Small screens are increasingly becoming big business all over the world. Speaking at search marketing expo SMX West in March, Google’s Matt Cutts said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if mobile search overtakes desktop at some point in 2014.
Mobile is still some way behind desktop and laptop search in the US, but elsewhere in the world the tipping point has long since been reached. Mobile outnumbered static searches for the first time in India in 2012 and more people connected to the internet via smartphones than desktop computers in China in the same year.
The rise of reliable mobile broadband and a corresponding fall in the price of smartphones have combined to make mobile the most convenient and affordable way to access the web for huge swathes of the global population, especially in developing nations.
A report from the China Internet Network Information Center (CINIC) said that more than half of new internet users in the country came from poor rural areas.
“Mobile phones are a cheaper and more convenient way to access the internet for [residents in] China’s vast rural areas and for the enormous migrant population,” the report said.
“The emergence of smartphones under 1,000 yuan [$157, £100] sharply lowered the threshold for using the devices and encouraged average mobile phone users to become mobile web surfers.”
75% of Americans admit to regularly taking their phones into the bathroom, with 30% of men and 20% of women saying they never leave their mobile devices behind. There are some statistics you really don’t want to dwell on but this does illustrate the level of dependence many of us have on our phones these days.
There are other significant differences in the ways people use mobile devices as opposed to laptops and desktop computers. For example, growing numbers of users undertake searches on their mobiles while engaged in other activities, including using other devices such as TVs and desktop computers. When former Beatle Paul McCartney performed Hey Jude at the start of the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in London, smartphone and tablet searches related to the song surged as viewers watched the events unfolding on a bigger screen. This could have implications for linked multi-channel campaigns.
According to a report by Google search engines are the most commonly visited websites on mobile, followed by social networking sites. Many users do simply browse and surf, especially as speeds and average data allowances have increased, but there is still a tendency to search with a specific task in mind. Crucially for marketers, around 90% of users have taken action as a result of a mobile search.
For 68% of these users a mobile search directly led to them visiting a business (either online or in person) and for 52% it involved making a direct purchase. Other relevant actions included recommending a product to others and visiting associated social media sites. Mobile searches can also serve as a ‘jump off’ point, with users going on to make more detailed searches on desktop.
By its very nature mobile search is ideal to use on the go. It’s hardly surprising to find that 95% of smartphone users have used their devices to look for local information and 88% of these users have taken action within a day, making it important for businesses to localize their website appropriately. Mobile users visiting retail sites tend to be looking for specific information. 74% of users wanted directions or opening hours, with 64% wanting store contact information and 61% wanting product information. It’s also worth noting that only 33% of mobile users make it past the first page of a mobile site. It’s therefore essential to place your most important information and calls to action as prominently as possible, and to streamline navigation options to the rest of your site.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is also crucial for any mobile search marketing campaign as mobile users are more likely to click through to the top search result. Google recently announced changes in its algorithms that essentially penalise sites that are not properly optimized for mobile formats. It’s no longer enough to have a single website that’s designed primarily for desktop but also accessible to mobile users. This can be detrimental to your SEO but, just as importantly, it can lead to a negative customer experience.
A recent survey found that two-thirds of smartphone users cited slow to load web pages as one of their biggest frustrations. Poorly formatted sites that are awkward to use or fail to display properly on mobile devices are other major turn-offs.
The rise in mobile use shows no signs of slowing down. A dedicated, fully optimized mobile website or a responsive design that adapts to the device it is being viewed on can help you tap into this growth.