I wanted to make sure that everyone interested in mobile search and mobile SEO had a chance to see this presentation from last month’s Searchology 2009, or at least to review the transcript. It’s important for marketers who are interested in mobile because it confirms that Google is returning optimized mobile web sites ahead of desktop results for certain mobile queries. They have hinted at this before, but now there should be no question. For marketers who want to become more visible to mobile users, this means having mobile-optimized content is not optional, and that mobile content should present a value to the user beyond being simply smaller versions of your pages. It’s also valuable because it gives an inside view into the type of results that Google tends to rank higher for mobile users, which can give product developers and marketers ideas about what types of content they might create if they want to do well in Google mobile search.

Transcript of Scott Huffman on Mobile Search at Google Searchology 2009

Mountain View, California, May 12, 2009

Transcribed by Bryson Meunier from live video at http://investor.shareholder.com/media/eventdetail.cfm?eventid=68846&CompanyID=GOOGPR&e=1&mediaKey=E739CC1B5640E66235B0EEBBB424B1E1

Copyright Google, 2009

Hi everyone, I’m Scott Huffman I’m an engineering director here in Search Quality in Google and today I’m going to be talking about mobile search quality.

So we’ve heard some things about all the things that you’ve come to expect from search from Google. All the great things like it’s fast it’s relevant it’s comprehensive it’s fresh it knows what you really mean when you type in the search box so of course the starting point for us in mobile search is that you should expect all those same great things on your mobile device.

And so that’s what we’re trying to accomplish. So… great. Big deal, right?

So what’s so interesting about mobile besides that it’s kind of got a smaller screen? So as I thought about that a few things came to mind.

One that you’re probably all aware of is that mobile search is growing incredibly quickly, and we see it growing faster than search from PCs in fact. So it’s really quickly becoming kind of a primary way that people access the internet and access search in some parts of the world growing incredibly fast so that by itself makes it interesting.

Second thing that makes it interesting for my team in particular is we think of as kind of the challenge of devices .so the reality is that I think the desktop guys actually kind of have it easy, right? I mean, okay there’s some different browsers. I get that. They’re different, ok. But like, you’ve got a screen this big [motions with arms to indicate larger screen] those browsers all at least do kind of the main things pretty well. On the mobile world it’s not like that. So we have hundreds of devices literally that we support with Google mobile search and in fact those devices have radically different capabilities all the way from kind of high end devices that have webkit browsers, full javascript capabilities, css, all that good stuff all the way down to the low end where you’ve got devices that don’t really have full browsers, don’t support any of those good things, and in some cases even have hard limits on the number of bytes that they can download on a page so maybe kind of a side effect of that and just another general property of mobile search is that in fact we think search on the mobile device is kind of harder to use than it is on the desktop, right? The keys are really small, sometimes there aren’t keys at all. It’s hard to enter queries and so we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ‘how can we optimize search to make it easier on the mobile device?”

And then the third thing that’s kind of inherently interesting about mobile is that it’s local, right? It’s in my pocket, it’s in my hand, it’s wherever I am, and obviously we think Google should be able to use that to get me more relevant results when it makes sense. So the way to kind of roll it up for us is our dream that we kind of talk about all the time in the mobile search team at Google is that we’d like to get mobile search to the point where it’s really a daily engagement kind of activity, right? That rather than going to find their laptop, find their desktop in order to do a search that people will feel very comfortable and natural pulling a mobile device out of their pocket and using it. We’re not quite there today and we think there are really three key elements that will get us there.

One is that we think mobile search needs to be complete, right? It’s got to have all the great things of Google but really optimized and beautifully working for my device. Secondly it’s got to be easy. I talked a second ago that it’s hard and we’ve got to get to the place where it’s really effortless and natural to do a search and to get the results I need. And the third that it’s local, right? That it knows where I am, that it does the right thing.

So I want to talk about those three areas and I’m going to start with complete to describe some of the things that we’ve been doing recently in the mobile search world.

So one thing that we spend a lot of time on is really trying to optimize the search experience for the different kinds of devices that there are. Here you see a series of kind of the most recent Android devices and you see a bunch of different elements of Google search. Sort of looks like what you see on the desktop but in fact there are a lot of subtle differences if you look closely. So starting from the Google suggest screen here naturally we want to use suggest to make it easier to type on the mobile device so as you start typing those suggestions pop up. And in fact one thing that happens on a mobile device is that as soon as you start typing the search box slides itself slants itself up against the top of the screen to give you enough room to show as many suggestions as possible and really try to kind of increase the hit rate on getting you the suggestions that you need.

The next screenshot over shows Google universal search, and here you see some… again it looks kind of like the desktop but you see a bunch of differences. For example you see a big button with the phone number, right? So we’re really trying to just make the use case which we see a lot of, of click to call a business very easy very effortless on a mobile device. You see a big button for get directions which actually pops you straight into the Google mobile maps application. And if you look closely there’s actually a lot of other differences between this screen that you get in mobile versus the desktop screen.

The third one you see here is Google image search. This is a version of image search that we launched about two months ago. And here we’ve really tried to optimize for kind of the touch screen nature of some of the devices, right? So you see kind of a tight grid of images when you tap on an image you drill through and get kind of a larger view, some details about the image. And then in fact you can use the swipe mechanism to kind of scroll through the images—something you can’t do on desktop, but something that’s very natural from users of these devices in terms of the typical way that they interact with images and photos and that kind of thing.

And then the fourth screenshot is Google’s product search. This is something we released about two weeks ago, and a really nice rendering of product search if I do say so. And here we’ve used a UI paradigm that’s almost a little more like an application feel. So once you get your search results and you tap through to get the details of a product in fact you can go layers in and get to the details that you need deeper and deeper as you can go in and get the technical specs of their camera let’s say or the detailed reviews and that type of thing.

So that’s one element of complete. Another element of complete that of course is one of Google’s tenets is that we want to let you search the whole web, and in the mobile world the whole web is more than just the whole web that we normally think of. There’s another web, if you like, that we call the mobile web. And all I mean by the mobile web is sites and pages that are really optimized and made for mobile devices, right? Things you probably don’t want to return very prominently on the desktop but they’re very important results in mobile search. In the US you get things like CNN and other prominent sites where what they’ve done is taken their, typically taken their desktop site and made a nice mobile rendering of it for mobile users. In places like Japan and China, in fact, you have a very large mobile Web of sites like mixi and a lot of others that are either primarily used in a mobile paradigm or use case or are, in some cases, only available on mobile devices, and so of course it’s very important for us to use those to return those results properly when people are searching for mobile.

So here’s a picture of that. I’m not going to try to read all of these queries to you or anything but in these screenshots the red results are mobile optimized results from the mobile web and the blue are web, kind of normal web results that typically users on most devices in Japan would see through a transcoded view when they click on it. And my only point with this slide is just to say that you see all the way arranged from at one side queries where there are a lot of good mobile results and so of course our bias in some sense is to kind of return those when they’re available and give you the good easy to use mobile things when they’re there but of course because the desktop web is much bigger a lot of times there aren’t as many good results in the mobile web and so in those cases we’ll return almost all or in some cases all desktop web results to you.

So I had two more areas, easy and local, and for these I want to go ahead and give demos, so if you could switch to the laptop and let me just set this demo up.

So I recently got to take a trip to London– it was a very nice trip. So I hope I get to go back, and if I get to go back I’ll do what I always do, which is I’ll pull out my ticket and I’ll look at my flight number, let’s pretend it’s this one. And then I’ll check it out and I’ll see with the box at the top that, lucky me, my flight is actually on time, which is great. Then I’ll do probably what I always do, which is I’ll take my ticket and I’ll stuff it deep inside some bag somewhere, and then I’ll kind of forget where it is. And then as I drive up or take the taxi up to the airport I’ll be thinking I wonder if my flight’s still on time or if I have time to get some coffee at the airport and unfortunately my ticket will be pretty far away from me. Let’s go ahead and bring up the demo here.

[trying to make the mobile device screen as visible as possible on the projector].

Ok great. So here I’ve got Google search up, and I tap on the search box, and lo and behold, magically, there’s my query, ba 284. This is a feature that isn’t quite released yet. We’re going to have it out in the next few weeks. Very simple idea, right? So then I can tap on this and see that presumably my flight is still on time. There it is. Very simple idea, sharing the queries between my desktop environment, search environment and my mobile environment. We think it’s just one simple example of kind of the power we can get when we’re going across the desktop and across mobile search. So that’s a feature we’re very excited about.

The last demo I want to show you here (let’s just see if I can get this to come up here… alright. See how this one looks.)… So for the last demo here I want to show you an example of kind of local and easy together. What I have here is the Google mobile App, this is on the Blackberry device. So this is our search application that we provide for this device. And you can see at the bottom here that it’s picked up my location being in Mountain View, California, and in fact, from the device’s GPS it’s actually picked up my location basically sort of around here. And so as I start typing, right? [begins typing sushi] of course we get Google Suggest coming up (where’s the Google suggest, there it is) but in fact when I get to something that looks inherently local like sushi what we’re suggesting back isn’t just some queries but in fact is the closest sushi place to campus here. So we’ve taken location, passed it down through the search stack and actually brought that straight back as a suggestion for me. And then if I click on this, you see I get some options to go ahead and call these guys and make a reservation, to see some more information about them on the web, or to pop the maps application and see a map, and again just an example of trying to make it easy to use a mobile device and integrate my location in it.

That’s it for me. I think next Marissa’s going to come up and talk about some more new things in search. Thanks. [applause]