Not Just Location: General Search Going Mobile

Collage-of-words-BIt turns out that just about everyone’s search budgets will be affected by mobile -- not just restaurants, towing services and other likely suspects. In YP’s year-end report on local search behaviors, the most striking metric was not about the velocity of mobile search growth. That is to be expected. Across its apps, sites and publishing partners YP saw a 25% growth in the number of mobile-originated searches, now up to 30% of all search activity.

The real eye-opener comes when scraping the surface metric to drill into the categories of growth. We aren’t talking about the immediate service needs that once formed the leading edge of mobile search. In 2012, industrial manufacturing saw a 105% increase in mobile searches on YP. Also up were Party Planning (94%), Medical Services (85%), Maintenance & Cleaning Services (71%), Dentists (71%), Building contractors (62), Physicians and Surgeons (51%), Legal Services (+35%) and Moving and Storage (34%), all outpaced by a long shot -- the overall growth curve of mobile search.

The obvious upshot of these metrics is that mobile search increasingly is disconnected from immediate proximity, or perhaps moments of critical need. Instead we are seeing more general search behaviors also migrate to mobile.

Another expansion of the mobile search equation reflects the growing comfort we have with mobile media as well as older groups becoming more mobile-savvy. While the 61% rise in Medical and Health Care searches was driven by a 144% increase in pharmacy searches, it also included Medical Services (up 83%) and Physicians and Surgeons (up 70%).   

This is not to say that proximity does not matter in mobile search, but it matters most when it comes to taking action on an ad. The closer the user is to the business, the more likely they will be to click on the ad. At one mile or less from the business, the user is 1.4x more likely to click the ad, and that responsiveness actually spikes at 1-2 miles out (1.48x) before descending steadily to 1.05x at 5-10 miles out from the advertised business.

And make no mistake about categories of local searching, which still are led by restaurants (17% share of all mobile searches), although this category grew 13% in the year. The top five search categories for 2012 were Restaurants, Financial Services, Auto Repair & Service, Beauty Services and Physicians and Surgeons.

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