Google: U.S. Mobile search overtakes desktop search

Posted on Thursday, November 12, 2015 by Dee Fowler
Images of phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop

The prediction from the most tech savvy forecasters that Google mobile searches would overtake desktop queries in 2015 has come true, at least in ten countries. The United States and Japan are two of the nations where mobile search now dominates, but Google did not mention any other countries in the historic October announcement that accompanied its third quarter earnings report. Here are more details on what this expected shift to mobile search domination means to web developers.

Mobile vs. Desktop 


Comscore reported earlier in the year that US mobile queries that included tablets and smartphones comprised 29 percent of total search activity. Then in July, Comscore reported for the first time that time spent on mobile devices (51%) in the US had outpaced time spent on desktop devices (42%). Google CEO Sundar Pichai has further reported that mobile searches now exceed desktop searches on a global level. It's important to understand how Google distinguishes its searches. First of all, the search engine combines tablets with desktops for its desktop search data while mobile search data is based on smartphone usage. Its mobile queries originate from a mix of mobile browser-based searches and the company's mobile search apps. Google has not yet reported the percentages on these breakdowns. It also has not yet released specific figures on how desktop and mobile search queries compare.

Mixed Messages

While mobile search has taken the lead over desktop for queries, mobile still lags behind desktop in 2015 for the revenue Google makes from advertising. In terms of market share in all mobile searches Google dominates with 85 percent

On the flip-side of all the euphoric news about the mobile revolution is data that 50 percent of internet users do not do any searches per day on mobile devices, according to tech journalist Charles Arthur, based on Google's data. Out of the nearly 100 billion searches that occur per month, about 50 billion are done on mobile devices. 

Why Desktop Search Still Matters

One of the factors that keeps mobile search numbers lower for Google than potential figures is that many smartphone users connect to desired sites directly with apps instead of taking the extra step of clicking a link from a search engine. Once a smartphone user downloads apps to all their favorite sites, it reduces the need for searches, except to find new sites. That means Google and publishers miss out on potential ad revenue. 

So in a sense, Google and its huge pool of AdSense publishers depend on the survival of desktop search for revenue. So don't expect Google to treat desktop sites or searches as dinosaurs anytime in the near future. In April the search engine's updated algorithm for mobile search dubbed by the web development community as "Mobilegeddon" was designed to reward mobile-friendly websites and penalize desktop-only sites, but only for mobile search. Desktop sites have since not been hurt in Google Search with regard to the mobile search update. 

Another factor that may not play into smartphone statistics yet is that the Android Maps app can now be used offline to get directions. The app can also be used offline to find basic business information such as locations, hours of operation and phone numbers. Google is planning a similar offline app for iOS users. 


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