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Mobile Paid Search – Insight from a Roundtable (& How-To Do It)

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Published on: February 19, 2016

As an Econsultancy trainer, I do more than just teach the PPC and SEO courses I’m involved with -

I also participate in enterprise round tables and Digital Cream. The topic of one of the recent round tables was mobile paid search and I was surprised at how few businesses were leveraging this channel, possibly because they don’t know how.

The Overview
Google announced that for the first time it was seeing more search activity on mobile than desktop, and that this is now the case worldwide, according to an Econsultancy report. From mobile friendly site designs & mobile app deep-linking to semantic search, there are a various new factors for marketers to consider in every campaign. For brands crafting their marketing strategy for mobile, moving swiftly is crucial to retaining visibility on Google and other search properties.

The Research
Marin Software revealed that advertisers were expected to spend more on mobile than desktop ads by the end of 2015 and into this year. This is significant as mobile carries a lower CPC meaning traffic and conversions on mobile are the highest they have ever been.

Paid search clicks on mobile devices are predicted to have broken 50% of the overall paid search market by mid-Q4 2015 though these numbers are still being analysed. Desktop search ads had an average conversion rate of 10.3% compared to mobile conversion rates of 7.1%. By the end of 2014, the majority of clicks on display ads were already coming from smartphones and tablets.

IMRG and Capgemini’s Quarterly Benchmark revealed that mobile now accounts for 40% of all online retail sales despite many online retailers having poor mobile sites. This figure is up from 37% in the previous quarter, and apparently represents the steepest quarterly rise in the rate of mobile retail penetration since Q4 2013/14 (and this quarter includes Christmas). Looking at the numbers, one in every four mobile ecommerce sales are now done through smartphones. Importantly, mobile (smartphone and tablet combined) conversions are also climbing year on year with an 8.9% increase since Q4 2013, in contrast to an 8.3% drop for desktop conversions. Shoppers are moving to mobile and converting on the go.

All this insight leads us to the same conclusion – that paid channels such as search and social ads on mobile are extremely important and must be planned into activity going forward.

One of the other insights that came out of the roundtable was that businesses aren’t aware of how to target mobile searchers/users – especially using Google’s advertising platform.

How to target mobile only in Google
There are a few ways that you can use to target mobile only, one of which revolves around CPA bidding and pixels, controlling when they fire. The perhaps easier way involves simply adjusting bid amounts in your Google ad campaign.

Google enables you to specify bid amounts on tablets and desktop (together) and mobile differently using percentage increase or decrease. By creating a campaign and designing it for mobile, you can set the CPC bid amount low and the use the “set mobile bid adjustment” option to increase the bid amount by up to 300% (or use the “bid adj.” column). The CPC on mobile vs desktop has been lower to date on mobile so by controlling the CPC in this way you can ensure it is too low for desktop, while still ensuring mobile visibility. All ads in the AdGroup/Campaign should be selected to be “Mobile” to indicate your ad or extension is optimised for mobile devices.

Of course, this works best when targeting and messaging has been specifically crafted for mobile which was also a weakness identified during the roundtable. While some participants were using mobile paid search channels, the optimisation in many cases was sub-par, with one person learning the value of negative keywords. By ensuring the various elements of your campaign are specifically optimised for mobile as well as traditionally optimised and regularly monitored, you will help ensure your campaign will appear on mobile only on the right keywords.

Mobile is a critical channel and failing to take advantage it will leave your business at a distinct disadvantage.