Google beats Facebook when it comes to sites and services most used on mobile phones

By Greenlight | 10 May 2012

…If 2012 is to be the year for Mobile Search, agencies and advertisers need to fully embrace it, and find the budgets to invest in it. If the advertisers undertake these tasks effectively, they will finally see the rewards that m-commerce can deliver for business…

When looking at the rise in popularity of mobile internet usage, two old quotes resonate, but not for reasons the authors would have envisaged at the time of writing. Internet inventor Robert Metcalfe said, "the Internet will catastrophically collapse in 1996." Additionally, an 1879 Western Union internal memo read "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a practical form of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

Indeed Robert Metcalfe was correct, albeit a few years early in his prediction. However, I think we can safely say that the Internet is now back and here to stay. According to the Office for National Statistics ( ONS) in 2011, 77% of UK households had access to a net connection. That figure was up 4% from the previous year. Furthermore, the usage demographic has been evolving over the past few years, with the UK making up one of the most diverse countries of internet users in the world.

The Western Union internal memo on the other hand was not so accurate! Telephones have proven their value a million times over, so much so that 91% of the UK population feel the need to have a mobile phone and 33.2 million have fixed landlines, including ISDN (Source: Ofcom).

So combining the two seems somewhat inevitable and therefore it is not surprising to see that 45% of UK internet users have accessed the Internet on the go via their mobile device (Source: ONS). So where do these users go, what do they when accessing the Internet on the go?

Many may feel the most visited site or application would be Facebook, with users wanting to update profiles, upload pictures, post comments and share opinions with their friends. However, our Search & Social Media Survey (2011-2012), which asked 500 people which of 14 sites and services (see Fig 1), they use on their mobile phone, reveals that in fact Google is the destination that the majority use the most on their mobile phone.

Fig 1. Which of the following do you use on your mobile phone?

Source: Greenlight

Coming from a background of traditional search, I find this information fascinating. I was one of those expecting Facebook to dominate mobile internet usage; however with Google still topping the poll, it just shows how important it is for advertisers to have visibility within the mobile Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

As an agency, we are passionate about data and we have seen the increase in mobile generated traffic for a number of our clients. As such, we ensure we have dedicated campaigns that are tailored for mobile devices as we recognise that the search query, ad messaging, etc., may need to differ from that of traditional desktop targeted campaigns.

Ensuring visibility is of course only part of the process. Once the advertiser has delivered the user to the site, they need to make the experience as easy and pleasurable as possible. Simply dropping a user into a full, mobile unfriendly site is only going to result in increased bounce rates and reduce site wide conversion rates. Generally speaking across the industry there is still some reluctance to accept that the mobile generated traffic will convert for advertisers, and as such far too many advertisers are still taking users to standard websites and simply wondering why they are not seeing the sales roll in.

For the past five years we have been told "this really is the year for mobile" by the networks, predominantly Google. Well, I for one feel that 2012 really could be. The handsets and devices are ready, the mobile internet connectivity is robust, the traffic volumes are growing, and cost per clicks are low. Ironically, it's the advertisers who are holding the growth back.