The Shifting of Mobile Search: from Search Engine to Apps

Recent studies show that as paid search moves to mobile, it is shifting from the browsers to apps.

According to eMarketer, mobile will account for 85.9% of advertising search dollars by 2018. Google used to play a near-monopoly role in mobile search – it shared 82.8% of digital ad search revenues in 2012, but eMarketer expects Google’s share will decrease to 64.2% in 2015.


Where did the market share go? Mostly to mobile apps. Lots of mobile apps have search features – e-commerce apps such as Amazon; job-hunting apps such as Indeed; restaurant search apps such as Yelp; vacation booking apps such as Expedia. All of these apps charge advertisers for search listings. Based on eMarketer’s studies, companies like these don’t have much strength in the desktop, but they may be able to dominate the mobile search in the future.

Google’s losing share of mobile search ad market indicates the diminished role of browsers on smartphones. Unlike the desktop, search on mobile is no longer restricted to browsers. People think about search in a different way when it comes to mobile devices. The explosion of mobile app development provide people with more specialized methods for information searching.

Using mobile apps is often more efficient than going to a search engine. Imaging you are traveling in a new place, a convenient way to find a good restaurant is to open your Yelp app. Not only can you find a nearby restaurant based on your GPS location, but also you are able to see the review of it. The search result comes first are usually paid ads.

yelp-google-online-reviewsUnlike Google, Yelp is making its way up in the mobile search industry. If Google is the big boss of browser-based search, Yelp is becoming the leader of app-based search. eMarketer estimates Yelp’s mobile search revenues will grow 136% this year and reach $119.4 million. The report claims Yelp has “emerged from the pack” of search apps. Yelp’s growing role in search reflects app-based search is a new phenomenon as well as the future trend of search market. Although the degree of mobile users’ dependency on mobile apps search is unclear, increasing the visibility within apps is becoming an effective mobile marketing strategy.

Google controls more than half of all global app spend. On desktop, Google is the liaison between users and content publishers. It is important to keep in perspective the fact that Google still has relatively more mobile ad revenue than others. However, apps are gradually taking their toll on Google’s mobile ad dominance. Because of the booming app industry, people are going to “escape” away from Google’s control in the mobile world.

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