MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Google Inc. went far from its California headquarters to make an Alabama city its model in a new campaign to help businesses build better websites for mobile devices. The alliteration, Mobilizing Mobile, was simply too good to pass up.
It doesn't matter that mobile and Mobile (moh-BEEL) are pronounced differently.
Google spokeswoman Sandra Heikkinen said some executives in Mountain View, Calif., are still practicing the pronunciation of the city, but "we love the alliteration."
The search giant is planning a series of events and workshops in Mobile from Nov. 14-16 to help businesses build a presence on the mobile Internet and get new customers. Participants will have the opportunity to have their desktop websites developed for portable devices like smart phones and tablets the same day as the workshop. It can tell potential customers their location, phone number, hours of operation and other information designed to drive business.
"Someone can find them that afternoon," said Jason Spero, Google's director of mobile advertising for the Americas.
For Google, it's part of an international effort, GoMo, to get more businesses using mobile sites.
For Mobile, it's an opportunity for businesses to get their sites developed and hosted free for a year. It's also an opportunity for the city to turn a digital search disadvantage into an advantage.
Leigh Perry Herndon, vice president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, said people who type Mobile into an Internet search often get more information about telecommunications companies than they do the port city in Alabama. But now that spelling problem has brought Google to the city.
"This is one of those benefits of having a name that sounds like something else," she said.
Google executives said that while Mobile's name made it attractive, research made it a cinch. They found a city with a diverse range of businesses and a tech-savvy population with heavy broadband use, but lots of potential for development with mobile devices.
Herndon said many Mobile businesses have developed websites aimed at desktop computer users, but they have not adapted to the small screens of smartphones. She said Google is giving businesses a way to get with the latest trend in finding business information.
"You have an opportunity to get on board or you find your website outdated," she said.
Spero figures people with smart phones in Mobile are like people everywhere: They carry their phones with them all the time and they want to navigate the digital world from their phones.
"I truly believe this is driving a sociological change," he said.