Mobile Keyword Research: What It Is & How to Do It

Connor Lahey

Jan 27, 20219 min read
Mobile Keyword Research Guide


What Is Mobile Keyword Research?

Mobile keyword research is the process of finding out what people type into search engines on mobile devices, particularly smartphones. The idea is to find relevant queries that target audiences use and adjust your mobile SEO strategy accordingly.

Mobile keyword research allows digital marketing experts, webmasters, and SEO professionals to step into the shoes of mobile users. As with most things SEO, mobile keyword research isn’t a guessing game—it’s a science that’s driven by concrete data.

Tip: We’ll explore some mobile keyword research tools later. But if you want to jump straight in, try Semrush’s Keyword Gap tool.

What’s the Difference Between Mobile and Desktop Keywords?

In general, mobile keywords are shorter than desktop keywords because mobile users don’t want to type as much. Mobile users may also rely more on voice-driven search. They are often walking or driving, relying on voice commands to utilize their mobile device safely.

For this reason, mobile searches are often more localized than desktop searches.

Say you’re searching for hardware stores on your smartphone while running errands. You need to buy a hammer. The odds are that you’re hoping to find a place nearby where you can get the equipment you need immediately. 

However, if you’re casually browsing from home, the need is less pressing. How might this affect your search engine input? 

In the first instance, you might look up “hardware store + [neighborhood you’re in]” or “hardware store + [city].” In the second instance, you might search for “buy a hammer.” You don’t necessarily care if you’re getting the hammer from a nearby shop or not and could easily order it from a major ecommerce provider for delivery.

As the above example makes clear, mobile users tend to be closer to the conversion phase in the marketing funnel—they have likely decided to buy a product or service and are looking for a way to get it.

It’s crucial to understand search intent—i.e., what the user is looking for. 

This allows you to take advantage of micro-moments. Google describes these as “intent-rich moment[s] when a person turns to a device to act on a need—to know, go, do, or buy.”

After you’ve determined a searcher’s user intent, you can tailor your mobile SEO strategy—and content—accordingly.

How to Conduct Mobile Keyword Research

Now that you understand a bit more about the nuances that go into desktop and mobile keywords, let’s take a closer look at how to identify keywords that will help improve your content’s rank when it comes to mobile search.

Tip: Check out our guide to learn about other types of keyword research for SEO.

Identify Keywords You Already Rank For

The first step in mobile keyword research is determining what keywords your content currently ranks for. 


If a keyword is performing well, run with it and create more content around that keyword. If a keyword is performing poorly, it’s probably time to pivot and find some new keywords to work with.

You can check your existing rankings in Google Search Console.

Just head to “Performance” > “Search results” after setting up.

And check all the boxes at the top.

Google Search Console "Search results"

Next, scroll down to the “QUERIES” table. 

The “Position” column shows your average ranking over the chosen time range.

Google Search Console “QUERIES” table

Further reading: Google Search Console: The Ultimate Guide for 2023

Understand the Different Types of Search Queries

There are different types of search queries to consider when researching mobile keywords.

Queries can be spoken or typed, local or informational, or with typos or typo-free. The type of query will help determine what keywords are successful.

Take spoken keywords, for example. These are likely to be used when driving since people need hands-free communication. Spoken queries tend to be more conversational and frequently phrased as questions.

When it comes to local versus informational keyword searches, it’s again all about search intent. A user seeking local information will input some geographic indicator, such as a city or neighborhood. Information searches are less likely to have a geographic indicator.

Familiarize Yourself With SERPs

The search engine results pages (SERPs) allow you to see which websites are ranking well. SERPs can change daily, and it’s important to track them using tools like Semrush’s Keyword Overview.

You can check SERP results based on details like geographic location and device used.

Understanding mobile SERPs is also a practical way to better understand those precious micro-moments mentioned above.

Micro-moments indicate search intent, and SERP behavior can help reveal this. 

Say a user is searching for a local service or product. The SERPs will likely show a local map pack in the results. 

However, if the user is searching for information, the SERPs will likely show a quick answer box instead.

Further reading: How to Do SERP Analysis and What Tools to Use

Explore Shorter Keywords

Although voice-driven keywords tend to be longer and more conversational, overall mobile-friendly keywords are short and succinct. Typing on a mobile device is tedious, so it should come as no surprise that users don’t want to put in lengthy search phrases.

You can look for short and snappy keywords using Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool. This allows you to pinpoint shorter keywords in your niche.

Start by adding the keyword or phrase you’re interested in for your field. Then, click “Search.” 

"marathon" entered in Keyword Magic Tool search bar

You will then get a comprehensive list of related searches that correlate with your original keyword.

Using the “Advanced filters” feature, you can narrow down the length of these phrases to be more mobile-friendly by limiting the word count to something like one to four words.

Keyword Magic Tool “Advanced filters” feature

For example, if you’re looking to rank for “how to train for a marathon,” using the advanced filter feature to limit the length of the queries, you’ll find more mobile-friendly keywords like “marathon training plan” and “marathon training schedule.”

Filtered results for "marathon" in Keyword Magic tool

Research Location-Based Keywords

Local SEO is critical for mobile.

There are two essential keywords to pay attention to when doing mobile keyword research: “near me” and “nearby.” These are the most frequently used location-based keywords in mobile searches.

You might notice they pop up if you start to type a phrase into the Google mobile search bar (e.g., if you type in “Chinese restaurant,” Google will suggest “Chinese restaurant near me”).

The thing is, you can’t rank for these keywords in the traditional sense. If you’re a Chinese restaurant in New York City and pack your webpage with the content “Chinese restaurant near me,” that doesn’t help NYC-based users find you.

What’s the fix? 

First, sign up with Google Business Profile. This ensures your company is listed when Google users look for your niche. You should also set your business location on Google Maps. These steps can help improve “nearby” and “near me” keyword rank.

Further reading: Local Keyword Research for SEO: What It Is & How to Do It

Utilize Non-Text Searches

Non-text searches are becoming increasingly popular with the surge in mobile-first internet behavior. We’ve mentioned how voice search is on the rise, especially when people are on the go and can’t stop to look at a screen and type.

Voice-activated technologies like Cortana and Siri are further pushing this trend. The next move toward non-text searches can be seen in technologies like Google Lens: You hold your phone’s camera up to view an object, and the lens “translates” what it sees into a search.

So, how can you select the right keywords to thrive in non-text searches? Local search is again key. There are a few adaptations to keep in mind.

For example, when it comes to voice queries, you’re best off using questions. Meanwhile, for image-based searches, localization is critical. People are likely to use a feature like Google Lens to get information about an object that’s in front of them or their direct vicinity — like a statue or monument.

Mobile Keyword Research Tools

Let’s look at three of the best keyword research apps and tools. And learn how to use them for mobile keyword research.

Keyword Gap

With Semrush’s Keyword Gap tool, you can compare your Google rankings against competitors’. 

To get started, enter your domain and the domains of up to four rivals.

Then, choose your country and click “Compare.”

Keyword Gap tool search

To focus on mobile keywords, switch from “Desktop” to “Mobile” at the top.

Switch from “Desktop” to “Mobile”

Then, scroll down to the keyword table. Where you’ll find your mobile keyword rankings alongside competitors’.

We recommend focusing on the following tabs:

  • Missing: Keywords that competitors rank for but you don’t
  • Weak: Keywords that competitors outrank you for
"Missing" and "Weak" buttons highlighted

In each table, you’ll find the following keyword data:

Intent, Volume and KD% columns highlighted

Use the check boxes and click “Add to list” to save and organize keywords in Keyword Manager.

“Add to keyword list” button highlighted

You can access Keyword Gap (and other keyword research tools) with a free Semrush account.

Mobile App Insights

With Mobile App Insights, you can find what people search for in Google Play and the Apple App Store. And track where your app ranks for chosen keywords.

After setting up, head to the “ASO Keywords” tab to add your own keywords. 

Or choose from the keywords suggested in various categories.

“ASO Keywords” tab in Mobile App Insights

Scroll down to see your tracked keywords. And the following metrics:

  • Search Score: Estimated search volume as a percentage of the most popular keyword 
  • Difficulty: Measures how hard it’ll be to earn the top ranking (from from 0-100)
  • Apps: The number of apps that show in results
  • Rank: Your app’s ranking in the results
Keyword List

Use this data to guide your app store optimization strategy.

Mobile App Insights can also help you optimize your ad campaigns, analyze competitors, and more. And there’s a free trial available.

Ecommerce Keyword Analytics

The Ecommerce Keyword Analytics app analyzes searches and sales on popular online stores (find the full list of countries and retailers here). So you know what’s popular and what’s trending.

After setting up your trial, choose your region.

Enter a keyword to research, select an option from the list, then click “Search.”

Ecommerce Keyword Analytics app search bar

Use the “Devices” filter to focus on mobile searches. You can also filter by month, the searcher’s gender, and the searcher’s age.

Just below, you’ll find various keyword metrics. Including:

  • Search Requests: The estimated number of searches over the given month
  • Product Clicks: How many times searchers clicked a result (i.e., a product)
  • Orders: The number of searches that resulted in sales
  • Conversions: The percentage of searches that generated orders
  • CPS (Clicks per Search): The percentage of searches that generated product clicks
“Devices” filter

Scroll down to see trends over time, related keywords, and the top online retailers.

Trends over time, related keywords, and the top online retailers sections

Alternatively, go to the “Top Keywords” tab to explore the top 25 keywords across all analyzed sites.

“Top Keywords” tab in Keyword Analytics

Optimize Your Site and Track Your Growth

Once you’ve completed mobile keyword research, optimize your site accordingly.

Take advantage of these Semrush tools: 

  • On Page SEO Checker: Get recommendations for existing content based on the top 10 organic results for your target keywords (phone or desktop)
  • SEO Content Template: Create content briefs based on the top 10 organic results for your target keywords (phone or desktop)
  • Site Audit: Run a mobile site audit to check for technical issues that could hold your mobile rankings back

Then, use Semrush’s Position Tracking tool to monitor your Google rankings. For all the keywords found during mobile keyword research.

Set up multitargeting to track mobile and desktop rankings. 

Then, compare your performance in the “Devices & Locations” report.

“Devices & Locations” report

You can also set up ranking alerts, identify competitors, and much more.

Author Photo
Content strategist, SEO and writer. Enjoys monitoring SERP volatility. You can find me reading Tolkien in the far north of Norway.
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