Google Is Gradually Turning Mobile Search into an App-Like Experience

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People often think and talk about Google in terms of ulterior motives. There’s the official position and then “what’s really going on.”

I’d observe instead that Google typically acts in self-interested ways, though it often presents its choices in terms of broader market benefits. This may fuel some of the conspiracy theories around Google.

The Google-led AMP initiative is a good example. The company is encouraging the publishing standard as a way to improve the mobile web user experience: faster loading pages, with no annoying pop-ups. AMP holds promise for a better overall content experience on the mobile web.

Yet Google also wants the mobile web to be more user-friendly because if mobile web usage declines (for whatever reason) Google’s revenues will likely decline. Call it “enlightened self interest.”

Turning to the topic at hand, Mike Blumenthal wrote a post that discusses Google’s increasingly “immersive” local search experience:

On mobile, Google has been slowly moving towards “immersive search” as the local search experience. Google’s goal is to allow the user to get all of the information that they need via Google, never having to leave for another site.

Some continue to see this kind of move as a betrayal of Google’s original mission and effort to create a kind of anti-competitive barrier. I see this rather as an effort to match the utility and functionality of apps. Traditional Google search results have limited value in a mobile context. What users want is more complete solutions that offer more end-to-end capabilities. Evidence of what I’m saying is reflected in some of the Localytics data below.

Localytics want people want from apps

Smartphone owners fundamentally don’t want to bounce between a list of mobile search results and individual websites and back again. They want more functionality in a simpler environment tailored to the smaller screen. The want “answers.” They want to complete tasks and transactions without using multiple sites.

This is why apps are winning vs. the mobile web. Only 5 percent of mobile media time now is spent on the mobile web according to Yahoo-Flurry. For the most part apps do a better job meeting user expectations and providing a good experience vs. mobile sites. There are of course great mobile sites and bad apps. But the generalization holds.

I see Google trying to straddle the web-app divide by continuing to organize mobile web content but providing more “answers” and a more “complete” (or immersive) experience that is increasingly app-like. These are survival moves by Google in an effort to adapt to a fickle and rapidly changing consumer market.

Do you disagree?

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4 Responses to “Google Is Gradually Turning Mobile Search into an App-Like Experience”

  1. Street Fight Daily: Google’s Increasingly App-Like Mobile Web, Mobile Sensor Project ‘CrowdSignals’ | Street Fight says at

    […] Is Gradually Turning Mobile Search Into an App-Like Experience (Screenwerk) Greg Sterling: Google typically acts in self-interested ways, though it often presents its choices […]

  2. Malcolm Lewis says at

    Nice post Greg. I’ve been noticing the same thing. Makes sense for them, but will only help them on Android and of course all the big spenders are on iOS. Google’s biggest challenge beyond that is somewhat limited review content. I’m sure Apple are working on similar concepts for iOS. I expect Apple (or Facebook) to buy Yelp and/or Foursquare someday soon and start surfacing reviews content far more aggressively in maps and elsewhere on iOS devices. Facebook is the mobile local search dark horse imo. They are in a great position because many people have the app open (and logged in) on their phone most of the time. Easy for users to post reviews. Easy for FB to push local content. FB certainly seems to be slowly but surely stepping their local search game based on what I see on my own Facebook app.

  3. Greg Sterling says at

    I’m starting to question whether Facebook is going to develop a killer mobile-local experience. They certainly have the content and the engineering capacity. But why hasn’t it shown up?

  4. Tom Lynch says at

    Great post Greg. Do you know how much of that 95% or so of user time spent mostly on mobile apps is spent on Facebook alone? Maybe as much as 30%? Facebook buying Yelp makes a lot of sense to me to really get to having the killer mobile-local experience instead of continuing to try to build Places features into profiles that are currently really hard for user to get to. Google would certainly need to accelerate some app expansion efforts beyond the Google Maps app if that did occur. Eddystone is so intriguing to me, I wish we had gotten a little bit more info out of Chandu regarding Eddystone at LSA. :0)

  5. Greg Sterling says at

    This comScore data suggests it’s nearly 50%

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