The growing population of mobile searchers, coupled with changes made to algorithms and advertising platforms, have forced marketers to include mobile-specific tactics in their search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) strategies. But marketers need to brace themselves for another wave of change: Consumers are increasingly conducting vertical searches in category-specific apps, not mobile search engines.
eMarketer estimates that 129.9 million US consumers—40.7% of the US population—will use a mobile phone to search the internet at least once per month in 2014. A new eMarketer report, "Mobile Search Trends: Dominating SERPs While Venturing into Apps and Anticipatory Search," analyzes how a mobile phone search population nearly 16% bigger than the mobile Facebook population makes it critical for marketers to move beyond the test-and-learn phase of mobile search.
Research indicates the mobile tipping point for search marketing will occur in 2015. Mobile will come to dominate nearly all key search metrics—share of organic traffic, paid clicks and search ad spending. Return on investment (ROI) is the one exception. Mobile is gaining ground in this area, but not as quickly as many marketers would like. On the whole, CTRs are strong and conversion rates are improving, particularly for smartphones. But the challenges marketers face in gauging the ROI of mobile search are still significant.
In light of these obstacles, it's not surprising that nearly two-thirds of global marketers polled by Kenshoo in Q2 2014 said mobile search underperformed compared with desktop search campaigns. Such opinions are not likely to change until mobile performance measurement, particularly in relation to the impact on sales in physical stores, gets more precise. Meanwhile, the rise of in-app search promises another challenge for marketers to turn into an opportunity.
eMarketer analyzed data from several surveys on app vs. browser use for search, and while apps paled in comparison to the search engine shares, any research that suggests 10% to 33% of mobile users are searching in apps first, or in apps only, should be a wake-up call for many marketers.