OPINION: Navigating the murky mobile waters

Nick Gill
By Nick Gill | 13 November 2012
Nick Gill, Managing Director at Marin Software Australia

There are over five billion mobile phones worldwide, and every day sees more and more consumers accessing the Internet on their mobile devices. The way Australian consumers are interacting with brands, consuming media and making purchase decisions is changing.

In 2011 the percentage of advertisers’ search ad budgets dedicated to mobile devices increased by 156%. Inline with this trend, we predict large advertisers will more than double their mobile search budgets in 2012; driving the growth of Google’s mobile search business at four to eight times faster than their desktop business.

The majority of mobile users are performing Google searches thereby providing a growing marketing opportunity for paid search advertisers.

In addition, rising smartphone use means consumers are expecting more from their mobile experience. Instead of looking up restaurants or hotels before heading out the door, more and more people are now searching on their phones for places and services whilst on the go.

At first glance, managing mobile paid search ads may not seem dissimilar to managing desktop paid search campaigns. In fact, your Google campaigns may already be opted-in to mobile and you could already be advertising on mobile devices.

However, user patterns and intent are different enough on mobile phones to justify the separation of mobile campaigns from traditional desktop paid search ads.  Separate, mobile-specific, campaigns will provide more granular control over bids, creative, and landing pages that should be optimised for mobile devices.

Based on our extensive experience working with large scale advertisers, mobile campaigns typically have higher Click-through-Rates (CTR) and lower Cost-per-Click (CPC) and Cost-per-Action (CPA).  Some best practices we’ve seen along the way include:

Optimise Mobile Landing Pages
With the majority of mobile browsing occurring on smart phones, the browsers mimic desktop browsing experience with two key differences: everything is smaller and there is limited support for Adobe Flash.

With the rapid adoption of smartphones, it’s not necessarily as important to have a mobile specific (or WAP) website; however, you will want to make sure that landing pages provide a positive user experience.

Evaluate what pages look like on standard phones (iPhone and Android) and fix pages that would show broken images or Flash files. Another thing to look out for is when the mobile browsers forces the user to scroll back and forth to read the content on a page.

Tailoring mobile landing pages, or if you have the resources, developing smartphone specific websites has been proven to encourage the conversion process on mobile phones.

Customise Mobile Ad Creative
The combination of limited real estate on mobile search results and different user intent, calls for mobile specific ad copy. Shorter, “to the point” messaging in ads tends to be more successful than ads that use all of the available characters.

It’s also important to make your call-to-action as clear as possible so that consumers know they will be able to make a purchase, registration, etc. when they click on your ad.

Customising creative to the browsing device, for example putting the words “iPhone” or “Android” in the creative text has also demonstrated better click-through rates— just be sure that you set the device-targeting parameters to match the messaging.

The Importance of Position
Google shows just 1-2 paid search ads on the top of mobile search results and a couple of ads at the bottom of the page. This means that mobile searches have limited real estate in comparison to the 10+ ads that are displayed on the top and side of desktop browsers.

Advertisers note huge drop-offs in click-through and conversion rates when their ads figure in the lower positions. In order to get your ad to appear when a user searches, you need to place a bid that ensures it is in one of the top positions.

Because CPCs are often lower on mobile-specific ads, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should pay more, however, it is important to monitor position to ensure that ads are displaying in the limited spots available.

A Local Focus
According to Google, “one in three mobile search queries are made by people who are looking for something in their local area.” Do you know that your users are looking for your store locations or a phone number to call? If so, you can use location and click-to-call extensions to provide that information directly in the search results.

In addition to providing supplementary information, local offers or coupons placed directly within ads provide further encouragement for in-person conversions.

In this Adidas case study, Google showed that mobile ads with offers had higher click-through-rates than other mobile ads, and double the in-store coupon redemption rate.

When focusing on local conversions, don’t forget the landing pages. Placing location, contact information, and coupons clearly on mobile-specific landing pages helps consumers that click on your ads to get to this information quickly.

Nick Gill
Managing Director
Marin Software Australia

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