I spent a recent Saturday scouring the local thrift stores for some furnishings for my new apartment (“Help me, I’m poor” is indeed an accurate phrase to describe my current situation). After digging through the Goodwill down the street from my house, I was still looking for the perfect set of chairs to accent my latest Pinterest find, so I naturally, without a second’s thought, reached for my iPhone to search for other Goodwills in the area.
I opened up my Google Search app and began typing “Goodw-“ and chose “Goodwill MN” from the suggested search queries. In less than a second I was presented with the three closest Goodwills, each location complete with an address, click-to-call phone number, directions and website. I tapped the “Directions” link of the nearest one and away I went (with the phone sitting safely out of my hands in the passenger seat, of course).
Although it really didn’t appear this way at the time, the experience was magical in a very fulfilling way. In less than two minutes – from the moment I grabbed my phone to the moment I put the car in drive – I was off to my next destination. So yes - #magical.
What it Means to Search on Mobile
While it may have been a magical experience, it was far from unique and uncommon; millions of people perform mobile search queries everyday. A recent Telmetrics study found that 60% of mobile consumers expect search results to generate businesses within walking or driving distance of their current location, and one-in-three smartphone users search specifically for contact info (like my Google search results for Goodwills). According to Google's Mobile Search Moments Study, 40% of mobile searches have local intent, while 45% of all mobile searches are goal-oriented with the intent to make a decision.
These stats reflect the greater underlying motivation of many a mobile search. When I search for something on my mobile device, I have a want or a need that I’m looking to fulfill. No matter my search query, I’m looking for relevancy, proximity and simplicity; three motivators that represent the very foundation of SoLoMo.
To be mobile, according to Merriam Webster, is to be “capable of moving or being moved.” By this definition, mobile search queries should provide actionable relevance by producing information that is unique to the user’s location and experience.
To return to my experience searching for Goodwills, I can categorize it by the following:
- I wanted only results for Goodwills (i.e. relevance)
- That were near my current location (i.e. proximity)
- And had all the necessary contact information clearly laid out (i.e. simplicity)
This mobile search query then lead me to take action – to another local Goodwill to find the perfect set of second-hand chairs to furnish my apartment (note: project still in progress).
Big tech responds
These fundamental principles of mobile search are not lost on the big tech companies. Google recently announced an update to its search engine that brings Google Now-like features to all devices, including voice activation that allows you to search your Google Drive, Google Calendar, Gmail and Google+ accounts. While at least one of the implications of this update extends far beyond the reach of mobile search, i.e. furthering the integration of our entire search experience with Google, it also speaks to the Chief Executive Larry Page’s ultimate vision:
“The perfect search engine would understand exactly what you mean and give back exactly what you want.”
That sounds a lot like simplicity, relevance and proximity to me.
Apple’s iOS 7 has a similar feature to Google Now, although it is far less comprehensive. The feature, entitled Today, alerts the user of the current weather and traffic of places they may be heading, as well as events on their daily schedule. While it does not do nearly everything Google now does, the update points to Apple’s similar ambition “to anticipate information for iOS users before they need it,” according to Erica Ogg’s article in Gigaom.
While Apple may be chasing after Google’s innovation, both tech giants are essentially providing consumers with results that matter most to them – results that are relevant, proximate and simple – so as to offer a personalized integrated digital experience.
The onslaught of mobile will breathe down your neck until you accept it as not just another device but as a new reality. According to Google’s Director of Mobile and Social, Ian Carrington, mobile search will surpass desktop search in the next couple of years. Analytics firm BIA/Kelsey has that date pegged at 2015. This seems to make sense as more and more users ditch their dumb phone for a smart one (good choice, kiddos). Gartner’s latest smartphone market report found that smartphones outsold feature phones globally for the first time in Q2 of 2013 (mark your calendars, folks – it’s now a holiday), with Android leading the pack enjoying a hefty 79% of the market share.
As you and your business prepare for the new mobile reality, optimizing for local search becomes imperative. Rebecca Churt, marketing manager at Hubspot, recently published a comprehensive guide that gives you everything you need to know to dominate local search. While it may seem like a daunting task, the core component is ensuring that your business is easily found by search engines, and that means making yourself visible online, especially with Google+, Yelp, user reviews, etc. – all things that search engines look for when judging relevancy for a user’s search query.
Ultimately, search engines (Google’s in particular) want to help users find the most relevant information, essentially asking “What’s the best match for this person at this moment?”
Given this, your primary question must be: “How do I make sure my business is the best match?”