Google CEO on mobile search (Why it's different and what to do about it.)

This morning Reuters ran an interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt reinforcing some of what I know about mobile search and making “do no evil” more concrete.

First, the quote on mobile search and advertising, then some additional info and conclusions on working with mobile search.

Speaking of the emerging market for Web-based advertising on mobile phones, Schmidt said the vast majority of Google searches on mobile phones were done on Apple Inc’s year-old iPhones, which prominently feature a Web browser.

“Mobile looks like it will ultimately be the highest of ad rates,” because ads can be targeted by user location, he said.

Since the iPhone has a small fraction of the market, this tells us that few searches are being done on most other phones. Today, buying Google mobile search ads amounts to targeting iPhone users.

As well, it reminds us that mobile searches are different from web searches in another way — they tend to be more locally focused (and that enhanced targeting can be worth paying extra for).

I recently spoke with a potential client who, even with a small test budget, had trouble finding enough mobile AdWords inventory to buy. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard this complaint, so thanks Eric, for reassuring us about why.

Earlier this week Mobile Marketer ran a good piece on why Search doesn’t play a large role in mobile – yet: Crisp CEO that also reflects his comments:

A surprising finding in the first quarter index is that only 7.51 percent of traffic to the publisher sites in Crisp’s network is driven by search engines.

“Search does not play a large role in mobile yet, and it is not increasing much at all.”

Google accounts for 6.4 percent of the total traffic to the Crisp publisher sites, or an 85.2 percent share of the search engine traffic.

Traffic referred by search trends higher within local properties such as local newspapers and local television.

…local newspapers garnered a 27.36 percent… Local news TV was next, accounting for an 11.75 percent share of traffic from search… Categories such as men/sports, autos, online services, business, national news, magazines, TV and entertainment, women’ lifestyle and youth, in that order, accounted for the rest of the traffic from searches.

Note that what we’re really saying here, is that even on the iPhone (accounting for most current search traffic), people use search differently on mobile than on their computer. This is with the most usable device for the mobile web, the game-changing enabler in that space.

Therefore, it is the mobile context, not the device or dataplans, that accounts for these differences seen in use of the mobile web.

You can expect mobile search to grow as more folks get iPhones (or equivalent), but you can’t expect the mobile context and behaviors to change. Plan for these categories to continue driving most mobile searches, with inventory to match.

This is part of learning to Think Mobile. Users will always treat mobile differently from past media, including the desktop web, no matter how advanced the devices get.

Bonus Quote: On Evil and Changing The World
I’ve always loved the idea of Don’t Be Evil (and the Ten things Google has found to be true). Great to hear how it works in practice.

Even better to hear from one of the world’s most successful companies that making money is a side effect of wanting to change the world, not the other way around.

From the same Reuters article:

When he first joined Google as CEO seven years ago, Schmidt acknowledged thinking the “Don’t be evil” phrase was a “joke” being played on him by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Schmidt recalled sitting in Google’s offices later in 2001 when an engineer interrupted a strategy discussion over a planned advertising product by saying, “That is evil.”

“It is like a bomb goes off in the room. Everything stopped. Everyone had a moral and ethical conversation, which by the way, stopped the product,” Schmidt said.

“So it is a cultural rule, a way of forcing a conversation, especially in areas which are ambiguous,” he said of how the mission statement works in practice at Google.

Schmidt reaffirmed that the company’s primary goal is not to make money selling ads, whether it is banner ads or ads on Web searches, online video, TV and mobile phones.

“The goal of the company is not to monetize everything, the goal is to change the world … We don’t start from monetization. We start from the perspective of what problems do we have,” he said, referring to big, world-class problems.

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