Was 2010 the Year for Mobile Search?

Performics’ Google Mobile Search Activity 2010 Year-to-Date

Posted by James Beveridge, Sr. Analyst, Planning & Analytics

While 2010 wasn’t quite the year for mobile search, mobile impressions and clicks did surge in Q4, indicating that 2011 could be mobile search’s break-out year.  Based on the trends, Performics projects that mobile search clicks could be greater than 16% of all Google search clicks (mobile + desktop) by the end of 2011.  Additionally, mobile search CPCs are, on average, 59% lower than desktop CPCs and continue to fall month-over-month, making mobile a highly-efficient channel for advertisers.  However, conversion rates are still lower for mobile search than desktop, suggesting that advertisers should focus on improving mobile site experience.   Below, we’ve charted our mobile search 2010 month-to-month performance.  The trends all point in one direction—that mobile paid search will be an essential part of a successful 2011 performance marketing program.

Year-to-Date Metrics
Google AdWords – Jan-Nov ’10

Throughout the year, we’ve seen a steady rise in Google mobile search impressions.  Mobile search impressions were highest during the peak of the back-to-school shopping season (Aug.) and the peak of the holiday shopping season (Nov.).   The percentage of mobile impressions as a part of total search impressions (mobile + desktop) rose steadily from Jan. to Aug.  The percentage then dipped slightly in Sept. and held steady though Nov:


This graph excludes Content and Search Partners, as defined by Google

Clicks from mobile devices increased 400% from Jan. to Nov.  Mobile clicks as a percentage of all search clicks accelerated until Oct., and then dipped slightly in Nov. due to a significant uptick in overall holiday search traffic.   At this rate, 10% of all of our Google search clicks will come via mobile within 3 months.  By the end of 2011, that figure may be greater than 16%:


Mobile CTR was comparably lower between Jan. and Aug. This trend began to change in Sept., however, and Oct. was the first month in which mobile CTR outpaced search CTR.  This is an exciting development, especially during the holiday shopping season:


Mobile CPCs continues to tell an interesting story, having decreased month-over-month yet again in Nov.  These decreases are driven by the continual refinement of existing mobile campaigns. Advertisers should accelerate their roll-out of mobile-specific copy and smartphone-optimized landing pages to continue to improve Quality Score, thus lowering CPC:

Performance by Weekday
Google data from Nov 5-18th

Decomposed by day of the week, mobile impressions and clicks tell an interesting story.  Traditional paid search weekday profiles typically post the strongest traffic during Mon/Tues with gradual drop-off through the end of the week and then lower volume on weekends.  However, mobile shows an opposite and complementary profile.  This indicates that when people are away from their desks, they’re tied to their mobile devices.

This suggests that mobile is not simply just another device for reaching searchers, but a complementary channel where people are away from their typical search environment and searching based on mobile-specific needs:



Performance by Hour
Google data from Nov 5-18th

Intraday mobile and desktop searches reinforce the story of weekday searches, with some subtle variations.  Searchers are relying on mobile devices during periods when they’re away from desktops, typically between the hours of 9-11AM and 6-9PM.

What’s unique, however, is the distribution of impressions vs. clicks.  Mobile impressions tend to peak during the morning commute/early lunch period.  Clicks, however, peak following work hours—between 6-9PM.  This is also when mobile CTR peaks.   As a result, users appear to be performing mobile searches for different purposes at different times of the day—searching for content earlier in the day and completing transactions later:




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