Earlier today Google’s Amit Singhal told a conference audience that there were now more searches happening on mobile devices than on PCs and laptops around the world. Google made a more limited version of this announcement in May when it said, “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.”
At the time, Google declined to name the other countries but soon it added the UK to the list. Now Singhal is saying the phenomenon is global. Individual countries may be exceptions but overall mobile has eclipsed the PC.
In terms of local-mobile query volumes Google has thrown out a range of numbers over the past couple of years: 30%, 40%, 50% and most recently 30% again. It’s not entirely clear where these numbers are coming from (whether internal data or surveys). Bing previously told me that 53% of the queries coming through its mobile app were local in nature.
Notwithstanding this uncertainty, I think it’s safe to now assert that the majority of mobile search queries carry a local intent — and potentially by extension the majority of search queries period. While people do entertainment, news and general research queries, most lookups are going to have a local or offline purchase intent.
In 2010 Google said that 20% of PC search queries were “related to location.” Upon further questioning Google acknowledged that it was difficult to disambiguate many queries and that this 20% figure was a safe and reliable estimate but that it probably didn’t capture all of local-intent search taking place on the PC.
On mobile devices local intent queries are generally easier to determine. I would argue that the relationship between local and non-local queries has now flipped. Or perhaps more accurately I would contend that it’s simply easier for us to see the location intent reflected in the query and subsequent user behavior on mobile devices.
In any event we’ve truly entered a new era.