Popularity of search engines among mobile users questioned

New research is needed in the aftermath of a study by Nielsen which has suggested that mobile users are not using search engines as much as many might have predicted. The study, commissioned by xAd and Telmetrics, showed that users of tablets and smartphones were not going to the likes of Google as frequently as the world’s dominant search engine would like. Unlike users of PCs, mobile users tended to go straight to what they wanted. However, the research was based mainly on behaviour in the United States and the relevance of its findings to consumer behaviour in other countries is a little uncertain.

Some behavioural variation worth noting

The study showed that what mobile users were looking for did make a slight difference to the way they looked for it. Nevertheless, there was a common pattern by which mobile users went straight to the app or the website they wanted more regularly than they resorted to search engines. However, people looking for restaurants used a search engine more than people searching for travel information by a difference of 9 per cent. Even more people used a search engine for an auto-related query.

None of these detailed findings got as much attention from commentators as the fact that search engines were used less than apps and familiar websites in all categories. For Google, the slight variations in the amount mobile users go to it may be valuable in that it could help their future strategies.

Another study of relevance

Nielsen has conducted another piece of research into the behaviour of American mobile users. This compared the amount of time being spent on apps with the time being spent on the web. It looked at the change in behaviour between May 2011 and May 2012. It showed that apps had increased in popularity. 72 per cent in the spring of 2011 was surpassed by 81 per cent a year later. It will be interesting to see whether or not this trend continues.

The dilemma facing the search engines

The results show that Google and the other search engines have to be a bit concerned about the way in which mobile users are currently behaving. They would obviously much prefer it if users were spending more time not on apps. They would also welcome it if smartphone users were visiting search engines more than they do now. However, the surveys do show that mobile users do use search engines sometimes. In addition, they do not show that the perceived problem is worse for Google than for rivals like Bing.

The search engine response

Google has plans to make headway in the mobile age. It has been experimenting with a voice-based system. Google Now, powered by Google Knowledge Graph, might help Google assert itself with mobile users. Other search engines will have their own strategies.

The mobile revolution has been underway for some time now and mobile SEO is becoming more sophisticated. All those involved in mobile SEO have to pay a lot of attention to research so that they can keep improving their tactics.

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