5 Mobile Ad Strategies You Need To Be Using


If you had the chance to read my recent post on why it’s so easy to fail at mobile advertising, then you’ll remember that we discovered:

  1. Mobile search volumes have been growing exponentially the past few years.
  2. Mobile CTR drops off 45% faster in lower positions than desktop or tablet.
  3. Search CPCs have been rising dramatically for mobile over the past 12 months.
  4. The mobile impression share penalty is more dramatic that its desktop counterparts.

These trends make the mobile PPC market appreciably harder to control. Advertisers without a clear mobile strategy are almost certain to fail. So what can you do to beat the mobile curse? Our Client Success reps here at WordStream and our loyal blog followers shared their best tips:

#1: Use Mobile Bid Adjustments to Control What You Pay for on Mobile

Mobile CPCs have increased 150% since 2012 and are expected to continue to increase. If that cost is getting a little too rich for your blood, there’s no reason you should have to be stuck paying for it. Advertisers can control their mobile bids by setting a mobile bid adjustment for their keywords at the campaign or ad group level in AdWords. To set this up, visit the “Settings” tab from your target campaign or ad group and then the subtab for “Devices.” From here, you can set your mobile bids as a percent of what you’re willing to pay for them on desktop.

adwords mobile ad strategies

You can either decrease or increase your bids for mobile here. If you’re seeing a lot of success on mobile and you want to compete harder on mobile, don’t be afraid to increase your mobile bids to up to +300% what you’re currently bidding for mobile. You may be surprised to still get your mobile bids cheaper than what you’re currently paying on desktop!

Case Study: Mobile CPC vs. Desktop CPC

A client targeting a mobile audience decided to pivot more spend to the platform on certain campaigns. All of these campaigns actually use a +300% MBA. Even with bids 4x that of desktop, their actual mobile CPC is still considerably cheaper than it is on desktop:

mobile ad cost per click

#2: Speak to Your Mobile Audience with Mobile-Preferred Ads

Advertisers can create a mobile-preferred ad, which only shows to users searching from their mobile phones. In your ad group, after creating an ad to show to desktop users, create an alternative ad to show to mobile users and be sure to check the “Mobile” button next to device preference:

mobile ad strategies

Only about one third of SMBs are using mobile-preferred ads, but mobile and desktop audiences are different, so using them will give your account a bid step advantage over your competition. Best practices for mobile ads include:

  • Sending mobile users to your mobile landing page.
  • Let them know that your page is mobile-friendly in the Display URL such as “www.mobile.sample.com” or “www.sample.com/mobile
  • Keep the language short & sweet.
  • Cater to your mobile audience. Use language promoting calls and avoid offers that may not be possible on a mobile device, like downloading a demo or a whitepaper.

mobile ads best practices

#3: E-Commerce Clients: Google Shopping or Bust!

Recent updates to Google Shopping campaigns have not only moved Shopping Ads to the top of the mobile results page but allow users to scroll through products right on the SERP. These high commercial intent searches generally also see the highest CTRs and conversion rates – so mobile is a must for these e-commerce clients!

#4: Use All Available Ad Extensions

mobile ad strategies

We know that ad extensions increase an ad’s CTR, and Google recently announced that they also contribute to quality score. If you’re not currently using them, you’re certainly paying the price with lower CTRs and quality scores on both desktop and mobile. Even if you’re skeptical about using one, like Location Extensions, it’s all the more likely to be valuable on mobile, where real estate on the smaller SERP is worth fighting for.

using google mobile ads extensions

#5: Make it Ring!

If you don’t have a mobile website and are struggling to convert your mobile traffic despite all your hard work, there’s a secret little trick to drive some cheap conversions with call extensions. Rather than showing your ad with the traditional headline that would take you to a landing page, you can simply give users the option to call, but not direct them to your website where they may not convert. You’ll still be charged your standard CPC for the call, but you’ve got your customer on the phone now, so that’s a relatively cheap conversion right there.

Mobile Ad Extensions

To have your mobile ads exclusively drive calls like this, you’ll need to edit your call extensions to only show your phone number, rather than your website and phone number. We highly recommend using a Google forwarding number in these circumstances so that you’ll have some form of AdWords call tracking on mobile.

google forwarding number

The mobile PPC market may be more difficult for advertisers but with the right mobile strategy, you can expect plenty of success on mobile too. What other strategies have you tried with your accounts? Share your greatest tricks (or failures) below in the comments!

Also, if you missed it, our founder Larry Kim and Paid Search Strategist Jackie Jordan collaborated to create The Greatest & Most Complete Intro to Mobile PPC Ever last month. Be sure to check it out below:

And check out some of our favorite mobile marketing tools.

About the author:

Mark is a Data Scientist at WordStream with a background in SEM, SEO, and Statistical Modeling. Follow him on:

Twitter: @MarkIrvine89

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/mark-irvine/30/280/2a


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Dave Schneider
Aug 18, 2014

Hey Mark,A lot of people neglect mobile, I know I have. This is in part because I don't have a mobile smart phone lol and really spend more than enough time in front of a computer to be searching on mobile. Still I have found that upwards of 30% of my traffic comes from mobile!Cheers!Dave at NinjaOutreach

Aug 23, 2014

Well written article. Thanks for sharing this with detailed visual instructions. 

Aug 26, 2014

Hey Mark, great post. I have a question- for ecommerce clients that also actively engage in PPC- how do you then go about convincing them that they need to also be on Google shopping? I’m a little curious and wondering whether your knowledge means you perhaps have a better insight and therefore favour one over the other? I can imagine it may be financially difficult particularly for small businesses to invest in both, so am wondering if there’s one that comes out on top?

Mark Irvine
Aug 26, 2014

Hi Maria,The great thing about Google Shopping campaigns is that you don't need to decide whether to run them or traditional search ad. You can run both at the same time and have even more real estate at the top of the Google SERP! And since shopping campaigns also follow the CPC fee structure, showing both doesn't mean it will cost you double.It's rare that I hear of an ecommerce client that doesn't do well with the shopping campaigns, so if they have to decide between one or the other, I'd advocate for shopping. Those ads are visually appealing, have higher CVR and only show for terms with high commercial intent. Shopping campaigns are also much less time consuming to manage for you too.Still, if you need help convincing your clients that shopping campaigns are a worthwhile investment, consider testing splitting your budget between a traditional search campaign and a  shopping campaign of their best selling products. I'm sure after a week or so of seeing their new shopping campaign delivering amazing results, they'll be more willing to invest more budget into it.   

paul slattery
Dec 06, 2014

i always enjoy reading  what more learned people wish to share and as a self taught adwords advertiser i developed my business by pretty much running into every obstacle on the learning curve then eliminating themthey say if you can take away one thing then that learning experience was worthwhile.well it might be true that much of this was over my head but it solved a big problem for mei understand mobile is taking over and i run dedicated mobile ads (exact ads) and the one thing i came away with after reading mike irvines column was mobile customers are different they dont want all the content my website has to offer they just simply want an answer nowive changed all my mobile ads to read...ph paul or view our online prices hereas opposed to ph paul to get a free quotemy mobile is optimised and a lot different to my website but mobile has been very disappointing in conversions but is contributing about 25% of clicksi think what i learnt is these customers are (lazy/Efficient) but they represent quick salesi wasnt motivating them with a call to action if anything i was refferring them to my website which probhably is counteractiveid really appreciate any advice in getting my mobile side more productive or if anyone has any experiences similar to minemy business turns over $200k average sale $150 cost per click around $5 i use extensions etc and average about 3.5 position with my ads getting 85-100% conversions (mainly from desktop)have a happy day regards pauland once again thankyou mike irvine

Sanjit Mandal
Jun 30, 2016

A question for everyone on mobile click to call ads: Has anyone heard it is better to be at position #2 b/c the click to call button is easier to reach than at position #1?

I have someone who is making this strong claim. Clearly this is his observation, not the visitors, so I am not putting much weight on it, but he insists this is the case.

So he changes his bis daily to try to maintain the #2 spot. I know, as well as you all know, this isn't the best strategy or reason to change bids.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

thanks very much.

Rajat Shankhdhar
Mar 06, 2018

I have a Question, Why Mobile CPC always low as compared to desktop and tablets.

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