Tax related searches on mobile jumped by over 200% this year

Thursday, April 26, 2012 | 11:00 AM

Consumers are in love with their smartphones. They used them for entertainment during the Super Bowl. They used them to find a restaurant on Valentine’s Day. But for their taxes?

Millions of consumers used their mobile phone to conduct tax related searches this year. In fact, tax related searches on mobile devices jumped by 206% year over year, outpacing growth in computer queries by nearly 20x.   While this certainly reveals substantial mobile opportunity for businesses in the finance industry, it is indicative of the monumental shift in consumer behavior that mobile is driving.

                         US Search Volume for Tax Related Keywords 2010-2012


As seen in this graph, tax related searches coming from mobile devices extended across a three month period every year, showing that consumers used their mobile device at all stages of their tax preparation and filing process.  At the end of January we see a huge spike in searches as consumers received their W-2 forms and used their mobile phones to find local or online tax filing services, download tax documents or even file their tax return early. Towards the end of the tax period another large spike in search volume signals a flurry of activity as people struggle to get their taxes filed by the April 17th deadline.

This year many consumers went a step further and completed their entire tax filing process on their mobile device. As one of the most complex and dreaded of human tasks, tax filing is certainly not an activity that intuitively lends itself to mobile devices. However, TurboTax identified this shift in mobile consumer behavior and created the easy to use SnapTax app, which allowed people to file their taxes on their phone by snapping a picture of their W-2 form. TurboTax then drove awareness and downloads for SnapTax by advertising the easy-to-use app across smartphone devices.



Tax filing is only one example of the huge shift in tasks and behaviors to smartphones. Activities such as finding a new dentist, planning a trip, or buying a new car are increasingly occurring on smartphones and are taking place on those websites and apps that make it easy for them. Businesses that understand consumers have gone mobile and adapt their core strategies around this change are the ones that will win.  Three key actions all businesses must take to succeed on mobile are:

1. Make sure your websites are user friendly. Mobile optimized sites and apps are incorrectly perceived by businesses as being overly complex or expensive. The truth is that there are now so many developers out there that a mobile optimized presence is in reach for any sized business.  For more information on mobile websites and even a free mobile website builder, check out www.HowToGoMo.com.  

2. Develop a company level mobile strategy. It is no longer enough to think about how individual business initiatives can have mobile components. Instead, businesses need to have a concrete company-level strategy about how to win on mobile. This is the the focus of our recently published Mobile Playbook which discusses the 5 questions that business executives should be asking themselves about mobile.   

3. Make sure your business can be found on mobile. This means establishing a clear advertising plan, social media strategy, and ensuring relevant and updated content. Learn more about mobile advertising on www.google.com/ads/mobile/ and stay connected with the blog for updates.

This tax season teaches us that mobile is no longer an industry specific outlet or a way to distinguish yourself from competitors. If a business can find a way to easily guide a user through the entire tax filing process on a mobile device, other industries will quickly follow with customized solutions for smartphones. Mobile is quickly becoming a mandatory channel for any business that hopes to stay relevant to their consumer base.

Posted by: Adam Grunewald, Google Mobile Ads Product Marketing

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