The proportion of mobile searches is more than you think – What you need to know

We have analysed billions of searches to better understand the evolution of search from desktop to mobile devices. The result: Mobile search is already much more important than you previously thought. Let’s go directly to the evaluations:

The number of daily searches performed on the phone continues to increase while searches on desktop or laptop are stagnating. If you only have limited time, here are the important findings:

Summary of key findings:

  • Significantly more searches are carried out on the mobile phone (64%) than on the desktop (35%). There are also more than twice as many keywords that are characterised by mobile traffic.
  • While almost 36% of desktop users click the first result, just under 30% click the first in mobile searches. Mobile phone users click more frequently on much lower-ranking results.
  • UK In an international comparison, UK is in the middle-ground of Europe with 33.6% desktop searches. Other countries are already significantly further along the path of less desktop use: Italy (32%), Japan (25%) and India (16%), for example.
  • The percentage of mobile searches continues to rise: during the past year, the percentage of mobile searches in Germany rose by around 2.5 percent.
  • The mid-tail searches with between 1000 and 100000 searches per month have an above-average number of mobile phone searches, while the long-tail has a comparatively high number of desktop searches.
  • Above-average searches on mobile phones: SERPs with recipes (+ 14.6%), featured snippets (+ 6.8%) and Google applications such as the calculator (+ 4.5%)
  • Depending on the industry, the proportion of mobile searches is very different: varying between almost 80% for weather sites to less than 50% for B2B topics.

Why the difference between mobile phone and desktop searches needs more attention

Google will switch the search index from Mobile First to Mobile Only this month (Google’s announcement). Websites for which the desktop version of the website was previously crawled will, in future, only be recorded in the mobile version.

Google is taking this step because the vast majority of all searches now take place on mobile phones. The number of desktop searches is stagnating, while the number of searches on the smartphone continues to grow.

While this step is perfectly natural for Google, large parts of the SEO and online marketing industry are still trapped in the desktop world: we work on large screens every day and make decisions based on desktop data. 

In order to show clearly how important mobile search queries are today, we carried out a comprehensive analysis with around 80 million keywords and many billions of search queries. The results are surprising.

Desktop searches make up roughly only a quarter of all keywords

To get closer to the topic, we conducted an initial analysis of how many more keywords there are in desktop vs mobile searches, how big the reverse is, and for how many this ratio is more or less balanced. The result is surprising:

Clearly visible: of the 84,637,700 examined keywords, only 27 percent of desktop searches are more important than mobile searches. For these keywords, desktop searches make up more than 55% of all searches, while mobile searches make up a maximum of 45%.

In contrast, the proportion of keywords in which searches on the mobile phone characterize the keyword is more than double: almost 57 percent of all keywords are mobile phone searches in which the majority of all searches come from the mobile device. Around 15 percent of the keywords have an approximately even distribution across devices.

The first data point to keep in mind: at the keyword level, mobile is about twice as important as desktop.

Almost two thirds of all searches are already carried out on the mobile phone

In order not to rely on this one data point, we will look at the topic from a different perspective in the next analysis – we will not measure individual keywords, but will check all search queries as a whole: which device is used to search? The answer:

Here, too, the answer is abundantly clear: only around 35 percent of all searches are carried out with a desktop device. All the rest, and thus almost twice as many searches, come from mobile phones.

The second data point thus also confirms our findings from the first analysis: There are twice as many mobile searches carried out than on desktop computers.

CTR: no less on mobile, but with different clicks

But why is it so important whether users carry out their searches on the desktop or on the mobile phone? Maybe you still remember our Blog post about the Google CTRs from last year. We examined what percentage of users actually clicked on which position in the organic results.

We have now done the same analysis again, but differentiate between users who are on the desktop and those who search on the mobile phone. The result:

It is easy to see that the user behavior on the two devices is fundamentally different. If searchers are on the desktop, it is much more likely that they will click directly on the first organic hit. This is where more than 35 percent of all desktop clicks end up.

It looks a little different on the mobile phone where less than 30 percent of clicks land on the first, organic hit. For this purpose, users who search with the mobile phone select results that are a little further back, much more frequently.

Also interesting is that all in all, organic results are clicked slightly more often on the mobile phone than on the desktop. Across all keywords, 82.5% of desktop searches result in a click, while it is almost 85% for mobile phone searches.

The following comparison of the SERP layouts shows why this happens very well. Here are the current search results for “daffodil” – both on the desktop and with the mobile phone:

The first organic result is highlighted for better clarity. In this example it is extremely pronounced, but can also be found in a comparable form for many other keywords: on the mobile phone, the user first has to scroll quite far down to be able to click on it.

Interestingly enough, this behavior seems to be common now. Google users often skip the first bit of information offered by Google and actively search for real, organic results. And while they are already there, they don’t necessarily click on the first result, but give the other organic results a chance as well.

Another effect – while users enter a new search faster on the desktop if they do not find the expected result in the first place, mobile phone users are more willing to scroll down the list of search results. It takes significantly more effort to start another search via the mobile phone keypad than on the desktop.

Our summary: Mobile phone users do not click on organic less, but use the SERPs differently than desktop users. They also select results that are further down in a more active and targeted manner.

International comparison: India’s strong mobile use, USA lags.

In the next evaluation, let’s look beyond national borders. Which trends exist among our neighbors and worldwide? Here is a selection of interesting countries with their respective distribution of desktop and mobile searches:

In this comparison of ten countries, USA has the largest desktop share in Google searches. The UK leads the other European countries, apart from Italy, which has a slightly larger percentage of mobile searches.

Unsurprisingly, the proportion of desktops in countries that have often skipped this step is very low. In India, desktop searches only account for 16 percent. But even in Japan it is only 25 percent.

Development: The percentage of mobile searches continues to grow

In order to be able to forecast how the share of mobile searches develops, we looked at the distribution of desktop and mobile phone searches over the past year and a half in Germany:

It is obvious that the share of mobile searches continues to grow in Germany as well. We are currently seeing the trend continue every month.

Also interesting is that around Christmas the proportion of mobile searches increases massively, while the number of desktop searches, perhaps from offices, decreases. These “Christmas peaks” can be clearly seen in the diagram.

Our take-away: the trend towards more mobile phone searches has not yet come to an end in Germany. The share of mobile searches is currently growing.

Many keywords are dominated by mobile searches, only a few by desktop searches

So far we have mainly dealt with average values. But averages can quickly deceive you. Depending on the distribution of the individual values, they can simulate something that does not exist. We will therefore look at the distribution in more detail in our next analysis.

In a more detailed breakdown of the first analysis, you can see the proportion of all keywords with a certain mobile / desktop distribution. We have divided all keywords into classes with 10 percentage points. The result:

As you’d expect, there are a lot more keywords in which mobile searches dominate. The distribution of 60% mobile and 40% desktop occurs most frequently for 17.6 percent of all keywords. This is followed immediately by 70% mobile and 30% desktop. Keywords with more desktop than mobile searches only follow in fifth place.

The conclusion: the dominance of mobile searches is real and not a result of statistical phenomena. For the vast majority of keywords, there are more searches on mobile than on desktop.

The interesting “midtail” in particular has an above-average number of mobile searches

The next evaluation goes in a similar direction. In order to better understand the reality of mobile searches, we analysed how strongly the percentage of mobile and desktop searches depends on the respective search volume of the keywords.

For this purpose, we have divided the search volume into seven common classes and evaluated for each of these classes which part of the searches is carried out on the mobile phone and which part is carried out on the desktop:

In the long tail, i.e. for keywords that are searched a maximum of ten times a month, the desktop share is above average. Mobile searches are also in the majority there, but not as strong as usual.

It can be assumed here that long-tail keywords are more likely to be searched for on the desktop with a real keyboard, while the Google suggestions are often used on the mobile phone.

With very traffic-heavy keywords with a search volume of over a million monthly searches, the proportion of mobile phone searches decreases again. It should be noted, however, that these keywords almost exclusively contain brand names. There are hardly any generic terms with this level of traffic.

For us, from an SEO point of view, it remains true that, especially in the high-conversion mid-tail with high conversion rates, the change to mobile phone searches is even more pronounced than average values ​​suggest at first glance.

Search intent – Questions that Google answers itself are asked directly on the mobile phone

As a next perspective, let’s look at the dependency of the device division on the search intention. With the five search intentions Know (and Know Simple), Do, Website and Visit, Google differentiates the intention that a user has behind a search query.

In the following evaluation, you can see the difference between the keywords with the respective search intention and the average for the proportion of mobile searches:

The strongest positive deviation (i.e. more mobile phone searches than the average) have keywords with a Know Simple intention. This search intention occurs, for example, with keywords such as “weather newcastle” or “30 kilometers in miles.” With these types of search, Google can give the answer directly in the SERPs without having to refer to an external website.

Even stronger, but then as a negative deviation, keywords with the website search intention are far removed from the average. With this search intention, the users already know which hit they want, but do not use the browser URL bar, but Google for navigation. Usually these are brand names or direct domains that are being searched for.

OThe point to note here is that Know (simple) keywords have an above-average number of mobile searches, while website searches have significantly fewer mobile searches than the average. Do and visit intents are roughly within the average of all searches.

SERP features – recipes almost exclusively on phones, flights more popular on desktop

Analysis based on SERP features, i.e. the respective special feature integrations that Google displays in the search results, allows for a more detailed view.

As with the evaluation of the search intention, here you can see the deviation of keywords with the respective SERP feature from the average proportion of mobile searches:

The big difference in keywords with the recipe box stands out: these keywords are searched for significantly more often on mobile phones than the average (64.1%) of all keywords. Almost 80 percent of all searches with a recipe integration are carried out on mobile phones .

But keywords for which Google shows a featured snippet or a Google application such as the calculator or currency conversion are searched for on mobile phones with above-average frequency.

More complex behavioral issues are below average in searches conducted on mobile phones: this can be seen with keywords for which Google displays boxes with job advertisements, but also very clearly with keywords for booking flights. In this space it is only just over half of all searches that are carried out on mobile phones.

The takeaway: while some topics are predestined for mobile search, more complex topics are searched for on desktop.

From 80% to only 45% mobile searches – the difference is in the industry sector

To conclude the analysis, let’s take a look at different industry sectors. For the following evaluation, we have analysed key keywords from a number of domains that are leaders in their respective industries.

As a result, we can see how large the proportion of mobile phone and desktop searches is in many well-known industries and topic areas:

The result: huge differences. While only every fifth Google search comes from the desktop on weather sites, the situation is completely different with B2B topics: desktop searches are still the majority here.

On the one hand, we see that topics such as the weather, but also pet supplies, partner searches and recipes are very clearly shaped by mobile search queries. Also above average are sports / fitness, medical supplies and fashion.

On the other hand, there are industries in which the proportion of mobile search queries is still well below the average: these are job classifieds, but also websites with telecommunications as the core topic.

In order to show that there are also industries in which mobile searches do not yet make up the majority, we have also included pure B2B topics: B2B software such as Salesforce or Hubspot but also B2B trade / procurement sites currently show even more desktop searches vs. mobile phone searches.

For us, the last data point is that there is no general statement on the relevance of mobile searches. The proportion can be very different depending on the industry.

Your plan of action

It’s great that you made it this far! You now have a much better and deeper knowledge of the status quo of mobile searches on Google. But only now does it get really exciting – the theory must lead to evaluation and actions.

You should now be able to tick off or answer the following points for your website in order to be well equipped for the mobile future:

  • Does Google index your website with the smartphone Googlebot? Google has announced that it will discontinue the desktop Googlebot this month. If your website has not yet been automatically switched to the smartphone Googlebot, this indicates indexing problems. Check now in the Google Search Console: Settings> About (screenshot)
  • Do you know how high the proportion of mobile searches is in your environment at the moment? As we have seen, there are sectors that are already significantly further ahead in the transition than others. Analyze how high the mobile / desktop share is currently in your industry. The Google Search Console can show you this value for keywords that you are already ranking for, in SISTRIX you can see it for all keywords (“weather”, 94% mobile & “seo tools”, 11% mobile).
  • Don’t lie to yourself with desktop performance metrics. In preparation for the Page Experience Update, the performance indicators are currently being optimised in many companies. Often the core web vitals for the desktop are looked at. That doesn’t help: Google has clearly communicated that the update only affects the mobile search and that the key figures for mobile devices will then be counted there.
  • Do you make decisions based on the correct numbers? Most established tools and tools continue to provide desktop data. This is how desktop rankings are measured and onpage crawlers masquerade as desktops. That no longer corresponds to reality. At SISTRIX we have had a mobile first approach for years: unless you have explicitly selected otherwise, you will see mobile data with us.
  • Use Google SERPs and your website more on your smartphone. Admittedly, when you sit in front of a large monitor every day, it is difficult to do without the comforts. But you should consciously try to use the smartphone view of the Google SERPs and your website more often. The Chrome Developer Tools allow you to do this in an emulator on the desktop.

So much for the difference between desktop and mobile search, the relevance of mobile search queries and your next steps. Finally, a suggestion: if you are not currently a SISTRIX user, I recommend a free test account.

We have recently implemented many innovations with regard to the relevance of mobile search: completely new, revised keyword functions, the integration of the Core Web Vitals and a general focus on Mobile First. It is worth it ..

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Comments
Avatar Derek   
9. March 2021, 16:45

Very cool info. Any thoughts on how the pandemic may have heavily influenced the behavior you are seeing? From a US perspective, I’ve seen heavy growth in desktop traffic likelyLegal
directly attributed to the increased work-from-home during Covid-19.

Avatar John   
14. March 2021, 09:59

I’d like to know about the methodology of the survey.

> 80 million keywords and many billions of search queries.

What’s the difference between “keywords” and “queries”. Generally speaking, they’re synonyms and interchangeable.

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