The difference between web and mobile search

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Not all search platforms are created the same. Developers are often seen using web-baked information to guide their mobile marketing decisions. This is a common, yet avoidable, false pass. According to Apple, 70% of all app downloads come from search. Therefore, the waste of valuable time and resources on web data for mobile success is the end result in any endeavor to increase visibility and searchability on the App Store. On the surface, web and mobile user search queries have some similarities, but there are huge differences in their respective search capabilities and platform-specific user behaviors.

Understanding user behavior on both the web and mobile is very important to know how, why, and what users are looking for. However, sometimes it is difficult to identify these differences based on the developer’s experience with web and mobile search behaviors.

Mobile marketers and developers need mobile-backed data to guide their decisions. Using web data for mobile marketing decisions is like using a fork instead of a spoon to eat soup; Both have utility, but for very specific circumstances and reasons. Let’s take a closer look at some of these differences so you can better understand the needs of mobile-specific search to further guide your App Store Optimization (ASO) strategy.


Google Ads Keyword Planner is an invaluable tool for search engine optimization (SEO). Google Advertising Keyword Planner uses three explicit descriptions for all user search queries. Web queries, by nature, are usually a place where users fill in as much information and keywords as possible. And let’s be honest, we’ve all already popped up text in the search bar as large as the size of a dictionary. Moreover, users expect specific and ultra-specific information to be obtained directly from their search query. How, what and why users find what they are looking for depends on many factors; However, there are three different search queries that Google classifies on the Advertising Keyword Planner web platform:

Transactional query “do”

Practical questions for “do” usually include verb tenses, such as “buy a red dress”, “record a live video”, or “buy a concert ticket”. Users expect to find results that enable them to perform their desired action, and they expect the results to suit their needs associated with that action.

“Know” information query

“Know” information query search is for users looking for specific and relevant information related to their search query. As the name implies, the “know” query usually looks like “my nearest retail store”, “who sings that everyone is working for the weekend”, or “nail salon hygiene standards in Idaho”. Users of this type of search query expect an abundance of information that directly answers their intended question and provides any possible supplementary information related to the query.

“Go” navigational query

In the “go” navigational search query, users expect that their search query will help them “walk” to their desired web destination or platform. Users can search for broad words or more specific words to query “go”. Usually, the “go” query appears to be something like, “Lady Gaga’s Facebook page,” “Chicago Bulls Merchandise Store” or “Free Online Games.” While some of us may be guilty of Google searching for “Google” one at a time, “Go” search is one of the most popular search queries among users who want to gain direct access to what they are looking for.

Web search queries are, in their entirety, more specific and often use more words and phrases. Unlike mobile search queries, web search queries can be drawn to point to longer, more specific and specific user phrases and terms. On mobile, search queries are shorter, up to the point, and usually have more to do with much less.

Mobile search queries

One study found that 80% of all App Store search queries have a range between 2-3-word phrases – a big difference compared to the often drawn and lengthy web search queries. As you can see, mobile search and web search are, in fact, very different. What works for the web does not work for mobile.

The basic difference lies in the intent of the user; This helps explain why user search behaviors often differ between web and mobile search queries. For mobile, developers and mobile marketers must strike a balance between highlighting app features and app branding in order to adequately capture the user’s intent.

To illustrate, let’s look at the following example for a popular and predictable application called Widget King. Widget King is an application that allows users to buy and sell valuable widgets and allow them to exchange their widgets for concert tickets, gift cards and other cool experiences or items.

On paper, Widget King might assume their user search query looks like this:

Search Questions: “Buy and Sell Widget”, “Buy Widget”, “Sell Widget” and “Buy Widget App”

However, it is important to remember that mobile search queries must capture the user’s intent. In fact, users may actually find Widget King more specific thanks to some special offers, or they may use a completely different terminology:

Search Query: “Buy Gift Card,” “Widget Exchange,” “Concert Widget,” and “Trade My Widget.”

But how can mobile marketers and developers target these terms? How should they know what terms their users are using? While it can be difficult to capture a user’s intent, ASO’s process allows users to more accurately identify which search queries, words, and terms best match their application to the user’s purpose. ASO offers more opportunities for searchability, visibility and relevance on the App Store – just like what SEO does for web pages.

Switching to mobile

Users launch search queries on mobile in anticipation of web-like results, so it’s up to mobile marketers and developers to deliver the expected results in the best way they can. Web results often have the ability to target nearby words without the constraint of a limited search query population.

Although it is difficult to break up with web search data, this is one of the most important changes a mobile developer can make to improve application performance. Developers and mobile app marketers can effectively increase their visibility and organic performance on the App Stores simply by changing their search data strategy. However, in order to switch to mobile data, developers need to measure the search behavior of their audience at a more grainy level.

To do so, developers must capture the user’s intent by optimizing their application metadata assets to include any relevant terms that the user may find. While capturing a user’s intent is fundamental to effective mobile search targeting, developers should still aim for consistency and target market cleanup. If a developer decides to target a wide range of words and keywords that are not related to their application or brand, they lose their opportunity to increase their visibility to an audience that is most acceptable for their value and features.

Mobile search requires application metadata and keywords to do a lot with very few. The basic difference between web search and mobile search is the purpose of the user. Thus, mobile marketers and developers must go above and beyond the web data to capture their users more accurately and efficiently.

Dave Bell is the CEO of Gummicube,


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