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Search Engine Wars – What You Need To Know About Mobile Search In 2014

The second part of a three-part series

If you think the standard search wars are hot, wait until you hear about mobile.  It’s the same main players – Google and Bing – in a completely different ring.  And while the screen might be smaller, the stakes are way bigger.  We’ve got all you need to know about the mobile search wars in 2014!

Mobile Search Set To Take The Reigns

Mobile search is booming.  In May 2013, KPCB 2013 Internet Trends reported that mobile represented 15% of all Internet searches.  In October 2013, a BI Intelligence report quoted, “search is becoming increasingly mobile. Tablets and smartphones now account for 26% of all local search traffic.”  While mobile may not represent a majority of current search traffic, the numbers are rapidly growing.  By the end of 2015, analyst firm BIA/Kelsey believes that there will be a greater search volume on mobile phones than on personal computers.  Mobile is the future and you better get used to it.

Search engine companies Google and Microsoft are well aware that mobile is growing like crazy.  Think about some of their recent purchases.  Google bought Motorola in 2012 and Microsoft followed suit with its own purchase of Nokia in 2013.  Both use powerful mobile operating systems (Android and Windows, respectively) and use their respective search engines as the default setup on each phone.  With mobile growth expected to continue skyrocketing in 2014, Google and Microsoft are positioning themselves for the fight.

Algorithm Updates

In 2013, Google continued to make major tweaks to its traditional search algorithm, but the company also made it abundantly clear that mobile was beginning to play a more important role.  The biggest announcement was how the mobile-friendly factor of a website will begin to play into mobile search rankings.  Sites that lacked ‘mobile-friendliness’, such as those with faulty redirects and slow page speeds, could lose out to those pages that were better prepared.

As if that wasn’t enough, Google made a big foray into mobile search recently with its Hummingbird algorithm update.  While it did not affect mobile during its initial release, it certainly will in 2014 because it’s connected to Google’s drive for better voice search.

What Do You Mean ‘Voice Search’?

Google wants to make searches and results more relatable to how we actually speak and answer.  Hummingbird’s drive for better semantic search and the Knowledge Graph drive that concept.  Users searching through Google Chrome can test out its capability on any device with a built-in or attached microphone.

Bing is testing its own voice-querying capabilities.  In June 2013, Microsoft made an update to its Windows Phone and conducted a test that proved its voice search was double the speed and 15% more accurate than before.  In addition, Microsoft is conducting further natural language voice search testing through its new Xbox One console.  Yet Bing’s biggest voice search boost came in September 2013 when Apple’s fast-growing iO7 mobile operating system dropped Google search in favor of Bing search, setting up a new war for share of mobile smartphone search in 2014.

Share of Spend

Winning share of mobile search is really all about winning share of spend.  A report in August 2013 by research firm eMarketer states that mobile advertising is expected to account for almost 50% of all display ads by 2017.  In addition, eMarketer predicts mobile ad spending will increase from $9.6 billion in 2013 to over $35 billion in 2017!  Mobile search advertising is becoming really big business and both Google and Bing want the largest slice of the pie.

What makes 2014 so crucial is that the mobile phone is quickly becoming the new wallet.  Microsoft recently launched a mobile payment system to take advantage of this concept.  It will compete in the same sphere as Google Wallet, which has been running for two years strong.  As mobile phones become people’s primary payment device, the two search engines will strive to own the entire user experience from search to sale.  Websites that rank well will have a better advantage in being part of these seamless transactions.

What Now?

This is the year to put some effort into your mobile website.  Look at your design, your content, and your current strategies.  Are they created with mobile in mind?  If not, you need to re-evaluate and put mobile at the forefront of your 2014 plans.

  • Responsive website design – This is a must-do if you haven’t already done it.  When you upgrade to responsive web design, your website fluidly adapts to every screen size to make the user experience seamless.  Not only will it help you continue to rank well in search, but it will make your customers happy too.  Remember that as screen sizes shrink, content displays change, so you’ll need to prioritize content and make the most important information appear first.
  • Make it mobile-friendly – Even if your website has responsive web design, there is still potential that your mobile website will have minor issues unnoticed on a PC.  You need to make the right moves to ensure your website is as mobile-friendly as possible.  For instance, some smartphones can’t play Flash or pop-ups, so you’ll want to show other video formats or text-based features instead.  Fix any and all mobile issues that appear, including faulty redirects, slow page speeds, or irrelevant cross-links.  You can also test your website’s mobile-friendly factor by using the W3C mobileOK Checker.
  • “Natural language” content creation – Yes, you’ve been doing this for the last couple years, but everyone needs a good reminder, right?  As voice search grows in 2014, your website content will need to grow with it.  Your content creation should focus on long-tail keyword phrases and natural conversations and queries.  Find out what questions your customers are asking and generate the most creative and helpful ways to answer them.  If you need assistance coming up with and producing quality natural language content, consider working with a digital marketing agency with expertise.

As you can see, the mobile search wars are hot and only getting hotter.  Yet mobile isn’t the only search ascending to new heights; it will be heading there side-by-side with social search.  To learn more about social search, catch the third and final segment of our series on the search engine wars in 2014.

Go to part three of the Search Engine War series: What You Need to Know About Social Search >> 

Return to part one of the Search Engine War series: What You Need to Know About Standard Search >>