Google’s Sergey Brin on Local Mobile Search

Let’s be clear right off the bat. 2008 is NOT the Year of Mobile Search. Or the Year of Local Mobile Search.

We’ve seen those proclamations since O’Reilly proclaimed “2005 is Year of Local Mobile Search” in an article by Nathan Torkington.

But with the launch more advanced mobile devices like the iPhone 3G, Google, at least, views 2008 as a key year in their battle to win mobile search. Google anticipates search volume will increase as the iPhone and other sophisticated devices with powerful browsers encourage mobile search.

On the Q2 2008 Google earnings call, Sergey Brin said that he expected to see an “uptick” in search volume due to mobile. He pointed out that people are not always at their desktops, but always want to know something.

Brin didn’t know iPhone data off the top of his head but he said mobile phones with great browsers make it easy for people to search and view the results. He said they definitely have much higher usage per device than other kinds of devices. “On a rough order of magnitude, imagine that 30 times as many searches per user might be done by an iPhone user as compared to a conventional cell phone. So I think as you see more iPhones out there, as you see more other phones that also start to have capable browsers and input methods, I think you’re going to see tremendous growth there.”

Mobile phones offer less space for mobile advertising. That’s offset by the fact that queries are localized. Through GPS, it’s easy to identify a person’s location. Advertisers in close proximity can serve time and location-sensitive offers for fine-tuned targeting.

Ben Schachter of UBS asked a follow-up question on the evolution of the mobile marketplace. He asked whether a separate marketplace for mobile ads would be created — one with its own auction. Or, would it be an extension of the current model?

Brin noted Google currently allows advertisers to place separate ads for mobile.

In the future, he sees the mobile ad marketplace converging as fully capable browsers become ubiquitous.

Brin said, “I think it will be a more fluid experience for advertisers in terms of you can select ‘please run on mobile too’, or ‘don’t’, rather than trying to have completely separate worlds.”

Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP of product management at Google, chimed in with an example of how the dynamics on mobile phones will be different than desktop search. He noted Google has been talking for awhile about the fact that when you’re on a mobile phone, you’re much more likely to be interested in completing a transaction if you run a search. He sees local mobile search ads as being much more valuable to advertisers.

Here’s Rosenberg’s example of why local mobile will trump desktop search: “One of the winners of the 1,700 applications submitted for the Android Developer Challenge was a product that was developed called Android Scan. Basically what it allows a user to do is take a picture of a product with a barcode and then they can research the product on their mobile browser. They can do price comparisons, they can figure out how far a store that can actually sell that product might be, or they could actually figure out who to buy it from online. Imagine the value of an ad in that kind of a scenario.”

Soon, Google won’t have to imagine the value of that ad. They’ll know exactly how much advertisers are willing to bid for the incredibly valuable slice of screen real estate in local mobile search.

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