Survey: Majority Use Mobile Search, Find It “Harder Than PC”

surveymonkey-sel-logosIn the cross-platform, post-PC era, the big question the search industry faces is whether and how PC search behaviors are extending into mobile. The short answer is they are.

Google has sponsored research that shows majorities of smartphone owners use search engines (74 percent). Yet mobile search, even voice-enabled search, is an awkward version of its PC sibling and people generally find it “harder” than using search online.

Those are some of the takeaways from questions in the recent holiday shopping survey conducted by Search Engine Land and SurveyMonkey.

When conducting online research with your smartphone, which of the following best describes your behavior? 

  • I use a search engine just as on the desktop — 52.5 percent
  • I don’t use my smartphone for online research — 21.1 percent
  • I rely on mobile search and apps equally — 10.6 percent
  • I use search when an app can’t find what I am looking for — 8.3 percent
  • I primarily use mobile apps — 7.6 percent

(Numbers may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.)  

The survey found that just over half (52.5 percent) the mobile audience used search engines “just as on the desktop.” However overall it appears that more than 63 percent engage with mobile search to some degree (frequency is uncertain). Beyond the 52 percent, 10.6 percent said they “use search and apps equally.” The population that had replaced search with apps turns out to be relatively small.

A substantial number of respondents (21 percent), however, said they didn’t use their smartphones at all “for online research.”

Which of the following statements about mobile search best expresses your experience? 

  • Searching on a mobile phone is harder than on the PC — 61.4 percent
  • Searching on a mobile phone is easier because you can use voice search – 18.5 percent
  • I prefer using apps to search the web on my mobile phone — 10.6 percent
  • I don’t use search at all on my mobile phone — 9.6 percent

(Numbers may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.) 

While the majority of smartphone users are tapping search on their mobile phones, most people find it “harder than on the PC” (61 percent). Fewer than 20 percent said that voice search made mobile searching easier. And just over 10 percent said they preferred using apps to mobile search engines.

The survey was conducted on November 21-22, 2013 by Marketing Land and SurveyMonkey. Results were collected with a 95 percent confidence interval and a 5 percent margin of error from more than 400 Americans using SurveyMonkey Audience.

Summary Of Findings & Complete Survey Data

Related coverage of the survey results: 

Related Topics: Channel: Mobile | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.miamirollsroyce.com/ Hoa Pham

    Mobile search is only easy in countries which use English as a primary language as they use voice search with a high accuracy. For those like me (from Vietnam as an example), we have to type text into the search box and it consumes more time than PC.
    By the way, Thanks for sharing this information. :)

  • Paras Joshi

    Keyboard as a device also matters while searching, while searching on desktop you have superspeed typing device and you can search/research at your ease. Thanks for the detailed survey presentation.

  • http://www.darshanbeloshe.com/blog Darshan Beloshe

    Greg, That is really good data about mobile search. Well, i found myself in those who go for search option only if app don’t give what i am looking for. If you ask me about voice search, i would better type in because it take a while to re-correct myself most of the times.

  • Jim Gilbert

    It’s a start. But, when somebody answers the REAL question then we will have something actionable. The real question is: “Of the people using smartphone search, what percent checkout on mobile vs what percent move to a desktop or tablet device to complete the purchase process after doing their research on a smartphone”?

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