Mobile disruption eating away at Google’s lead in search

Google's lead in mobile search is slipping.

Is Google’s dominance of search finally starting to show some cracks?

A new report released Thursday indicated that at least when it comes to mobile search, Google is facing much fiercer competition than it has on the desktop.

According to EMarketer, Google claimed 82.8% of the $2.24-billion mobile search advertising market in the U.S. in 2012. But that share fell to 68.5% in 2013. And the company projects it will fall further to 64.2% by 2016.

What’s going on? Simply put, people using mobile devices are turning to other apps to search for specific items, such as using Yelp to find a restaurant or Kayak to look up travel information. They’re also turning to rivals such as Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo.


“Even though browser-based search is a common behavior among mobile owners, search engines are not necessarily the first place smartphone and tablet users turn,” said Cathy Boyle, senior analyst for mobile at EMarketer. “The explosion of mobile app development and usage means mobile users have more — and more specialized — alternatives for finding information.”

The silver lining for Google is that overall spending on mobile advertising continues to grow. EMarketer projects that mobile advertising in the U.S. will total $17.73 billion in 2014, with half of that coming from mobile search spending. Mobile search spending is expected to grow to $28.41 billion by 2018, the firm said.

In that case, Google should see its overall mobile search revenue increase, even as its share of those dollars declines.

This is something Google has seen coming for a long time, and the company has been focused on finding ways to think differently about search on mobile devices. Whether those efforts will succeed, however, remains to be seen.