Mobile Search – The future of web browsing?

The term mobile search refers to information retrieval via mobile devices. Mobile search requires interactive user input and most search methods also require a mobile Internet connection (with the exception of search by SMS).

This blog post will broken down into three parts to provide an overview of important mobile Internet and search statistics followed by a comparison of desktop and mobile browsing. The various methods of mobile searching are also presented before the final chapters take a look at mobile advertising opportunities and potential next steps.
Mobile Internet Statistics.

Global Mobile Phone Usage and Browsing
Global mobile usage has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, with over 47.5m mobile phone users recorded in the UK 2008 (Source: Nielsen Mobile). As a result of mobile phone penetration, lower mobile broadband costs and the introduction of increasingly user-friendly mobile handsets, mobile Internet browsing has equally seen a steady rise. According to Nielsen Mobile, 7.3 million people accessed the net via their mobile phones during the second and third quarters of 2008 while report that 20% of all mobile phone users in the UK now make use of the mobile Internet. Mobile web browsing as a percentage of total web browsing is also growing, and currently stands at 0.72 % (Source:

Mobile Search Engine Usage
Google is the current leader in the mobile search space with 4.75 million users globally. Google leads worldwide via deals with leading telecom companies in China, India, Japan and Europe which are all emerging markets in the mobile search space.
Yahoo! has 3.65 million users worldwide while MSN Mobile has less than 1 million.
Other mobile search providers worth mentioning include Jumptap, Medio, 4Info and Infospace.

Rise in Smartphones
The popularity of smartphone devices such as the iPhone 3G, Google’s G1 and Blackberry have drastically furthered mobile Internet usage.
In the US, a quarter of all US mobile phones sold in Q4 2008 were smartphones (Source: In the UK O2 recently announced that it had sold 1million iPhones, confirming this trend. These emerging patterns in mobile Internet usage make it important for marketers to learn about the particularities of the mobile web, browsing and searching.

Mobile versus Desktop
Mobile search demonstrates how search is continually evolving, encompassing new techniques and providing marketers with new multi-faceted ways to connect with target audiences.
Mobile search presents new opportunities and challenges for online digital marketers, based on its unique functionality.

Mobile Web Limitations
Mobile phones are primarily designed for communication through calling and texting.
In terms of Internet browsing, the mobile web is restricted by:
• Smaller screen size which makes screen real estate more valuable
• Harder to use interfaces
• Slower connection speeds

Mobile Browsing
Mobile Internet users will often need information in a hurry which impacts what people search for and how they search for it.

As mobile browsing allows users to access the Internet on the move, mobile Internet search queries are more likely to be informational rather than transactional e.g. Where is? How do you get to? Cinema listings? Restaurants nearby? The localisation of results and provision of relevant local information therefore plays a significant factor in any mobile search marketing campaign.

Mobile Search versus Desktop
The main differences between web search and mobile search are:

Different crawlers
All leading mobile search providers use different crawlers for mobile content indexing.

Different browsers
Mobile devices use different browsers.

Search behaviour
As outlined above, a mobile searcher’s intent and behaviour is different to web searchers. Providing the right content at the right time will entice the users to repeat visits.

Time of day
Mobile queries grow over the course of the day and continue to grow throughout the evening (desktop searches decline in the evening).

Keyword usage
In general, mobile search queries are structured simpler than desktop queries influenced by the fact that it takes longer to type in search queries on a mobile device.

Fewer results diplayed
Due to the size of the mobile screen, fewer search results are generally displayed.

Browser specific adverts
Different ad formats are shown based on the browser used (HTML or WAP).

Check in later in the week to see the Second Part of our Mobile Search – The future of web browsing? Blog Post.

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