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Google's mobile search might threatened by Facebook, Twitter

While Google is the leader in mobile search, it is still figuring out how to monetize on the channel even as Facebook and Twitter increasingly infringe on its territory.

In 2013, Google has made strides in mobile search with new additions such as enhanced campaigns and an Estimated Total Conversions metric in AdWords. However, Google will need to reel marketers in with strong ROI proof to keep Facebook and Twitter from taking over mobile search.

?Although Facebook and Twitter don?t run traditional search engines, we believe that they are definitely positioning themselves as competitors to Google,? said Michael Hayes, chief revenue officer and chief marketing officer of UberMedia, Pasadena, CA. ?Consumers are bundling both their social interactions and brand interactions into these platforms. 

?Social data can deliver powerful insights about consumers, and looking at search engine results is no longer the only way to get those insights,? he said. ?Increasingly, consumers are using social platforms for discovery and search, particularly with mobile devices.?

Search history
Last year, Google was struggling to make money of its mobile search with paid search ads in mobile generating significantly lower revenues than their desktop counterparts (see story).

Then Google launched enhanced campaigns to try to boost ad sales across devices. Enhanced campaigns combined tablet and desktop targeting, shifting the focus to tablets.

In October, Google released an Estimated Total Conversions metric in AdWords, which attempts to attribute offline sales to mobile advertising.

However, Google still struggled as CPC rates dropped four percent in the third-quarter of 2013 compared to the previous quarter (see story).

Nonetheless, brands such as Discover and American Apparel decided to invest more in mobile search, and according to Google, they have been seeing higher conversions than expected.

?For the last couple of years, Google has been trapped in a quandary of its own making,? said Matt Grebow, director of search media at The Search Agency, Los Angeles.

?In a rush to shore up its mobile advertising share, and to combat lower-than-anticipated CPCs, advertisers were asked to rely on familiar desktop metrics when measuring the success of their mobile campaigns,? he said.

?Although Google handily achieved its goal of cornering the mobile search market, its advertiser base has been more than a little concerned about the investment return of mobile advertising.?

Looking forward
As more consumers turn to mobile for searches, more marketers will understand the potential, and it is up to Google to make that happen quickly and on its own terms.

The key for Google is making sure that a startup does not swoop in and steal mobile search before it fully solidifies its presence. Clearly Google has an advantage in the area, but it still needs to convince marketers that it is worth their money.

?Over the next year, marketers should expect Google to provide further insight into what can often be a convoluted research and purchase process undertaken across multiple devices,? The Search Agency?s Mr. Grebow said. ?If recent speculation about a cookie-less Google tracking technology dubbed AdID prove true, the company would be even better situated to understand behaviors across multiple Web platforms.?

According to Forrester Research, 89 percent of consumers use a search engine on their mobile device. It also predicted that the mobile paid search market would reach $3.8 billion by the end of 2013 and continue to grow throughout 2014 (see story).

Google needs to make sure that it is not sidestepped in this growing opportunity.

?With the sheer amount of data collected between its Android operating system, Chrome browser, and myriad other services, there?s no company better positioned to solve the thorny mobile marketing problems that have been dogging advertisers for years,? Mr. Grebow said.

?If smartphones and tablets have taught Google one thing, it?s that the keyword is not the final evolution of search,? he said. ?A renewed interest in behavioral and experiential identification and targeting points further toward a goal of defining the audience as the new keyword.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York