Do Mobile PPC Ads Even Work?

April 27, 2018

Ever secretly wonder if mobile PPC ads are really as effective as their desktop counterparts? It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone. In fact, a lot of advertisers (including some big, impressive brands that claim to be “experts” in paid search) share these doubts – but don’t worry, we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s discuss some questions you might have about mobile PPC advertising. Do people actually click them? Did the new Google search page design ruin everything? Can mobile PPC improve your visibility in local search? Let’s find out.

[RELATED: How to Build the Perfect Mobile Landing Page]

How Effective Are Mobile PPC Ads?

Before we go any further, we need to address the fact that, yes, in-app and mobile display advertising are almost universally hated by consumers. However, unlike in-app and mobile display ads, mobile PPC isn’t sleazy, intrusive or disruptive. In fact, many potential customers actually welcome PPC ads as part of their mobile experience, as they can be highly useful when combined with geotargeting as part of local search campaigns.

Remember –people often use their smartphones to help them make decisions quickly. If your ads enable potential customers to find a local service, answer a relevant question or perform another action, they stand a much higher chance of being clicked because they’re useful.

What About the Google SERP Redesign?

Recent research suggests that many people can’t tell which results in a SERP are organic and which are paid. Google’s recent SERP redesign has further muddied the waters. Ads are now identified by the small yellow “Ad” button, and the familiar colored background panel has been removed from the sponsored results section of the SERP. Aside from this small change, there is very little to distinguish between paid and organic results.

Google talks the talk about improving users’ experience (and maybe this design will do just that), but we all know that AdWords is Google’s proverbial meal ticket – and everything Google does to adjust how SERPs are displayed is likely to be a method of increasing advertising revenues. Of course, this is good news for mobile PPC advertisers, as users could be more likely to click on ads as a result of the redesign.

How Do People Interact with Mobile PPC Ads?

So how do you begin to make your mobile ads more effective? By examining when people actually use their phones. Once you understand how people actually interact with mobile PPC ads, you can tailor your own mobile campaigns to reflect common user behavior.

For example, data from AppFlood suggests that – perhaps unsurprisingly – mobile ad interaction is largely determined by the structure of a user’s day. Ad clicks peak at around 6 p.m., indicating that many users click on ads shortly after work. Think of how many people you see using their phones on the bus or subway every night on your way home – these are all potential customers you could be reaching with mobile PPC ads!

Of course, this stands to reason – with a majority of people still working a relatively traditional workday, it comes as little surprise that 6 p.m. is when mobile PPC advertising impressions top out. However, AppFlood’s data revealed all sorts of interesting information, including:

  • Hourly click rates during weekends rise sharply between 5-8 a.m., and remain largely constant until around 1 p.m. After this point, hourly click rates only drop slightly until between 5-7 p.m., after which they begin to decay rapidly.
  • Weekday clicks-by-hour follow similar patterns, rising steadily between 5-8 a.m. before achieving a plateau until lunchtime. Rates then begin to rise again, peaking at around 6 p.m. before declining sharply in the evening and into the night.
  • Interestingly, although hourly click rates for mobile PPC advertisements follow similar patterns throughout the week, click-through-rates vary quite widely. CTR is at its lowest on Wednesdays, according to AppFlood’s data, with Fridays and Saturdays boasting the highest CTRs (over 7%).

So what does all this mean? If you’re an AdWords advertiser, it means that you can start using the functionality offered by Enhanced Campaigns to focus your ads not only on specific geographical areas, but also specific days and times when more people are likely to click on your mobile PPC ads.

AdWords Mobile Ads are Still a Huge Opportunity

Whether you run a tiny family-owned business or are responsible for the paid search efforts of a large multinational agency, chances are pretty good that you’re constantly looking for ways to improve the ROI of your PPC campaigns. Mobile PPC advertising represents one of the biggest opportunities for savvy businesses since AdWords was launched. Why? Because the ratio of mobile ad spend to mobile usage is very favorable to advertisers.

Last year, when former Wall Street securities analyst and venture capitalist Mary Meeker published her annual Internet Trends report, she claimed that the gap between mobile ad spend and general adoption of mobile devices remains vast.

Image credit: Mary Meeker/KPCB

As you can see in the image above, despite the fact that consumers spend 12% of their time using mobile devices, estimated mobile ad spend remains significantly lower at just 3%.

Remember those big, impressive agencies and advertisers that proclaim themselves to be “experts”? Well, looking at these statistics, there’s obviously a huge disconnect between what many companies are saying they’re doing, and how they’re actually spending their ad budget. This means that, for now, there are still major opportunities to capitalize on the lower barriers to entry and high potential returns of mobile PPC advertising.

Still not convinced? Well, it’s time to get with the program, because millions of advertisers are jumping firmly on the mobile PPC ads bandwagon.

  • According to data from Covario, mobile advertising grew by 23% in Q4 last year compared to Q3, and by 55% year-over-year.
  • Mobile search advertising now accounts for one-fifth of total advertising spend.

Image credit: Covario

So, Do Mobile PPC Ads Work?

In short, yes – if they’re useful, compelling and highly targeted. We know that helping users make decisions is an excellent way to make your mobile PPC ads useful and that examining user behavior can help you target your ads more effectively, but what makes an ad compelling? Let’s review the basics of writing killer PPC ads with a focus on crafting awesome ads for mobile.

Keep It Brief

Screen space on mobile devices is even scarcer than vacant real estate in Manhattan. Keeping ads short and sweet is one of the most essential mobile PPC best practices. Headlines should be keyword-rich, and as short as possible – four words is ideal. Ad copy should also be brief – remember, ads may display differently from one device to another, and too much text could lower your CTR.

Highlight the Benefits First

Even if your business is at the top of its game, resist the urge to start telling everyone how awesome you are – at least in your mobile PPC ads. When you’re writing ads, think of what your users want. The primary benefit of your product or service should immediately follow your short, keyword-rich headline. Tell potential customers how choosing your business will benefit them using plain, simple language.

Use Ad Extensions

This one is so important, I’ll say it twice – use extensions. This might sound obvious, but you’d probably be surprised by how many ads don’t make use of extensions. Include call extensions to make phone numbers a clickable element of your mobile PPC ads, and use location extensions to enable potential customers to use their phone’s GPS functionality to find your store. There are several different types of Ad extensions, so be sure to utilize those that are relevant to the product or service you’re offering.

Support Your Claims

If your mobile PPC ads boast that you’re the best in the business, back up these assertions with credible facts whenever possible. If your ad says your product or service is award-winning, make sure you provide evidence of this on your (unique, highly targeted) landing pages. Don’t resort to trickery or deception to try and sell your services – leave that to the mobile display and in-app ads that everyone hates.

What experiences have you had with mobile PPC advertising? Share your stories in the comments!

Dan Shewan

Dan Shewan

Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.

Sign up to get our top tips and tricks weekly!