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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!).



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