Going Mobile

Surfing the web on a mobile device, such as a smartphone, is a trend that continues to grow and with the introduction of more of these devices all the time (Google’s Nexus launched this month), we can expect to see a boom in mobile web use.

According to a Nielsen study, web visitors using a mobile device increased 34 percent year-over-year, to 56.9 million in July 2009 from 42.5 million in July 2008. While men continue to make up a larger portion of mobile web users vs. women, comprising 53 percent of the audience in July, the growth of female visitors outpaced the growth of male visitors during the month, with women increasing 43 percent year-over-year vs. 26 percent for men.

So what does all this mean for the home-based travel agent? Without a storefront, home-based travel agents are often reliant on their web presence to grow business. And while devices like Apple's iPhone have browsers that can display most web content, not all of those pages are optimized for smartphones' small screens, making them difficult to view and navigate on a handheld.

Also, mobile browsers such as Apple's Safari for the iPhone can't currently display Flash-based content. If your landing page is primarily a Flash animation, a smartphone user isn't likely to see it. (SearchEngineLand.com offers 10 great reasons your web should go mobile.)

Home-based travel agents with a strong web presence should definitely look into how their web site translates onto the small screen of a smartphone. A lot of vacation conversations begin when groups of friends get together, and being able to pull out an iPhone and do a search for, say, “Vegas vacations” could lead them to you. (Another plus: Google maintains a separate search index for mobile content, and for now it's fairly empty.)

How do you create a mobile-optimized version of your site? Paid services such as MoFuse ($8 to $199 per month) and MOBIFY are two options (free to $99 and up per month), or you can look into creating your own mobile website at www.wirenode.com.