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How well do you understand the needs of mobile searchers, and are your campaigns capitalising on the growth of mobile?

Have you ever left home without your wallet? Do you turn around to get it?

If you’re like most people, you carry on with your day, cross your fingers that you don’t need your driver’s license for identification, and hope someone at the office will lend you a few dollars for coffee and lunch.

What if you leave your mobile phone at home? There's no question you're turning around to retrieve it. An entire day with your phone has become unimaginable. A recent survey revealed one-third of people would give up sex before they give up their mobile phone.

By 2015, more U.S. internet users will access the web through mobile devices than PCs. YouTube is predicting mobile devices will be the dominant form of accessing videos in the UK by 2013.

As people are becoming increasingly attached to their mobile phones, changes are cascading throughout the web, affecting all aspects of online behavior and brand marketing.

And nowhere is mobile’s impact stronger than when it comes to search, which (along with email) consistently ranks at the top of the list of most popular online activities among U.S. adults.

Desktop search may still dominate the overall search market, but mobile search represents a new frontier. The widely accepted number across search engines, locations and industry categories is that today 10 to 15% of searches are from mobile, and that figure is growing every day.

And mobile searchers are ready to act. Google reports, “...after a search, nine out of 10 smartphone users take action and half of those users wind up making a purchase.”

But search on a mobile device is fundamentally different than search on the desktop. Whether you’re running a multi-million dollar PPC campaign on AdWords or optimizing for organic search traffic and inbound leads, it’s critical to understand these differences and what drives the mobile searcher.

1. Mobile is highly local

Mobile searchers have a higher tendency to be doing searches with a local intent.

Exactly how much higher is up for debate. Last May, Google’s Marissa Mayer was quoted saying that 40% of all mobile searches are local. Microsoft has said that 53% of mobile searches on Bing have a local intent. An earlier estimate of 33% local was frequently repeated throughout 2010.

Whatever figure we choose to cite, we know that people on mobile devices are seeking things around them. After all, mobile gives us a unique opportunity to be simultaneously online and out in the world.

We use our devices to navigate throughout the physical world: Where’s the closest parking garage? What’s the best breakfast place around here? Where can I post this package for my nephew?

If you’ve got local content or content that can be localized, optimize it for mobile.

2. Mobile is focused and timely

It may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, but the average mobile search on Android and iPhone has roughly double the keywords than the average desktop search.

The interface is smaller on mobile but mobile searchers are more task focused and highly specific in what they’re seeking.

Consider the following data from Microsoft: 70% of PC search tasks are completed in one week, while 70% of mobile search tasks are done in one hour.

While someone shopping on their desktop computer takes on average a week to take action while someone on their mobile takes on average an hour. Talk about acceleration!

This difference in time to purchase has very real implications in retail. Mobile users are looking for information or assistance to help them make buying decisions literally right at the point of sale.

Consumers searching on a mobile device will make a purchase within 24 hours, while desktop searchers will buy over a longer period of time.

As a result, marketers need to employ specific search tactics for each platform. For example, on mobile search landing pages, offer very specific information about products and create clear calls to action on the web and on the phone.

Implementing click-to-call functionality is a great option here. That mobile searcher is ready to act so harness their intent with a small number of clear actions

3. Mobile search increases steadily throughout the day

Over the course of a day, hourly usage trends vary based on device types. Google Mobile Ads analyzed searches from tablets, PCs and mobile devices and found that searches from computers broadly reflected time spent at work. Activity increases at 9 am and drops off at 5 pm.

In contrast, tablet searches happen after work with a sharp spike in the evening hours between 6:00 - 11:00 p.m.

And smartphones?

Searches on smartphones grow steadily throughout the day, rival desktop search in the early evening and peak around 9:00 p.m.

While both tablets and smartphones can be ‘lean back’ devices, used in combination with other media while sitting on the couch in the evening, smartphones alone are used on the go throughout the day and combine searches with both professional and personal intentions.

4. Mobile searchers make mistakes

It’s not surprising that mobile searchers are more prone to misspellings than desktop searches. We’re not precise with touchscreen keyboards, small targets to hit and a variable location we’re typing from.

So make sure to include common misspellings in your campaigns and optimization efforts, this can be a great, untapped source of new traffic.

What misspelled words should you include? Turn off the auto-correcting spell checker on your mobile device and tap in each of your top 10-keyword phrases 10 times each. You’ll end up with 100 keyword phrases.

Which ones are misspellings? Collect the results and start your list.

Along these lines, many marketers running paid search campaigns are finding it more effective to manage separate sets of keywords for mobile and desktop platforms.

Is this right for you? Only you can decide and you can only decide once you’ve got some experience. So get started.

Computers, tablets, and smartphones all fill a different need that consumers have for finding information at various points throughout the day.

While marketers should look to all three devices for reaching potential customers, lumping the devices together without understanding differences in intent and behavior can lead to costly mistakes and missed opportunities.

Optimize now for mobile

Remember all those highly motivated, ready-to-act users searching to solve their problems as soon as possible? If you do a good job with mobile search optimization, they’re coming to your website.

Make sure your website is ready.

The biggest mistake in mobile search marketing is forgetting about the landing pages and website behind the search results.

If you’re going to engage in mobile search marketing campaigns, make sure you’re driving traffic to a mobile optimized landing page (at least) and a mobile optimized website (at best).

Otherwise you’re just investing in a campaign that ultimately pushes customers to a lackluster or downright frustrating experience.

Igor Faletski

Published 16 December, 2011 by Igor Faletski

Igor Faletski is CEO of Mobify and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

5 more posts from this author

Comments (1)


Terry Jones

The differences between mobile searches and traditional search engine entries using PCs and laptops is difficult to ascertain. It makes sense that mobile searches increase during the day with a peak between 6pm and 11pm. This is the kind of data that marketers crave.

over 3 years ago

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