Google laying out a timeline, policies and FAQ for their mobile Adwords seemed to be the big news of the day. (See Fierce/SearchEngineLand article.)

I have a few reactions to this.

First, it was inevitable.

They've been running trials since late last year, and it was only a matter of time. I like that they are giving advertisers a transition time to see how it works. Google is one of the more popular destinations for mobile browsers.

There are a number of things I'm a bit uncertain about (and are likely in upcoming versions:

  • Information and services needs on cell phones can be different than those on computers. I've run tests before to see if mobile search results are different from computer search results (and they should be in many cases). If I search for "Crest toothpaste" online, I probably want information about the product. If I search on my phone, I may want the nearest location selling the product. How this is going to be managed is still unclear to me.
  • One of the primary inhibitors that we often discuss in relation to mobile advertising is the need for a "landing page." If an advertiser is going to have a text link or banner ad on a cell phone, they also need to have an appropriate landing page or site in the case that the user clicks through. I've seen this executed well, and I've also seen this executed really poorly. I think this is still an open issue with the Google service. On one hand, they create some form of a landing page – this is a good thing. On the other, it may not be the landing page the advertiser wants. I used their emulator (of sorts) to test a few URL's. There were disclaimers at the top stating (basically in so many words) that there could be different information/presentation at alternative URL's.
  • The ability to target by location is one of the compelling aspects of mobile. If this component isn't already present, hopefully it will be soon for their cell phone Adwords as well as those on their sponsored Wi-Fi networks and eventually WiMax networks.
  • Another open question I have is the value of the search terms in this format online vs. mobile. As an advertiser, do I pay more or less for the mobile terms?
  • Lastly, according to our executive surveys, most advertisers aren't ready to use mobile search. In fact, a minority use mobile search and not many more plan to use it in the upcoming year. I question whether or not this should be opt in or opt out given current levels of interest from advertisers. Perhaps getting advertisers to try mobile search will help drive adoption. Under this scenario, the "opt out" could play in favor of the mobile search industry.
  • OK, and one more question … can an advertiser use mobile search only? And is there enough inventory available for local advertisers? How much inventory is there for "pizza + 94118"? Oh, and does this work with their text-based service? or just the browser version? or application?

It's a good first step, and I'm sure we'll see improvements as demand for the service develops. It's a great time (i.e., usage still fairly low) for advertisers and media companies alike to be experimenting and learning.