Google is the dominant mobile search engine with nearly 90 percent of the market in the US and an even greater share internationally. The problem is that search engines aren’t used as often in mobile. Large volumes of content are consumed in apps.
Google is trying to address that challenge by indexing more app-based content, including deep links according to an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal. Since last October Google has been indexing deep links for Android apps, though not iOS.
Mobile search and app discovery platform Quixey announced a deep linking initiative last month.
Google has produced considerable research over the past few years showing that the overwhelming majority of mobile users do search on their smartphones. However there’s also evidence that they don’t search as often as on the PC or think of search as the “front door” to the mobile internet.
One such piece of evidence comes in the form of recent survey data (n=500 US adult mobile users) from financial industry research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The chart above shows the most frequently used mobile apps. While Gmail is in the top 5 Google’s search app is not.
Facebook dominates in terms of usage frequency and time spent.
However, according to comScore, the Google Search app is number four on the firm’s most recent top-apps list. Those data show reach rather than usage frequency: number of users that have the app on their devices vs. how often they’re used.
At a conference earlier this year a Google speaker made a statement suggesting that mobile search query volume would exceed PC search volume by the end of the year. I wasn’t there to hear it directly. The remark likely referred to global query volume.
I was a little surprised by the comment, given empirical and anecdotal evidence that “search” is less intensively used in mobile. Yet in many developing countries mobile devices are used instead of or a lot more often than PCs. So it’s certainly possible.
We followed up with Google and the company did not embrace or affirm the statement (nor was it disavowed). We don’t know much more than what was tweeted.
While it’s not implausible on a global basis, it’s unlikely that “mobile search” in a North American or EU context is about to exceed PC query volume. Yet it we consider the directional lookups and similar activity happening within apps to be part of “search” then it’s entirely plausible.
Whether or not mobile search at Google is actually on course to exceed PC search query volume this year, it’s clear that if the company can become a more viable tool for mobile content discovery (within apps) consumers will use it more often.