Mobile search

More than half of Google's more than 100 billion monthly searches are now made from mobile devices. Learn more about mobile search below and get an insight into the mobile future at Google.


What is mobile search?

En mobile search is a search on the Internet made from a mobile device (a smartphone or a tablet).

The mobile revolution is in full swing! Everyone is walking around with more computing power in their pockets than most people had on their desks just five years ago. And more than half of Google's 100 billion+ monthly searches are now done from mobile devices (excluding tablets) according to Amit Singhal, who until 26 February 2016 was employed as head of Google's search service.

This may sound like great news for Google, whose popular and free Android mobile operating system has itself contributed to a significant increase in mobile consumption - but mobile trends are creating a number of challenges for Google, which you can read more about below.

Fewer searches on mobile devices

Journalist Charles Arthur has statistical computations found that desktop users make an average of 1.23 Google searches per day, while mobile users make an average of only 0.925 Google searches per day. The difference may sound small, but when you multiply it by several billion unique users, it becomes a pretty significant difference for Google.

The difference is mainly due to the fact that mobile users are more likely to use apps than websites. On desktop computers, Google is the gateway to the entire internet, but on mobile devices, apps are the primary entry point. Among the most used keywords in 2015 were "Facebook", "Gmail", "Yahoo" and "Agar.io", and all these very popular keywords are missed by Google on mobile devices because users simply go directly to the app instead.

Voice assistants replace traditional search

Mobile devices are cumbersome and time-consuming to text on, leading users to increasingly rely on voice-activated assistants like Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortanawhen they need to find information. For Google, this means a decrease in the number of searches, because both Siri and Cortana is based on Microsoft's search engine Bing.

In response, Google has launched Google Now, but this solution also has a major challenge: visual ads have little impact when users search and are presented with information through spoken language. Users no longer have the same need to be able to see the screen, and this is a major stumbling block for Google, which makes its living by displaying ads.

Less space for the ads

The screen size of mobile devices is also important. The smaller the screen, the less space there is to display ads and the harder it is for Google to make money. Google has tried to address this challenge by making ads a more integral part of search results, but it has still felt compelled to cut the number of ads in the mobile version of its search service.

And as if Google's challenges weren't enough, it's now also possible to block ads (including Google's ads) in a number of popular mobile browsers. Most recently, telecoms operator 3 has announced that it will be the first telecoms operator in Europe to offer adblocking services that allow its customers to remove irrelevant and excessive ads.

A look into the future

The challenge for Google is that the number of mobile users is growing significantly, mobile users are doing fewer searches than desktop users, and there is limited space to display ads on mobile devices. Google's response is a range of new services and products such as Google Nowreplacing or complementing their traditional search service.

In this perspective, Google's recent corporate restructuring, where Google is now a subsidiary of its parent company Alphabet, makes sense. Search is no longer Google's (Alphabet's) only business, and Google is now trying to create a lot of new services and products (you've probably already heard about Google's self-driving cars), while still having profits from search to spend on product development.

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Mark Molgaard

Partner & Senior SEO Specialist

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