Local Search on Mobile Devices Is Pulling Away from the PC


Local Search on Mobile Devices Is Pulling Away from the PC

SMB local

Last week comScore released its “Digital Future in Focus” report. The document compiles and presents the company’s latest US internet statistics in a variety of areas, including search, mobile, social, video and e-commerce.

Most of the data has been previously published. However comScore presented for the first time its estimate of mobile search query volumes together with desktop searches. The chart below shows that data, which I first wrote up last week at Search Engine Land:

mobile search volumes

The chart reflects a total of 64 billion US search queries in Q4 2014. Roughly 29% of the overall volume is coming from mobile devices. The remaining 69% is from the PC.

From this we can deduce and crudely determine the percentage of local search queries. But first a caveat.

My sense is that “search” is here defined as activity on the major search engines exclusively. Even though the report discusses apps and app usage trends, it’s not made clear whether any of the search volume reported above comes from apps or is purely PC or mobile web-based activity.

I suspect that the Google and Bing search apps are included in the numbers, while mapping and other search-centric apps (e.g., Yelp, YP, Foursquare) are not.

If we use the “local intent” search figures previously released by Google and Microsoft (i.e., 20% of PC search and 40% to 50% of mobile search) this is what the numbers above look like in real terms:

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 1.06.18 AM

Taking the midpoint for local intent mobile queries (45%), total local query volumes (PC + mobile) would be 27% of overall search in Q4 2014. Of course the 20% (PC) local search figure is conservative (Google admitted this to me in 2010). But because that’s the only public number we have from the company we’ll stick with it.

Both Google and Microsoft have said that local intent search constitutes half of mobile search queries. Google has informally and formally issued a couple of different numbers, hence the range above. But if we go with the 50% figure then today local search on mobile devices is larger than on the PC.

This coincides with recent LSA survey data finding that more people use mobile devices for local search than the PC.

Device most commonly used when looking for location information online

Local mobile search dominance

The comScore data above, as mentioned, probably do not define search beyond the boundaries of the major search engines. And there may be billions more “local intent” queries happening across the fragmented world of mobile apps.

While we don’t have as much visibility on consumer intent behind PC search, the totality of evidence now argues that local search on mobile devices has eclipsed local search on the PC.

Especially with the “Mopocalypse” coming (Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm) it’s more important than ever for everyone to focus on mobile optimization, digital presence management and local-mobile data syndication.

Greg Sterling –

Greg Sterling is VP of Strategy & Insights for the LSA. His research is focused on the impact of digital media on offline consumer purchase behavior.