Is your business losing customers due to poor search optimisation?

In this guest post, Alice Almeida looks at the Retail, Automotive, Finance and Travel sectors to show how brands are missing out on traffic due to incorrect search optimisation.

With the release of the IAB Global Mobile Report this week, I don’t think I need to tell you that this is the year of mobile. Because you know what? The past six have been the ‘Year of Mobile’ if you classify it from a consumer perspective. Let me explain…

alice almeida- hitwise

The smartphone took off because consumers bought into it, not because a publisher or network launched and pushed for consumers to watch or listen to advertising in order to fund the actual offering.

Here we are in a unique spot where we have an incredibly active audience, yet it’s the advertising that’s been very slow to the party. Sure, some brands get it, but many are still stuck when it comes to including it. When we say ‘2016 is the year of mobile’ it still is – but not as it should be.

So how can brands catch up to consumers and make the most out of their mobile marketing strategy? Mobile search. Understand it. Research it. Action it.

With 52% of all searches in July done on a mobile phone, now is the time to jump. To assist brands with this transition, in a recent Hitwise webinar we delved into our search data across four main industries: retail, travel, automotive and finance to outline how mobile search is being used, how it differs from desktop search and how brands can incorporate it into their marketing plan.

mobile retail search

The findings highlighted that mobile search is used in three main ways which differ to desktop.

  1. It’s heavily used by those seeking immediate answers, such as ‘who is’, ‘can you’, ‘where is’ etc. Desktop question searches were around more complex questions such as ‘how do you’ ‘what will happen if’, things that required a bit more time to digest.
  2. It’s a last minute purchase push. Whether it’s reviewing a product or service about to be purchased, or checking to see they have the best price – consumers are seeking last minute advice prior to purchase. This heavy skew towards mobile search suggests consumers are doing it on the go, potentially in store.
  3. It’s incredibly private. When it comes to searching for things that you don’t want anyone else to see, we saw a huge skew towards mobile devices. Whether it’s health concerns or financial stress, in most cases, these searches were nearly always done on mobile.

Another important finding is how valuable it is to understand the language consumers are using to search for your product.

For example, the term ‘shoe’ is searched for in 160 different search term variations each month, yet only around 10 of those are actively being targeted by shoe brands. And of those 10, how many competitors are also bidding for that term and potentially stealing customers, before they’ve even been to your website?

By getting a complete profile of all search terms used for your product and brand, you can be ahead of your competitors.

When looking at each industry in more detail, it started to highlight how consumers use mobile search within the path to purchase, and more importantly how brands can leverage these insights to be more effective in their search approach.

We found common themes within each category which were predominantly searched for on mobile.



Retail, from a total category level, had a mobile search share of 54%. Within that, the number one topic was ‘near me’. This included subjects such as a supermarket, bottle shop or chemist.

The most surprising finding is that the second highest mobile search share topic was that consumers are seeking out alternative payment options, with AfterPay seeing a huge growth in mobile searches month on month.

This suggests the line between want and need is becoming even more blurred, with payment options making it much easier for the consumer to walk away with what they want, when they want it.retail-product-final

When you break the above chart down even further to a product level, you start to see the privacy of a mobile kick in. 84% of all searches for ‘adult entertainment’ (retail) and 79% of all searches for ‘engagement ring’ were done on a mobile device. Products that aren’t so secretive, such as whitegoods, skewed more towards desktops.



When it came to Travel, 47% of all searches were done on mobile – one of the lowest mobile search categories.

However, once again when you break this down into themes, the strength of mobile search is discovered. What we found with travel searches is it’s used as an initial research tool when deciding if and when to travel.

Once that’s decided there was a noticeable shift to desktop search where the heavy transactions and planning occurred. But mobile search kicked back in at the end of the cycle, not only being used prior to departure (Flight Status – 82% and Places to Eat – 62%) but we saw it was also used heavily when on the holiday itself.



The Automotive category saw a mobile search share of 55%. We found that mobile search wasn’t heavily used for retail automotive, but more for services and products. For example, once again, ‘near me’ was the highest auto theme which included terms such as ‘cheapest petrol’, ‘car park’ and ‘car wash’.

We saw that most of the business side of buying a new car, such as Insurance (44%), Price Comparison (41%) and Reviews/Feedback (30%) were mainly searched for on a desktop. This is a common theme we saw across all categories. For anything deemed complex or ‘admin’, it was more likely to be searched for on a desktop, than a mobile device.



The Finance category saw the lowest mobile search share across all categories (40%). Given that nearly all every day banking is done through an app, this is no surprise. But what can be taken away from this, is those who are actively searching for finance products (loans, credit cards, etc,) on their mobile are either potential new customers or customers at risk, seeking out a better deal.

It’s vitally important for financial institution’s to be able to determine the difference between these two segments.

As with retail, the top search term theme for mobile search was a sensitive topic that many like to keep private. Debt, in particular ‘how to get out of it’ and ‘help’ had an 87% mobile search share.

Our research also found that the perception that mobile searches are more likely to be in ‘shorthand’ is actually false. Of the top 1000 search terms within the Retail category, the average character length for desktop search was 13.1, whereas mobile search was 15.9 characters.

When looking into this a bit further, it was found that mobile searches are more descriptive and precise, whereas desktop searches are more ‘browsing’ styled. For example, when searching for a chemist, desktop searches would more likely be ‘chemist Sydney’ whereas a mobile search would be ‘cheap chemist near me’.

So how can brands utilise these findings?

  1. Search is where a lot of consumers start their purchase journey. Understand what they are searching for and in what language, and you could open up your advertising message to a much greater audience.
  2. Use search insights to assist with audience segmentation. Search data gives incredible feedback as to who this customer is. You can determine whether they are a current or potential customer, what else they are in the market for, and any common themes associated with your product (such as alternative payment options like AfterPay).
  3. Search data sheds light into where the consumer is on their purchase cycle. Use this insight to target consumers with relevant advertising depending on where they are, or use it to build contextually relevant content to drive customers to your website.
  4. Finally, analyse your search data to keep a close eye on your competitors. They could be bidding on your brand or product and with that, sneaking off with your customers.

For more detailed findings from this analysis, including those specific to the Travel, Banking and Retail industries, download the free report Mobile Search: Topics and Themes, or watch our webinar, Improving your mobile search strategy.

For more information on AudienceView and how we can help you with similar insights, contact the Hitwise team, here.

Alice Almeida is manager of innovation and insights, Hitwise APAC


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