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How mobile has changed our present and future search behaviour

Well, first thing’s first. Mobile search isn’t mobile.

We carry out most of our searches when we are static, on average 70%. Button tapping accuracy is reduced by 30% because we walk vertically. This is one of the reasons why voice search exists in the first place.

Voice search is going to diminish the use of incorrect spellings which will eventually mean that PPC teams will, over the next few years, reduce the number of optimised keywords due to a decrease in incorrect spelling.

Let’s look into the keywords “skin care” with a space and “skincare” without a space to discover this a little deeper.

For the most part, search trends followed similar patterns from 2004 to 2007 for the keyword “skin care” and “skincare” but then in 2007 when the iPhone was launched the trends started to differ. Why?

One of the reasons for this is because the mobile phone market started to explode as well as our use of predictive text and autocorrect. Add on our own personalised dictionary/saved words and this further complicates the problem.

Then in 2011, the search trends started to sync up. We can now surmise that voice search is starting to cause us to correctly use the keyword “skincare.”

What else do we know about mobile?

Mobile is visually the same as desktop, this is even truer when Google removed PPC ads from the right-hand side, and our mobile search behaviour is impacted by many factors, two of which are:

  • The specific device itself (high-end vs lower end handsets)
  • The environment

High-end smartphone searchers have similar behaviour to desktop searchers, such as, query length and query type distribution, for example. Although it is worth noting that mobile search is still evolving and research in this area is in its infancy.

Mobile query length

Historically, we used as few characters as possible when we searched as multiple presses on older handsets required more effort – to get the letter ‘C’ we had to press the number ‘2’ button three times. Then the average number of characters was 16 by the mid noughties.

Today, voice search is now increasing this significantly as we are now talking naturally into our mobiles, in conversational-style queries. Question-answering is now an effective content marketing tactic because of this behaviour.

Mobile query type distribution

In a large EU study, consisting of six million queries from 260,000 search engine users over a week, showed that query categories differed enormously whereby mobile searches contain a lot more adult content compared to desktop searches.

The study also found that 60.4% of mobile queries were navigational and only 29.4% were transactional, leaving 10.2% of the remaining queries for informational queries.

Getting up-to-date research, specifically on voice search is difficult but I will be hunting down a few recent studies and writing more mobile articles over the coming months – watch this space!

Links may die because of mobile

Mobile will one-day significantly reduce the number of backlinks.

Let’s say you are a blogger, sitting on the bus with your smartphone or tablet and you are reading a cool blog post. You are not likely to log into the back end of your blog and create a href= link, are you?

As a mobile user we are more likely to share this on social media. Is this why search engines havetheir own social media platforms? Does this explain why Yandex has started to drop links from its algorithm? Is this also why Google and Twitter are best friends?

The future of mobile

No one knows for sure where mobile is going but it’s a great conversation to talk about. Let’s do just that.

Soon there will be a linkless world as we adapt to mobile devices. The Internet of Things might make search very granular and even more personable and allow engines to truly become semantic. “Do I have milk left in the fridge to bake a cake tonight?”, for example, may allow engines to communicate with our fridge, work out how much milk we have, and know that baking a cake requires more milk than just having a cup of tea.

Mobiles already have cool pieces of technology in them, such as, sleeping monitors, for instance. Will they soon be able to detect our sweat glands on our hands and feed this information back to the engine so they can better understand our emotions, like anxiety? When we are anxious, we search for a lot more medical information. This is a classic example of how our internal environment can impact our search.



by Gerald Murphy