In last month’s article on Search Engine Dominance we talked about the ever-changing landscape of the search market and whether Google was still undisputed king of search. We found that Google still controls the vast majority of traditional search engine market share, but that the Bing and Yahoo! search conglomerate was still managing to offer some competition. We ended with a discussion of the new vistas appearing over the horizon for the search engine market: Mobile Search and Social Search.
Let’s start with mobile search. Very simply, the mobile search market is the market for search results (and ad revenue) on mobile devices such as iPhones, Blackberries, Android phones, and even the new class of tablet computers, such as the iPad, the HP PlayBook, and the variety of Android tablets.
There are two very important points to make about mobile search:
1 – Mobile search is inextricably tied to your hardware provider and (to a somewhat lesser degree) your mobile carrier. This has many consequences, not the least of which is that it is largely the hardware manufacturer and the carrier that will control the search landscape for mobile search.
Apple, for example, strictly controls both their hardware and software, enforcing their own default search options, and requiring the use of their own mobile ad platform. Other hardware manufacturers, such as HTC, a manufacturer of Android phones, and Nokia, soon to be a manufacturer of Windows Mobile phones, have made agreements with various companies about the default web browser, search engine, and application offerings on their devices. This rigid control over the advertising landscape has made it possible for the industry to target ads in very complex ways, based on hardware, software, and carrier.
Furthermore, mobile carriers such as AT&T and Verizon have agreements to put additional software layers over many of their devices, further specifying default search and application options, based on agreements they’ve separately arranged with search providers and other companies. This means that the direct influence of the advertisers themselves is increasingly small, as these mobile providers maintain a stronger hold of their ad targeting.
2 – Mobile devices are used in a very different way than general purpose computers, and therefore have a different focus when it comes to search market share and mobile ad revenue. Mobile devices, whether phones or tablets, are very much organized around the idea of apps: single purpose software designed to do one thing and do it well.
There are therefore a few different ways that ‘search’ as a concept (and its associated advertising models) can be broken down for mobile devices.
a) Search–for apps
Apps are the basic software units of mobile devices, and the elements that the end-user interacts with most often. When installing software in the larger world of computers, users are accustomed to seeking out their applications from any number of sources, online or in stores. Mobile Apps work differently. App Stores# are selectively curated, which means that the availability of apps, the search interface, and the advertising platforms are all controlled by a specific party. Apple manages the iOS app store themselves, and several companies operate app stores for Google Android phones.
This means that, in terms of finding applications, search is a much less dynamic market. Market share will be directly tied to the market share of the devices themselves.
b) Search–within apps
Certain kinds of apps provide their own searches, and therefore their own advertising capabilities. Shopping assistant apps, travel apps, or local venue review apps all have their own search interfaces and therefore their own advertising models. Yelp is a good example of this. Whereas in a traditional search/advertising model a focus on Google would be likely to be very productive, to take advantage of the mobile space advertisers need to be much more focused on the dominant apps in the niche markets they’re targeting.
It is also within apps themselves that mobile advertising revenue most comes into play. In contrast to the traditional search market. Mobile ad revenue comes much less from paid search results than it does from ‘within-app’ advertising. This means that users looking to advertise their services in a mobile environment should be less concerned with the search engine advertising models, than the the in-app advertising models presented by the mobile device platform manufacturers.
In the mobile space, it’s better to advertise your app, or advertise within an app, than it is to advertise in a traditional search!
c) Search–in a device browser
The search space within a mobile device web browser is the most open and ‘traditional’ search interface and search market in mobile devices. Most mobile devices these days allow basically unrestricted browsing of the ‘full web’ and allow users to choose the search engine that is used as a default. This means that this is the aspect of mobile search that will most resemble the traditional battle for search market dominance. In fact, this browser search on mobile devices is likely to follow the market share trend of the search engines as a whole. The one difference being that, because of the ‘app model’, users are much less likely to install alternative browsers and change their default search options.
In summary, the tight hardware and software controls put in place by mobile providers and carriers, as well as the tendency of the majority of end-users to go with “it just works” default settings means that the competitive atmosphere of mobile search is extremely different than that of traditional search.
For the mobile search environment, the end user is going to have much less direct influence over which search and ad provider becomes dominant in this space. What it will come down to is the choice of consumers in hardware and provider. Apple and Android manufacturers will dominate this space because of the strength of their carrier agreements, brand recognition, and application libraries.
There is much less room for the underdog garage start-up company to upset the mobile search space. This may raise anti-trust concerns, and it will certainly make the battle for market dominance in mobile search one fought largely by manufacturers and carriers, with consumer choice affecting the market only on the largest scale.
So what does this all mean, for the small business trying to advertise?
- The mobile space is complex, fragmented, and tightly controlled – this means there’s no one easy way to make sure your advertising reaches across all platforms.
- Instead, small business owners should focus on advertising within the niche spaces the mobile environment has created.
- This means identifying the apps that mobile users will look to to find businesses of your kind in their area.
- Consider apps such as: Yelp, Buzzd, CitySearch, FourSquare. These sorts of apps are all organized around the principle of helping users discover what they need, where they live.
Coming soon – a discussion of Social Search, and some exciting new developments with the Advent of Google +1 search results – and the Google + Social Network.
Tim L – CoachingWebsites Support
Email any questions to [email protected]