About That 33% Local Mobile Search Figure

It's now been repeated in a couple of places and attributed to two separate Google employees (Paul Feng and Diana Pouliot): roughly one third (33%) of mobile search has a local intent.

This number will now be repeated and repeated. Let's be careful. It's one important data point but not necessarily gospel. I'm going to follow up with Google and clarify what this means. 

Earlier this month, at the SMX West conference, Microsoft presented information that suggested local intent is behind an even higher percentage of mobile search queries: 

Picture 218

Source: Microsoft (data are from 2008)

What this argues is that "local intent" queries are at least 50% (in this data set). With that said, people look for lots of information on their devices that has little or nothing to do with their immediate location: news and sports being chief examples. But almost all the commercial queries that are run through a search engine are going to ultimately be about the offline world.

It's not clear in the Google example whether apps are being factored into the figures. I suspect not. 

Comscore has said that roughly 12% - 13% of online search is local (using a very conservative methodology). Does that mean that mobile search is almost three times more local? I would argue because of the context mobile search is more local but not that much more if we consider the actual point of purchase or fulfillment for the majority of transactions -- offline.

Local-intent search is simply more "visible" or "transparent" to everyone in a mobile context than it is on the desktop. It's also true that people on mobile devices doing commercial queries typically have a more immediate need than those on a PC -- they're closer to the point of sale literally and figuratively.

I don't think we should take the 33% figure as definitive but rather as a directional indicator of the importance of location on mobile devices.