When I saw Advertising Age Digital’s article this morning entitled “Getting Your Content from the Web to Mobile Phones” I was momentarily excited for the few of us in this industry who focus on just that: getting digital content to mobile users. As we argued in the Mobile SEO White Paper, optimizing for mobile devices also includes creating content for mobile users specifically rather than simply pushing your web content into the digital realm, as mobile users are going to have different needs than desktop users, and will require content that is optimized for those mobile-specific searches; but whatever. This is a start. If a publication like Advertising Age wants to increase visibility to the mobile marketing space, this can only be positive for those of us who want to get our content or our client’s content in front of the rapidly expanding group of mobile users. The problem is when the method of increasing visibility of that content not only doesn’t increase visibility in the mobile search engines, but may in fact actually hurt it.
To summarize the AdAge article, the Bango button is a “way for content publishers, social networks, advertisers, bloggers and anyone else with content online to link from the web to the mobile phone”. According to the article, Bango buttons are useful because they provide an easy way for publishers to promote digital content to mobile users. However, it’s unclear to me how this process is an improvement over dotmobi or m.domain.com direct entry. In fact, from an SEO standpoint, wap.com URLs are less memorable, filled with special characters that may be difficult to crawl, and pass no link popularity. A better solution for Mobile SEO, then, would be to simply make your mobile URL memorable and your site crawlable.
When you sign up for a Bango button, you can currently either enter a photograph or a mobile web site. If you enter a web site that’s not already developed for mobile phones, red text appears telling you that your site may not appear correctly in every browser.
In this sense, it’s somewhat misleading for AdAge to position this as a less complex alternative to the status quo, as an advertiser still needs to have web content that’s accessible to mobile users, and making this content accessible is more difficult than pushing a button. When a user pushes the button, a temporary subdomain on Wap.com appears, which the user then has to enter into their mobile browser.
What? This is “is changing the way consumers get their information and media companies and advertisers present their messages”? Maybe so, but only in the sense that media companies and advertisers will be actively promoting wap.com instead of their own sites, and consumers will be getting their information after five clicks on Wap.com instead of one click to the site. Furthermore, if anyone tries to link to the Wap.com link, it will not pass link popularity, as both the Bango button link and the wap.com subdomain are both temporarily redirected to the advertiser’s site. I don’t see how this is an improvement from a usability standpoint, but from an SEO standpoint it’s clearly inferior. If you want to make mobile content available to users easily, and you don’t have the resources to build your mobile site in-house, make your web site accessible to mobile users, and make your content available to mobile users, you’re much better off using a mobilizer like Winksite or the Dev.mobi tool, as these will make your content accessible to mobile users and search engines without having to be a mobile search expert. As we explain in the Mobile SEO white paper, there are disadvantages to this method as well, but from an SEO standpoint they are imminently superior to the URL-challenged, uncrawlable, link-popularity hog that is the Bango button.
I think you have picked up the wrong end of the stick on the Bango Button.
Although Bango have not done a good job explaining their idea… Bango’s idea is to have an easy “call to action” to enable a web page developer to make stuff easily accessible on the mobile phone of a PC browser user.
The traditional ways of doing this are:
(1) Ask for the user’s phone number, and send a text message with a link to a URL. PROBLEMS: Costs money to send the text, user has to reveal their phone number, some carriers don’t allow arbitrary content, unreliable.
(2) Provide a URL. This works fine, but URL’s can be long
(3) Use some sort of QR code or barcode and a cameraphone.
What Bango has done is to enable (2) and (3) easily – Bango generate a quick to enter “unbranded” short URL of the form nnnnn.wap.com and also they pop up the QR code for those with a camera phone.
The super-genious bit of Bango Bango button, which you would discover if you used it, is that once you have visited nnnn.wap.com, Bango “pairs” your PC with your phone. From that point onwards, the URL “wap.com” or a bookmark takes you to a list of all
the buttons you have pressed, so you no longer need to enter a URL – just keep going back to the same one, and you find the last clicked button at the top. VERY VERY COOL!
After the first time “pairing” – which is easier than visiting a bit of content for the first time anyway, the behaviour is just CLICK, CLICK CLLICK on buttons and then visit visit visit on your mobile.
Whats more, Bango allows you to specify a URL for an image (JPG/GIF..) instead of a mobile site, and then automatically transcodes teh image to fit teh screen size of teh user’s phoen. That opens up FLICKR, MYSPACE, FACEBOOK etc. images to teh mobile user. Again KEWL!!!
I don’t think Bango is intending to do anything with “search optimization”…!
Roland, thanks for your comments. I’ve read the publicity in AdAge, Information Week, et al, so I do know that the Bango Button has applications for mobile marketing beyond promoting mobile web sites or web sites accessible to mobile devices. I think Bango has actually done a fine job in communicating the utility of their product to the trade press in this regard. However, as mine is a blog devoted to making web sites, mobile or otherwise, accessible in and valuable to search engines, I wanted to address what I saw as shortcomings of this product in that regard. As you say, Bango doesn’t seem to be intending to do anything with SEO, and I have to say I couldn’t agree more. But, from my perspective, that’s really part of the problem. As it stands, if site owners use this product instead of a (short) URL to promote their mobile web sites, it could make it more difficult for these sites to rank in mobile search engines because it would reduce the overall link popularity of the site. That’s not to say that it might be useful for other types of content if the content provider is not overly concerned with search engine traffic; but for those that are, it’s hardly an ideal solution.
Thanks for visiting and participating in the conversation. You may be interested to know that I received an email this morning from Ray Anderson, the CEO of Bango, requesting an invitation to our Google Mobile SEO Group. I invited him, and hope to help him address these issues in future releases of his product.
Glad to see you pick up on the Bango Button. I wanted to help clarify the thinking behind a Bango Button and how it is best used.
Firstly, your comments on the use of short, mobile friendly URLs for mobile sites is absolutely spot on. Anyone with a mobile site should use a URL that can be typed on a handset. While Bango Buttons can be used to link from a PC site to a mobile home page, this is not their primary use.
A Bango Button is best used to provide deep-links to specific items or media. So if I wanted to refer to a mobile game from a PC review site I could provide a deep-link allowing readers to directly access the download on their handset with a Bango Button. A good example of use can be seen at http://www.myspace.com/moonlife, where the band has provided links directly to tracks, ringtones and wallpapers.
To really get the value of a Bango Button you need to use them more than once. The first time you get the special get12345.wap.com style URL. The second time we have linked your PC and phone so you can click many things and go collect them via WAP.com at any time. It’s like a PC controlled mobile bookmark list.
You mention about media types and how we only support images. Our system supports any media type and allows files to be dynamicly converted from traditional web formats to those supported by the handset. Version one supports images, but more will come real soon.
As for SEO, Bango is very active in 3 key areas within mobile:
1. Payment – we provide the only true global mobile payment platform. Customers integrate once with us and automatically get plugged into a growing list of payment providers worldwide, including on-bill, credit card and PayPal.
2. Information – we deliver mobile analytics and information about visitors to your mobile site, including a reliable unique user ID that allows auto-login and site personalization.
3. Traffic – this is about getting people to a mobile site. The Bango Button fits this category but so does mobile search integration. We are working with the likes of Yahoo and others on how to do search on mobile better and how to better index all the valuable mobile content.
Mobile search is a non-trival topic. It’s a world where traditional bots and spiders fail to do the best job. This is because content management systems on mobile need to target such a large range of devices and browsers across many operators and countries – all with different rules and regulations.
Bango already has advanced content metadata collection capabilities within the management tools that allow you to set titles, tags and specific metadata that allows you to define that it’s an MP3 of rap music with adult lyrics… You can actually set this up for your Bango Buttons too – simply create a button at http://bango.com/button, then use the login info we email you to login to the Management Tools. From here you can set up all this metadata.
Lastly, Bango Button is still in it’s infancy – we are very keen to get feedback so we can improve it and make it more accessible. We have set up a discussion area on http://forums.bango.com for this purpose.
I hope this helps.
VP Product Marketing, Bango.