Search 2012: The Mobile Effect

The mobile Web is changing the way people search the Internet.


If the past year has taught anything to Web workers, it is that mobile will be a driving force for users to access our websites. Users will continue to access the Web on mobile devices well past 2012, and the upcoming year will provide more insight into how they attempt their searches -- whether they be on smartphones, tablets or any number of other devices.


While it is hard to predict exactly what will happen with mobile search over the next 12 months, especially in this ever-changing technological environment, some 2011 trends seem to paint a helpful picture.


Here are three big advances in mobile search from 2011 -- and a look at how they may affect mobile search in 2012.


1. Localization
Very few Web technologies have had as severe an impact as the local movement, headed up by companies like Foursquare, Groupon and Yelp, which encompasses areas as vast and varied as ecommerce, social media and, of course, search.


Because one of 2011's most prominent Web trends has been localized daily deals per sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, mobile searches seem to be looking for these deals with more and more frequency. Should this industry remain stable through the next year, the natural move seems to be to focus these deals more on individual consumer relevance, and mobile will be a leading factor in that change.


Foursquare is hands down the leading mobile check-in service, and it's already got the ball rolling when it comes to cashing-in on local deals with their "Foursquare Specials" feature. As technologies continue to advance and deals start to become the norm, expect them to center more on personalization and be highly targeted. Should this happen, users will be able to find local deals based on their past shopping choices, as well as relevant deals near them when they are traveling and shopping somewhere new.


In order for local deals to take it to the next level, they're going to have to utilize mobile and integrate with check-in services, so expect to see mobile search reconfigured to adapt to this change. The key for marketers will be trying to find a way to get local deals to the most relevant mobile users possible when they're searching from their smartphones or tablets.


2. Ads
Search engine advertisement spending has, for some time now, been one of the largest areas of ad spend on the Web, and has proven to be a highly effective investment for many marketers who have taken advantage of it.


Early estimates show search advertising increasing by almost 20 percent in 2011, reaching approximately $14.4 billion. This will likely grow more next near, and that goes for mobile as well.


Current predictions say that mobile ad revenues in the United States in 2012 will grow as much as 50 percent over 2011 (reaching around $1.6 billion). This is due in part because of the growth of mobile local search, which now accounts for 40 percent of Google mobile searches, the willingness of advertisers to evolve and adapt to that change and, perhaps most importantly, higher performing location-based targeted ads driving up premium rates.


Suffice it to say, the money to be made in mobile advertising is going to be largely in mobile search, particularly at the local level. Not only is investing in mobile local search a good way to appeal to new, relevant consumers, but it could also be a great way to see a comparatively high return on advertising spent.


3. Voice Search
Apple's iPhone 4S announcement was a disappointment to some, but it did come with one big game-changer that will have major ramifications for both mobile development and the future of mobile search: Siri.


The voice-activated "personal assistant" provides users with answers to all of their most important (and not-so-important) queries. Users can ask about personal information, like daily appointments or schedules, but also about topics like the weather or movie showtimes, for which Siri (and, presumably, Siri-like features that will come to non-Apple smartphones in the near future) scours the Web to find answers.


As these voice-search services become more popular, mobile search query volumes will see a significant rise. Once it becomes more mainstream on mobile phones, voice search will start appearing in other connected devices, such as the Xbox 360.


Expect voice search to outgrow Apple in 2012 (especially if the rumors are true about Google developing its own solution, known as "Majel," for Android phones) and become a much more prominent part of mobile search.