Search is the primary navigation point on the web.  If Google can’t find your web page, chances are no one else will.  But search is changing, social media has become a new way for people to find answers.  It’s not uncommon for someone to ask where to find a good plumber on Facebook or where to take their car for repair on Twitter.


On the web, Google is the new homepage.  To be found you have to use the three C’s of Search Engine Optimization:

  • Content
  • Code
  • Credibility

Google’s search engine will rate you higher if there is actual content on your web page, though content may not be on your website if you post a video to YouTube.  If the code of your page uses W3C compliant CSS and avoids JavaScript, Ajax and Flash, then your page also rises in the rankings.  Finally what Google became famous for was scoring your page’s popularity based on inbound web links, so the more pages linking to your page the higher it’s credibility.

Mobile Search

Several trends seem to be emerging with search on mobile devices.  Mobile users don’t want to type, though they do love to touch a button on a screen to activate a search.  This implies a pre-selected decision tree aware of the context you want.

Examples of this form are the popular Urban Spoon and Yelp apps.  With Yelp you can type in the name of business, or select a category from a list:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Coffee & Tea
  • Drugstores
  • Banks & Credit Unions
  • Gas & Service Stations

From another touch you can further filter these choices by price, time (whether they are open now) and location (distance from you).

In general though, these phone apps are presenting you with results based on your location and that is one important trend in mobile search.  The ability to find context based on your physical location is new to search.  As a user you don’t have to enter your address, the location is sensed by GPS hardware or nearby WiFi router address or even cellphone tower triangulation.

This is the key to mobile search, the user not having to enter data.  What is emerging are context-specific apps with a baked-in decision tree where the user  touches a few selections, time and location are determined implicitly and results delivered.

Voice Search

Google includes Voice Search on Android where you can speak your search desires to your phone.  Like speaking to a magic oracle, saying the word “taco” can bring back results with nearby Mexican restaurants.  Again this search technique uses implicit location finding and also limits the amount of text a user has to enter, in fact eliminates all typing.

Social Mobile Search

Phone apps like Foursquare are pointing a direction where social search will head on mobile devices.  With Foursquare you can see locations your friends have most recently visited.  If you touch the name of that location you see details about the place.

Foursquare has also added the notion of a “ping” where you are notified when one of your friends checks into a place.  In a sense you are now keeping track of where your friends announce they are and receiving a notification on your phone.

Future Mobile Search

Location seems to be the area where mobile devices are still experimenting with new techniques.  The Foursquare idea of sending you pings when your friends announce themselves at a location is probably not interesting to you if you are very far away from them, say when you are traveling.   However if you received a ping from a place as you approached it, that might be more interesting.

Geoloqi has a feature called Geonotes that are essentially this idea of a ping from a place as you near it.  I’m not sure how often people will want to be interrupted on their phone by things that are not phone calls, but I suspect there will be similar application filters that allow you to subscribe to location pings or geonotes based on what you’re interested in.  For instance you might only be interested in finding an Italian restaurant as you head in one direction, or a library as you head in another.  The future will allow you to wander and only interrupt you when there’s something interesting to you nearby.

3 Responses to “The Future of Mobile Search”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Roberts, John Roberts. John Roberts said: What is the Future of Mobile Search you didn't ask? Find out anyway at #search #foursquare #geoloqi #mobile [...]

  2. [...] screen to activate a search. This implies a pre-selected decision tree aware of the context … mobile search – Google Blog Search This entry was posted in Mobile Marketing and tagged Future, Mobile, pdxmobile, Search. Bookmark [...]

  3. [...] a more positive note, what does The Future of Mobile Search have in store for [...]

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