations where people are using the concept of being able to see if your bus is on the way as a reason for purchasing an iPhone. This is strange, of course, because you don’t have to have an iPhone to use the service, and you don’t even have to be mobile. Nonetheless, the concept exudes mobile convenience, and that’s the first thing the CTA did right for SEO.
As I mentioned in my SMX Local & Mobile presentation on monetizing mobile, one way to monetize mobile is to exploit the mobile context. Many brands will offer a version of their desktop site in a mobile environment. This is one way to go mobile and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. But if you consider the mobile context and give users something that they will not only use, but talk about at parties, and claim to buy hardware specifically for, that enthusiasm will likely translate to direct traffic, referral traffic and domination of the mobile search results for your niche.
The second thing the CTA did right was to advertise the service in the mobile context. Understanding that this service could be their killer mobile app, they promoted it to those mobile users who would find it most useful. Stepping on the bus after waiting in the snow, a frustrated rider might look at the reader board to see how late she would be, only to be met with a message about how CTABusTracker.com can help next time. Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to take a picture of the message that I saw, but this is what a CTA bus readerboard looks like for those of you who have never seen one:
Finally, the CTA (or actually, their vendor, Clever Devices, in building the Bus Time product on which CTA Bus Tracker is based) , understanding this service would appeal to mobile users, made sure that the bus tracker site would be accessible to these mobile users, regardless of device. The site redirects to the appropriate UI when accessed from a mobile device. Understanding that all mobile users don’t have smartphones (or most of them, actually, including Googlebot) and making content accessible regardless, is another thing CTA did right that so many webmasters do wrong.
Of course, the CTA is not perfect—in mobile SEO or in life. The page titles are terrible, there’s not enough relevant text, and the content isn’t crawlable beyond the home page and results in error pages being indexed. Also, there’s no iPhone app currently and the service isn’t marketed to mobile users unless they’re looking for the site. Nonetheless, in thinking about a mobile killer app, promoting that app to mobile users, and making that content accessible to many types of mobile users, CTABusTracker.com goes beyond what many webmasters would do to make their content visible to mobile users and searchers, and in that respect is truly a model for mobile webmasters everywhere who want to be more visible in mobile search.