Desktop Vs Mobile Search—Who’s the Winner?

Is Mobile Technology Making Desktop Search Obsolete?

Wherever you go, people are on their phones. On the street, the subway, in the office, at parties – everywhere! If you’re having a conversation and someone randomly asks “How many countries does the Danube flow through?”, and of course this will happen on your phone. Search has definitely gone mobile.

Mobile Is Addictive, no surprise there!

Since you always have your phone with you, it has almost become an addiction. It’s like an extra limb, and many people feel lost without it.

A lot has been written about the demise of social skills because of mobile phones. The chart below from Flurry Analytics demonstrates how often we reach for our phones and tablets. The big news from Google this May was about how mobile use has surpassed desktop use. Whoa!

Addiction to mobile devices chart

Is the rising reliance on mobile devices smothering desktop search? Has the PC been eclipsed by it’s portable counterpart?

For the sake of gaining a bigger picture, we are looking at one relevant indicator—HOW people search, and for WHAT.

It looks like mobile users spend a lot of time on recreational activities, like gaming and social media sites. When you look over someone’s shoulder on the subway, they are usually playing games or reading. They aren’t searching for a company to do business with, they’re playing Drop 7.

For B to B companies, don’t close your website down just yet.

The pie chart below shows the behavior of smartphone users. Courtesy of

Time spent on Smart device by category pie chart

According to a recent survey published by Ross Marchant of BrightLocal, Internet searchers are showing some interesting stats.

  • 38% of mobile users search for a local business each month
  • 50% prefer Mobile Internet to maps and apps
  • 52% say a physical address is the most important info
  • 38% are put off if there’s no map/address displayed
  • 38% are impressed when a local business has a website
  • 61% are more inclined to contact a local business with a mobile site

Overall Internet Use Is Up

Time spent on the Internet increased 26% in 2014 from 2013. We now have constant access to mobile devices and we are using them more often. But desktop use was up too. There are over 3 billion Internet users in the world today. To see the stats grow before your eyes visit

Let’s look at what some experts have to say on the topic of search behavior.

Desktop Vs Mobile for Search…It Depends.

In a recent presentation Understanding Mobile SERPs & User Behavior, Myles Anderson, CEO for BrightLocal, interviewed a panel of SEO experts. The experts used website metrics to examine whether current search trends reflect changes in user behavior or simply changes in the device people used.

Bill Hartzer, Senior SEO Strategist at GlobeRunner, based in Dallas, Texas:

“If we look at our clients’ Google Analytics, their visits from mobile are in the single digits, even though their site is mobile-friendly. That’s less than 10% of overall site traffic from Mobile.”

Hartzer went on to say that the amount of traffic from mobile depends on the business.

“For certain businesses, mobile is important. People do their initial research here, especially when the product or service is more customized and there is a higher price involved. The trend is for people to research on their phone or tablet, but when they go to buy, they use a desktop.

But, when we’re talking about local businesses, such as restaurants, doctors and entertainment venues, most of the search traffic is going to be from Mobile, not from desktop.”

We looked at the Google Analytics for 11 of our own B2B sites over the past year, and noticed that:

  • Visitors spent the longest time on tablets (Couch potatoes no doubt)
  • Page views were highest on desktop, tablets are a close second
  • Visitors stayed longer on desktop and tablets
  • Tablets engaged visitors more than mobile smartphones, with desktop a close second
Duration of visits is in minutes, page views are numbers


We Could Conclude That:

  • B2C is going to be local/mobile
  • B2B and larger purchases with an extended sales cycle is going to be desktop

So, in the desktop vs mobile search war, we don’t see the desktop meeting its demise just yet.

Mobile Device Users and The Marketing Perspective

Search behavior is affecting more than manufacturing, retail, and local businesses. Search behavior has Marketing experts changing how ads are constructed. In a recent BuzzSumo/WordStream presentation: What We Learned from Analyzing 2M Posts & $500M in AdWords Spend, Katie Lyons had this to say:

“By 2016, 2 Billion people will have smartphones. Top of page formatted ad content will definitely become standard practice.”

Desktop Holdouts

Though Mobile Device use is moving to center stage, according to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes from ZDNet, the Desktop PC isn’t going anywhere. Here are some of his reasons for this bold declaration:

  • Desktops are repairable. Need I say more? Anyone who has ever had a phone go bad knows you don’t find lots of little mom and pop smartphone repair shops springing up all over town. Lifespan is longer on a desktop.
  • Desktop upgrades are easier. You can add memory and all sorts of extras, even after you’ve owned it a while. To borrow a term from the open source community – desktops are scalable. Add another monitor, a set of speakers and you’re golden.
  • It’s bigger. Desktops are bigger and easier to view. The larger desktop’s capacity and larger screens help to keep lots of windows open when searching.
  • Location, location, location. It’s right where many of us spend most of our time. At our desks.

Why Choose Between A Desktop Or Mobile Device?

Just ask any CIO dealing with BYOD policies. People don’t use either a desktop or a smartphone. They use both. The real picture looks more like this:

  • Desktop at work
  • Desktop or laptop at home
  • Smartphone or iPhone everywhere
  • Tablet on the couch (While watching TV) or in the coffee shop

You get the picture.

So, is the desktop Dead? Hardly. People like having several types of technology because it makes life well, more mobile. Long live the desktop!