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Google – State of Mobile Search

Think with Google – Mobile-ize Your Business.pdf
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This past Tuesday I attended a webinar facilitated by some of Google’s mobile AdWords team.  While a good chunk of the presentation and subsequent Q&A focused on educating traditional AdWords customers on the available mobile campaign features, Google did crack the door to certain data about general user search behaviors re: mobile.  The full .pdf of the presentation is attached to this post, but some highlights were:

  • According to Google, 1/3 of all mobile search queries have a “local intent.”  It’s unclear if this is just Google searches, but that’s the logical assumption.  Industry analyst Greg Sterling tweeted from the Search Marketing Expo conference, on the same day as this webinar, that Microsoft cited 62% of mobile searches contain local info.  That’s a big gap, I suppose, but the insight remains clear: lots of mobile searches are of a local nature.  No real surprise there.  Google also mentions that 15% of all iPhone apps are local.
  • Google cites 3000% growth in mobile “shopping” category queries in the past 3 years, with the majority of that growth happening in the past ~10 months following the launch of the iPhone 3GS (and Palm Pre, as if that is relevant given Palm’s anemic sales).  It’s unclear, however, what the exact nature of these queries are – people seeking product reviews and other details via mobile as they stand in-store contemplating a purchase vs. intending to purchase an intem via their mobile device, etc.
  • Unsurprisingly, searches via mobile web are much more likely to be of a local nature than desktop queries.  That said, it also appears mobile web searchers also tend towards entertainment-based terms (both of the G and XXX varieties) at a higher rate than on desktop.  The assumption here is that folks are 1) searching for something to do on a Saturday night via mobile or 2) in need of some distraction from the boredom of travel, waiting in lines, etc.
  • Despite these skews mobile vs. desktop web, iPhone users (unclear if just Safari searches or also including Google native app searches) search behavior mimics that on desktop much more closely.  Yes, the entertainment category skew is there (and a bit w/ sports as well), but ultimately the similarity between the two gives some indication of how much the iPhone is being used as a desktop/laptop replacement, at least in terms of searching the web.
  • Mobile web searches on iPhone OS/Android/WebOS (Palm) devices in categories like video games, office supplies and restaurants are up ~150-200% in just 5 months.  My thought: why did Google choose these categories in particular?  Office supplies?  Was the OfficeMax AdWords team on the webinar?
  • Google defined to the audience that it’s definition of “high end devices” = those that have a native browser that can render full HTML.  This essential means iPhone OS/Android/WebOS.  While a logical definition, one has to wonder how much the data Google cited was skewed based on this categorization.  If searches from Blackberry OS/Windows Mobile/Symbain, etc. phones are excluded, would we observe any differences in the mobile vs. desktop web skews?  In addition, Google mentioned during Q&A that they have yet to decide whether to designate the forthcoming iPad as a desktop or mobile device.  I suspect they’ll go with mobile given that iPad runs iPhoneOS, but it’s an interesting question that many will face when determining how to optimize experiences for iPad and related devices that will hit the market this year.

For those truly interested in greater detail on Google’s recommendations re: use of AdWords for mobile, please see the attached doc.  It wasn’t my intent to cover that here, as I have little desire to help Google pimp their products to the world (I still love ya Google!).

 

TG

Talking Mobile with Google – Webinar

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If you’re interested in learning more about how mobile, and specifically Google’s mobile services, can apply to your business, this is the webinar for you.  I expect they’ll spend substantial time walking through their mobile apps, the fairly recent AdSense for Mobile Apps product launch, their use of QR codes for local businesses, etc.  I’ll be listening in – feel free to join me!

Register here: http://bit.ly/cfX5B3

TG

Introducing Tim Grace, the iPhone App

If it wasn’t obvious, I’m fascinated with mobile tech.  I’m lucky enough to indulge that interest professionally by driving Apartments.com’s mobile product initiatives, but sometimes that just isn’t enough.  Part experiment, part exercise in vanity, I’ve now blessed the world with my very own iPhone App (screenshots below).  It’s a simple enough experience – download the app (found here) and get access to my blog posts, tweet stream and, of course, my beautiful mug staring back at you!

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All kidding aside, my main motivation in creating the app was simply to demonstrate how simple this platform now is to develop for, how much variety (frivolous or otherwise) there is in content and how important it is to have a multiple-context mobile strategy.  In my case, this experiment cost a whopping $25 (a steeply discounted rate on a $200 retail product – more on that later) and took no more than 30 minutes to create.  Is this app ultimately the best way to consume my blog/tweet content?  For anyone using RSS, clearly not.  For those who get their daily blog fix by visiting each of their www sites discretely, perhaps.  For me, that’s not really the point.

 

In my opinion, trying this approach with my personal content is more a case of eating my own dog food.  I’ve consistently preached that a mobile strategy should be centered around the principle that your content should be optimized, and discoverable, for use in all relevant contexts appropriate for your target audience.  For better or worse, the iTunes App Store has become its own vertical search engine for mobile content (and beyond, considering the upcoming iPad launch).  If I aim to optimize my online content for greatest visibility with Google & the major engines, why not take the same approach with the App Store (or Android Market)?  If someone wants to find apps that feature the topics I tend to write about, shouldn’t my content be there in that context as well?

 

Do a search in iTunes right now for terms like “product management,” “mobile products,” “apartments,” “multifamily” and sure enough, my app is right there among the results, with varying degrees of prominence.  These are concepts core to what I write, and care, about and I now have the opportunity to offer my insights (such as they are!) to different segment of possible readers.  Certainly, the “cost” to access the content is higher (must be willing to download), so the number of “subscribers” is sure to be lower than the more casual readership that may result from someone finding the blog via a Google search, but perhaps they become a more loyal/engaged audience.

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During my time working in the mobile product/marketing space, the debate over mobile web vs. native app has been among the most contentious and persistent discussions.  I regard this as one of the least productive topics to discuss.  Frankly, the answer today is clearly both, for all the reasons that led to my own personal app creation.  Should the priority, if resources/dollars are constrained, be on mobile web for most brands (non-gaming)?  Absolutely.  But, in my experience, stopping there simply limits exposure, plain and simple.  Native app discovery is its own, distinct process that has few connections to its web search cousins.
For example, despite strong mobile web traffic to our Apartments.com mobile site (over half from iPhone/iPod Touch) and a strong call to action to download our iPhone app on that site, it’s clear nearly all of our iPhone app downloads come from searches or browsing within the App Store.  So, I conclude that the preponderance of folks who found our mobile site via a Google search, promotion on our desktop site, previous experience with our brand, etc. are comfortable staying in a mobile web context, whether they have an iPhone or not.  Our iPhone App users simply have different motivations, preferences and employ distinct search methods to find this content (largely via the App Store).  Given that, I’m fairly confident that the 100K+ users of our iPhone app are consumers we likely never would have reached elsewhere.  That alone has justified our development efforts and offered significant ROI.