EXCLUSIVE: Mobile Commerce Reveals Top Mobile Searches For 2011

mobile commerce logoGoogle may give us a glimpse of the top Internet search terms that defined how the world searched online in 2011, but Mobile Commerce, a U.K.-based provider of optimized mobile search services stands out as the only company offering us insights into how we search using our mobile devices.

Mobile Commerce deals with 3.6 billion searches a year in the U.K. and the U.S., handling over 25 percent of searches from mobile Internet users via U.K. operator portals alone. Since portals no longer play a lead role in our search routine, the company has expanded its model, sealing deals with a slew of major mobile ad networks (ranging from Millennial Media to Adfonic) to handle those mobile search queries as well.

The relationships give Mobile Commerce a detailed knowledge of what we search for on the go — information the company has released to MobileGroove first. Using its own IP and analytics tools to analyze search requests and clicks (and a unique categorization tool that makes it easy to see what users are searching for —and if they are ‘single users’)  Mobile Commerce has today released a summary of what’s hot and what’s not among searchers in the U.K.

Interestingly, there largest section is searches is ‘Single User Search’ — or search terms that are unique to an individual user. As of November 2011 48.1 percent of all searches where Single User Searches (up from 45.1 the previous year).

As Steve Page put it in an interview earlier today, the continued growth of Single User Search shows that people “are looking for more and more things on their mobile devices.” This is further reflected in the number of searches per user, a number that has skyrocketed from 4 per individual in 2008 to 18 (!) in 2011.

The advance of smartphones makes mobile search a breeze, which is also why Steve now sees search terms of up to eight words — complex queries that are a huge hassle to input using a legacy feature phone.

mobile commerce mobile search

Winners & also-rans

Predictably, social networking (the number one thing we do on our devices) came in as the top mobile search category. The most searched category accounted for just over 16 percent of searches.

Steve also observes a rise in the number of navigational searches, an increase that speaks volumes about the role of mobile in our routine. A few years back mobile searches were more about finding consumable content and digital stuff (music, videos etc). Today. searchers use mobile to find both digital and real-world destinations. From major websites to bricks-and mortar businesses, people use mobile search to navigate their world.

top 20 UK mobile search terms

Over the last 12 months, the top 20 search terms have remained quite similar (and navigational), with 17 terms continuing in the top positions they held last year. There are three new terms (‘facebook login’, ‘plentyoffish’ and ‘lotto) and three terms have dropped out of the top 20. These are: ‘Bebo’ (down from 3 to 21) ‘Ebuddy’ (down from 7 to 27) and ‘Free Games’ (down from 16 to 38). In fact, the number of monthly searches for ‘Bebo’ has dropped by 90 percent over the year. It’s only able to hold its position because there was such a high volume of searches 12 months ago.

The category with the largest percentage increase was ‘Jobs’ with a 57 percent increase —no doubt linked to our interest in Steve Jobs after his passing away this year at the age of 56.

Other category winners include:


Single terms can be deceptive as users often have different ways of looking for the same things. Although Flirtomatic is the most searched dating site, when search terms are aggregated Plenty of Fish receives twice as many searches.


Manchester United and Liverpool dominate the searches with Arsenal lagging in third position. High spending Manchester City only receive 16 percent of the volume of searches of Manchester United.


Justin Bieber, Cheryl Cole and Rihanna were the most searched individuals over the 12 months with JLS being the most searched band.


Jonathan Cainer remained the most searched astrologist while Gemini, Taurus and Virgo were the most searched star signs. Interestingly, the least searched star signs coincide with the summer holiday periods – Cancer & Leo, and getting ready for Christmas – Sagittarius.

My take:

Search terms over the last two months provide good clues into what’s hot and not going into 2012. Steve expects ‘MSN’ and ‘plenty of fish’ to drop from their spot in the top 20, likely to be replaced by ‘chat’, ‘BBC’ or ‘tubidy’. But the real news is the continued increase in mobile search and the rise in Single User Search. Connect the dots, and mobile search is back, boosted by smartphones, connected devices and our own mobile lifestyles. Google knows this, which it has quietly and cleverly informed us via its Webmaster Central Blog about its new Googlebot-Mobile. The announcement from Google software engineer Yoshikiyo Kato (and detailed in this blog post) explains how the addition is aimed at making the search process easier for mobile users. (Helping —in specific cases —to eliminate the extra time it takes for pages to load on mobile devices.)

Mobile search is on the rise — a development MobileGroove will continue to document based on input from Mobile Commerce. This data should be all the more insightful as Mobile Commerce works with more ad networks and operators in more territories in 2012. (Steve tells me France, Germany, Italy, Spain and India are high on the list in the next year.) Look for Steve Page’s own regular analysis here at MobileGroove, and follow mobile search developments at the Mobile Commerce blog.

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