Amit Singhal, senior vice president of search at Google Stephen Lam/REUTERS
Searches on Google have gone mobile.
This summer, world-wide Google searches on mobile devices surpassed those on personal computers for the first time, Amit Singhal, head of search at Google parent Alphabet Inc.GOOGL +0.21%, said at the Recode Mobile conference on Thursday. Those figures exclude searches done on tablet computers, he said.
The shift to mobile has prompted Google to rethink its core business, which places ads based on keywords typed into the company’s search engine. New types of devices, from phones to tablets to cars to wearables, will require new ways of searching, Mr. Singhal said at the event in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
“Search as we think about it is fundamentally how you will interact with computing,” Mr. Singhal said. “Computing may live in a 4-to-6-inch device, it may live in a desktop, it may live on a 1-inch round device.”
Google now sees more than 100 billion searches a month. The company said in May that searches on mobile devices outnumbered those on desktop computers in 10 countries, including the U.S. and Japan.
A growing number of those searches are not done by typing a query into Google’s traditional search engine box. In cars, for example, where users can’t type, Google is working on improving voice recognition. “Over half the things that people ask the car to do are related to information and entertainment,” Mr. Singhal said.
The smaller screens of mobile gadgets leave less room for keyword-based ads, which is why Google earlier this year rolled out a new crop of mobile-friendly ads that rely on data, such as images, product specs and prices, rather than keywords. When users search for something, Google increasingly shows a panel, or carousel, of listings from advertisers at or near the top of mobile search results.
Mobile devices have also given rise to apps, which pose a challenge to Google because its search engine generally cannot look inside apps. The company is working to index billions of apps so it can display links to apps in search results, Mr. Singhal said.
The executive said Google’s new corporate structure, which created Alphabet, will help his and other divisions of the Internet giant to be more nimble and move faster. The structure also frees up Google co-founder Larry Page to focus on more futuristic projects such as self-driving cars, he said.