Fush And Clicks

A Blog On All Things Digital (And Not).

Study Suggests Search Engines Not As Popular On Mobile Devices

on August 9, 2012

Originally posted on Search Engine Land:

Google is seeing huge mobile search growth and search engines are widely used by mobile device owners. However a new study confirms that search is not the center of the mobile universe, as it is online. I discuss many of the top-line findings of the study, conducted by Nielsen and commissioned by Telmetrics and xAd, in my post at Marketing Land: Study: 50 Percent Of Mobile Queries In Travel, Restaurants, Autos Result In A Purchase.

In a finding I didn’t talk about in that post, the data reflect that tablet and smartphone users (in Travel, Autos and Restaurants) tend to go directly to websites and apps more than they use search engines to find information.

While the data vary by vertical and device category search engine usage was secondary to direct navigation across the board. For example, in the Travel category, tablet users went directly to familiar sites/apps (46 percent) or apps/sites they had previously used (49 percent) more often than they used search engines (15 percent) to find information.

Smartphone users also went directly to websites/apps in all three verticals more often than they used search engines for information:


  • Direct navigation — 43 percent
  • Search engine –24 percent


  • Direct navigation — 46 percent
  • Search engine –37 percent


  • Direct navigation — 44 percent
  • Search engine — 33 percent

In an unrelated study Nielsen found that US mobile device owners were spending 81 percent of their time in apps vs. on the mobile web.

Source: Nielsen July 2012

On the PC search is the near-universal starting point for people even when they have a site or brand in mind. However, the data above show that 1) mobile users spend more time with apps than the mobile web and 2) they often go directly to particular apps (or sites) without using a search engine.

This is in no way to suggest that mobile search or Google in particular is “in danger.” But it does argue persuasively that mobile user behavior is different than on the PC and that the search experience must continue to evolve and adapt in mobile. Google is trying to do that in Jelly Bean with its voice-based “assistant” and Google Now.


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