Mobile Search Madness


Last Friday William Slawski posted on an interesting new patent registered by Google. Essentially a non-browser program for mobile phones which allows search through Google, and viewing of emails. After my recent trip to Japan, my mind has been consumed with the mobile aspect of all things search, and how we may need to adjust our site optimization techniques to better address the mobile phone search industry. Especially in Japan, where over 60% of those accessing the web are using their mobile phone, sites need to be concerned with how or if they are going to be found through mobile search.

For me personally, most of my time during the work week is spent at a desk, so most my searches M-F are on my laptop. However, on the weekends, when I am on the go most the time, most my searches are on my mobile phone. I don’t know if that is common with others, but it is standard operating procedure for me. Not to mention, by the weekend, I am so sick of being tethered to the computer, the very thought of opening it up and logging on turns my stomach a bit, I need my no computer cave time.

mobile search 2

Just as a quick “for fun” test I performed a search for the term “golf clubs” on both my lap top, and on my mobile phone. I was first of all happy to see that the top 10 organic results were exactly the same on both devices. However, while my lap top browser was able to show me a complete page of 10 organic results, it also displayed 2 Ads at the top, and 8 other ads along the right sidebar, then 8 additional related search terms at the bottom. That is quite a bit of information on one page.

Golf Clubs Search in Google, Results Page

It is obviously a different story on my phone, where only the first organic search result was shown, and I had to scroll down to see the other 9.

Mobile Phone Results Page for Google

This is quite an interesting situation all by itself… With only one search result being displayed, how does that affect what we choose to do once the results are served? Will we scroll down because we feel we need to see more results like we are used to seeing on our desktops, or will we be more inclined to just grab the first one that looks good? Does the speed of the connection affect if we scroll or not, or if we go to page 2 or not? I personally do scroll down for a quick look at the first 10, and I often go to the second page when I don’t find what I need, but this is only because my phone’s network (Sprint) is broadband now. Previously, with a slower connection, I would have never gone to page 2 of a search, because I didn’t want to wait for the next page to finally process and load. What influence do the faster connections have on the effectiveness of mobile search, and our willingness to use our phones as a search device?

What also is noticeably missing on the mobile phone results page are the Ads, both the top and the sidebar are absent. Oddly, I also noticed on my lap top I only am returned 1 – 10 from “about 14,000,000” results, where on my phone I was returned 1-10 from “about 19,200,000 results. Not sure what the difference is here, but 5,200,000 more results using the mobile phone seems a bit, well… off. Not sure what caused the difference there.

So, I guess the next question needs to be, how long are the Google mobile search results going to stay ad free? With the iPhone and predictably other cool mobile phones coming out, I think it would be safe to say we are going to be able to do more, and probably want to do more with our more advanced mobile phones. If that is the case, are Google ad clients going to demand more access to potential mobile search revenue and pressure Google to include paid search results in mobile search results? I sure hope not, but realistically I think we have to expect it. This then begs the question, how will it be done? As there are only 10 search results returned presently, will the top two be PPC ads, and the remaining 8 organic? Or will Google just make the SERPs page longer to accommodate the top page and side bar ads? And with only one search result being shown on a phone, will PPC clients need to pay more than they do now for the ad on the mobile search top spot? Matt any insight?

There are many out there who have been predicting for years how mobile phones were going to change the way we access the Internet, but I don’t think the cell phone manufactures/service providers did a very good job of delivering phones which allowed this transformation to really take place. Apple’s iPhone might just be the catalyst to change all that, and finally force the industry to provide us with the mobile phones we both want and frankly need to be truly mobile. And if we do start doing more on our phones, then mobile search will surely evolve, and those best prepared to capitalize on these mobile advances might find a new competitive advantage in their SEM strategies. Cool stuff to think about, but very important stuff to learn about.


As full disclosure, I also ran the same test above on Yahoo, and while the lap top search was fine, doing the search on my mobile phone in Yahoo stunk, and the results were useless. Google automatically determined my phone was a mobile device and adjusted the served search page to better “fit” with my phone’s small screen, but Yahoo did not. So I was left to navigate around a full-sized page to find the search text box to enter my search terms, and when the results were returned, I had to navigate through a long blue column of paid search ads, to finally get to the first organic search result. Unfortunately, it too was displayed in a long, annoying column of text. Net result (pardon the pun)… I won’t be using Yahoo for any future mobile phone searches.

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