Mobile search plays a big part in today’s industry, and context is a vital part of it. eMarketer recently had a chance to speak with Jason Spero, vice president of performance media at Google, about just how much it weighs on the company, with the challenges that come from it.

The first thing Spero addressed is just how much mobile search has changed in the industry overall. “In the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve gotten smarter about the consumer,” he explained. “Before even talking about search, you have to talk about mobile behavior. Search isn’t just happening in your living room, your office or in the coffee shop. We’re connected when we’re in the mall, when we’re commuting or walking down the street looking for something, and that changes consumer behavior.

Jason Spero

“We spend a lot of time trying to understand, and frankly are still trying to understand, the changing consumer behavior and how we see that through the search lens. The first step is knowing the consumer is always connected. Location and context play a massive role in what creative they’re going to respond to, what types of problems they’re trying to solve and what types of things marketers need to think about when they engage them,” he continued.

Spero also explained how typed-in searches are far easier to perform than voice-activated ones, thanks to an easier input mechanism, although the company is making a big investment in making it easier to comprehend on mobile devices down the road.

“Right now most of our energy is going into understanding context and how we can serve better ads with context,” said Spero. “We have to get smarter about context, formats and about what touchscreens mean — that’s where the lion’s share of our energy is. Currently, Google Now is an add-on to search. It’s not something that has had a material impact that I’ve seen on search behavior. It’s highly complementary, and I expect that that’s where it will end up.”

As far as the biggest driving point of mobile search, Spero summed it up easily. “For all the voice search and fancy stuff that we can do with location targeting, and all the progress we’ve made with cross-device, the biggest driver of mobile search is customers getting smarter about the user experience. Marketers have largely been slow to understand what consumers want when they’re on these devices. However, we’re seeing a lot of good work going on now. It’s not necessarily sexy to talk about mobile websites and building great experiences, but that’s the biggest catalyst, and that’s where we’re putting a lot of our time,” he concluded.