Are We At An Inflection Point For Mobile Search?

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New data from search marketing platform Efficient Frontier and Ben Schachter, a stock analyst at the Macquarie Group, indicates that mobile search advertising is at an important inflection point and may be ready to take off next year. Mobile search currently accounts for about 6 percent of the search advertising dollars in the U.S. as represented by Efficient Frontier’s clients. And that is up 2.7 times from 2010. But by the end of next year, it is projecting that mobile search could account for between 16 percent and 22 percent of total search advertising spending.

If the growth rate of mobile search continues, it will be on the conservative end of that projection, and if it accelerates, it could be closer to the 22 percent. Schachter expects the “growth to accelerate in 2012 and beyond as more and more mobile devices with full Internet browsers enter the market.”

Another illuminating data point is that click-through rates on search ads are actually higher on mobile than they are on the desktop. Clickthrough rates are 66 percent higher on phones and 37 percent higher on tablets. That makes sense since you only bother to search on a mobile phone when you are looking for something right that instant so you generally have a higher intent to purchase or learn about a commercial offering. Or maybe we just are more prone to click on links on small screens.

Regardless of the higher clickthrough rates on phones, it is tablets that are taking a disproportionate share of search advertising clicks and spending. Tablets already account for 50 percent of all clicks on mobile search ads and 43 percent of the search advertising spending by Efficient Frontier’s clients. Tablets are not 50 percent of the mobile browsing device market (if you count all smartphones and tablets), but they are on track to get a lion’s share of the search ad spending. In some verticals, like retail, tablet search ads are already 77 percent of all mobile search spending.