Learning Hub | Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The shift of mobile search from search engines to apps

June 7, 2014 | Jon Teodoro

The pervasive nature of mobile phones has revolutionized the way we search for information, especially when it comes to finding a business. It is estimated that nearly 160 million people own smartphones in the United States, which translates into a 67% market penetration – a statistic that no business owner should ignore.

As the smartphone market has evolved, consumer behavior has evolved as well. Initially, major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing have been the starting point for the majority of mobile phone users. In 2012, Google owned 83% of the mobile search market in terms of ad revenue. However, in 2013, this market share dropped dramatically to 68% according to eMarketer. What caused this 15 point drop in market share?

Specialized mobile applications.

According to Cathy Boyle, senior analyst of mobile at eMarketer, “the explosion of mobile app development and usage means mobile users have more – and more specialized – alternatives for finding information.” A great example of this would be the Yelp app. Yelp is a well-known resource for foodies to find new restaurants due to its excellent search capabilities and ability to see reviews from real people. Instead of visiting a search engine to find restaurants, mobile users are turning to apps like Yelp to get more relevant information faster.

Kayak is another great example of a specialized mobile application taking the place of traditional search. It can be an arduous task to try to search for plane ticket information or hotel booking availability through a search engine, therefore, consumers have turned to installing apps like Kayak to expedite the process of finding this information. Because Kayak aggregates travel data into one easy-to-use platform, it eliminates the time-consuming step of having to shuffle through search results.

Is time the only reason why people are shifting to mobile apps instead of search? Not necessarily. Time is only a single factor of the bigger picture that reflects the real reason why this shift is occurring, and that reason is a consumers are looking for a better user experience.

Native mobile applications run much smoother and faster than their web application counterparts (although web application technology has recently made huge strides towards providing a better user experience). Additionally, the barriers to entering mobile development are gradually being reduced with HTML5-to-native alternatives like PhoneGap. Even Apple is working to add some extra push to its app marketplace by creating a new programming language called Swift to “offer a faster, easier way to build software for Apple’s products”, according to MIT.

As a business owner, making sure that your business has a presence with these mobile services is more crucial than ever. Being listed with mobile targeted companies like Yelp, Foursquare or YellowPages is a great way to ensure that you are conforming to their shift in search behavior.

What are some mobile applications or mobile web services that your business has been discovered by?