Transcript of Scott Huffman Presentation on Mobile Search at Google Searchology 2009

posted June 13th, 2009

I wanted to make sure that everyone interested in mobile search and mobile SEO had a chance to see this presentation from last monthís Searchology 2009, or at least to review the transcript. Itís 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. Itís 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, Iím Scott Huffman Iím an engineering director here in Search Quality in Google and today Iím going to be talking about mobile search quality.

So weíve heard some things about all the things that youíve come to expect from search from Google. All the great things like itís fast itís relevant itís comprehensive itís 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 thatís what weíre trying to accomplish. SoÖ great. Big deal, right?

So whatís so interesting about mobile besides that itís kind of got a smaller screen? So as I thought about that a few things came to mind.

One that youíre 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 itís 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 thereís some different browsers. I get that. Theyíre different, ok. But like, youíve 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 itís 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 youíve got devices that donít really have full browsers, donít 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 arenít keys at all. Itís hard to enter queries and so weíve spent a lot of time thinking about Ďhow can we optimize search to make it easier on the mobile device?Ē

And then the third thing thatís kind of inherently interesting about mobile is that itís local, right? Itís in my pocket, itís in my hand, itís 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 weíd like to get mobile search to the point where itís 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. Weíre 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? Itís got to have all the great things of Google but really optimized and beautifully working for my device. Secondly itís got to be easy. I talked a second ago that itís hard and weíve got to get to the place where itís really effortless and natural to do a search and to get the results I need. And the third that itís local, right? That it knows where I am, that it does the right thing.

So I want to talk about those three areas and Iím going to start with complete to describe some of the things that weíve 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 someÖ 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 weíre 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 thereís 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 weíve 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 imagesósomething you canít do on desktop, but something thatís 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 Googleís 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 weíve used a UI paradigm thatís 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 letís say or the detailed reviews and that type of thing.

So thatís one element of complete. Another element of complete that of course is one of Googleís 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. Thereís 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 donít want to return very prominently on the desktop but theyíre very important results in mobile search. In the US you get things like CNN and other prominent sites where what theyíve 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 itís very important for us to use those to return those results properly when people are searching for mobile.

So hereís a picture of that. Iím 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 theyíre available and give you the good easy to use mobile things when theyíre there but of course because the desktop web is much bigger a lot of times there arenít as many good results in the mobile web and so in those cases weíll 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 Iíll do what I always do, which is Iíll pull out my ticket and Iíll look at my flight number, letís pretend itís this one. And then Iíll check it out and Iíll see with the box at the top that, lucky me, my flight is actually on time, which is great. Then Iíll do probably what I always do, which is Iíll take my ticket and Iíll stuff it deep inside some bag somewhere, and then Iíll kind of forget where it is. And then as I drive up or take the taxi up to the airport Iíll be thinking I wonder if my flightís 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. Letís 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 Iíve got Google search up, and I tap on the search box, and lo and behold, magically, thereís my query, ba 284. This is a feature that isnít quite released yet. Weíre 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 itís just one simple example of kind of the power we can get when weíre going across the desktop and across mobile search. So thatís a feature weíre very excited about.

The last demo I want to show you here (letís just see if I can get this to come up hereÖ alright. See how this one looks.)Ö 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 itís picked up my location being in Mountain View, California, and in fact, from the deviceís GPS itís 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 (whereís the Google suggest, there it is) but in fact when I get to something that looks inherently local like sushi what weíre suggesting back isnít just some queries but in fact is the closest sushi place to campus here. So weíve 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.

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

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Tags: mobile_seo

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11 Responses to “Transcript of Scott Huffman Presentation on Mobile Search at Google Searchology 2009”

  1. [...] it will become the primary search mode in a matter of years, “not decades”Ě, and that Google ranks mobile sites ahead of desktop results for queries that they’ve identified as mobile. We also have a basic idea of Google’s [...]

  2. Hi Bryson – excellent post.
    What I can’t reconcile is the difference between Google’s approach here and what I see when I search on my old Nokia N95. If I search for “chamonix ski chalet” or “chamonix snow forecast” our website is no where… not even on the first 5 pages… but if I click “mobile” for mobile results we are twice on page 1, and it’s the same for most ski resorts worldwide because we are the world’s first and only fully mobile ski resort guide (ie not the usual lame snow forecast etc that has no device detection, we’re a full ski resort website for the world’s top 250 resorts with everything from accommodation to bars and restaurants and weather and piste and lift info etc).

    The problem is… who is actually going to bother pressing the “mobile” results button when they are looking at the standard desktop results right there?
    What’s worse, when I do these searches on the iPhone, there isn’t even a “mobile” button to press so iPhone users will never find us!

    There is nothing “blended” about that and it’s putting us out on the un-visited periphery of the search galaxy – what use is ranking top for all the major ski search phrases, if its on a ranking list which hardly anyone ever sees?

    Am I missing or missunderstanding something?

    All best,
    Richard.

  3. sorry, I left the “i” off “mobi”
    our url is http://www.sno.mobi
    R

  4. [...] Transcript of Scott Huffman Presentation on Mobile Search at Google Searchology 2009 | Natural Searc… [...]

  5. [...] that search engines index and return mobile content for relevant queries, and that they have blended mobile ranking algorithms to rank mobile content for mobile queries and desktop content for desktop queries, it’s clear to [...]

  6. [...] is a ranking factor for mobile search, and not optimizing a mobile site could make it more difficult to appear in competitive nonbranded [...]

  7. Shari says:

    Hi Bryson,
    I am in the early stages of learning about mobile search and mobile marketing. I wanted to say thank you for taking the time to make this blog post. This is one of the most valuable pieces of information I’ve discovered so far.
    Shari

  8. Bernhard Kalabis says:

    Hi Bryson,
    I was searching the whole German scene to find further going informations
    concerning this topic, without finding satisfying data – I finally found your blog.
    There is only one thing to say, GREAT JOB ! Keep the good work up.
    Best wishes –bee
    P.S. I became a follower

  9. [...] post, and the Japanese results seem to be more sophisticated than the US results, as they employ blended mobile ranking algorithms to prioritize mobile content. Nonetheless, if you haven’t seen Matt’s latest YouTube [...]

  10. [...] content to a mobile user would theoretically be thinking of the user first. Google also has a blended ranking algorithm to present mobile content to mobile users, but it doesn’t seem to be very powerful in US [...]






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