Smartphones Are (not) Disrupting Web Search


To quote the infallible wisdom of Fezzik in The Princess Bride:

“You keeping using that word. I do not think means what you think it means.”

Sure, everyone loves a little hyperbole, but the current trend in mobile device usage — search in particular — is not the end of the world as we know it. It’s not even that big of a deal, but you sure wouldn’t know it from the Business Insider headline that practically announces the fall of the Google Empire: “Mobile Search: How Smartphones Are Disrupting The Internet’s Biggest Business.”


Note to Business Insider: Mobile search is not “disrupting” web search, it’s merely adding to the business.

I’m sure you, like me, use your smartphone or tablet to check email and surf the web. But I’ll bet when you’re using it for search, you’re doing quick stuff like finding the phone number of the Chinese restaurant around the corner, checking movie times, and looking up the name of the guy that played Fezzig in The Princess Bride. What you’re not doing is researching new cars, planning vacations or buying enterprise software. That’s stuff you save for your computer.

So, not surprisingly, all those CPC ads out there automatically running on mobile devices as well as standard search aren’t getting the clicks on the phone that they are on the computer, but that’s not any more “disrupting” than an arthritis drug ad that gets no sales when running on Nickelodeon.

The lesson from this study isn’t be “mobile search is making the world topsy turvy and we’re all gonna die.” It’s that mobile is a medium with unique strengths and weaknesses — just like broadcast and print — and should be treated accordingly. That’s it.

Advertisers take note and stop showing me ads for San Francisco Giants tickets when I search for “Andre the Giant” in San Diego.

Here’s the artcile (via

Leave a Comment