7 Smarter Ways to Approach Mobile Search Ads

Guest Author
April 23, 2018

I feel like we’ve been talking about mobile search ads since the beginning of search itself. And yet it still seems as though many advertisers don’t know how to get it right, leading to large quantities of wasted spend and missed conversions.

PPC superhero to the rescue!

mobile ppc superhero

Why getting mobile advertising right is so important

First, a few important stats to bear in mind.

Mobile search has long surpassed desktop, accounting for around 57% of traffic (US). It has also seen the biggest growth in ad spend, and is expected to grow to 72% of total digital budgets by 2021.

mobile search stats

However, according to data from Adobe, conversion rates are nearly three times higher on desktop than on smartphones. There is huge opportunity inherent to increasing the average CVR of your mobile search ads.

Secondly, around nine in 10 smartphone users would repurchase from a brand whose mobile experience they find helpful or relevant, but they are 60% less likely to repurchase after a negative experience.

mobile ad experience

Finally, 58% of marketers state that their mobile services are “nearly identical” to their desktop services, according to a 2018 report by Forrester Research. That’s a lot, considering how important it is to optimize for each platform separately.

So, mobile user experience is extremely important, but less than half of advertisers are getting even the basics right.

Here are seven ways you should be optimizing your mobile search campaigns.

1. Build a better landing page experience

Before even thinking about the ads, your landing page experience needs to be flawless. Poor mobile experience leads to low engagement and abandoned shopping carts, resulting in low conversion rates.

Speed is key. If you’re not working on improving the speed of your mobile site, you’re probably losing out on business. Google found that in the retail sector, “for every one second delay in page load time, conversions can fall by up to 20%”.

To get started, have a go at Google’s Speed Scorecard and Impact Calculator, which lets you compare performance with competitors.

google impact calculator

Next, consider minimizing CSS and HTML, enabling compression, and eliminating render-blocking JavaScript in above-the-fold content. After optimizing their mobile site to facilitate the user’s conversion journey, one of our clients’ mobile ROI became more than twice as large as desktop ROI.

You may also need to think about the impact of voice search. According to ComScore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. It’s hard to believe, right? But the growing popularity of digital assistants make the voice search hype far more plausible, so adapt now!

Target long-tail keywords and optimize your landing page with natural-sounding copy to answer voice search users’ direct questions.

2. Write device-specific ad copy

Device-specific ad copy has a phenomenal impact on click-through rates.

A few extra words written as IF-statements can make a huge difference. For example, generic ad copy on desktop might look like “Use our service today”, whereas a mobile-specific version would be “Use our service on your mobile today”. Other phrases that work really well are variations of “Browse on your mobile” and “Shop on your phone”.

adwords if function dimension options

This has consistently resulted in a higher CTR for mobile ads in comparison to desktop ads for our client’s campaigns, in multiple sectors.

Another tip is to mention location in the ad copy. Lots of research has shown that mobile searches and intent are strongly linked to location, so I recommend using location-specific ad copy in the description or H2.

3. Use mobile-friendly extensions

Ad extensions are great on all devices, but especially useful for mobile by increasing the amount of information an ad contains.

A Google study found that call extensions increased CTR by an average of 5%. The study also found that calls from mobile ads converted three times better than web clicks.

Message extensions are also a great alternative to let users directly contact you, and work really well on mobile.

I also recommend price, promotion, and sitelink extensions to improve users’ overall experience – extensions contribute to a huge boost in CTR on mobile.

One final point: location extensions make your business address more noticeable to users. As I mentioned above, location is strongly linked to mobile intent, so this really is a big plus for mobile.

4. Focus on driving calls

Calls are an amazing source of leads, so you should be doing everything you can to promote them. As well as call extensions, use call bid adjustments to control how often the extension appears and how often you show call-only ads.

If calls are higher priority than website visits, experiment with call-only ads. Instead of directing users to your landing page, they initiate a direct call to your business. Call-only ads are more minimalistic than standard search ads, so take advantage of structured snippet and callout extensions to add extra information about your brand and stand out from the rest.

5. Use a device-specific bidding script

Optimizing bids on both mobile and desktop takes granularity that AdWords can’t always provide. Our solution? Hourly bids on both desktop and mobile using our 24/7 bidding tool.

For one of our clients in the food sector who wanted to grow their mobile user base, we used 24/7 bidding and Bayesian statistics to model user behavior to exceed the limitations of AdWords.

While maintaining desktop growth, overall traffic generated by mobile increased from 40% to 50%, and mobile conversions increased to 42% of total conversions. Mobile CTRs increased by 21%, while CPA decreased by 22%.

6. Check out Auction Insights

I’ve already mentioned that Google’s Speed Scorecard compares your mobile speed with other companies, but there are other ways to stay on top of what your competition is doing.

AdWords’ Auction Insights lets you keep track of your competitors’ bidding strategies and can help you identify which devices your competitors are performing more strongly for, and how their desktop and mobile strategies differ.

These reports provide device-specific data on impression share, outranking share, overlap rate, average position, position above rate, and top of page rate.

Here’s a hypothetical example, demonstrated with our script to illustrate changes over time:

auction insights for mobile ads

In this scenario, Blue has a regular on/off strategy for both devices.

Red is stable on both, but is more aggressive on cell phone than on desktop. They don’t seem to change their strategy or their bids over time.

Yellow is highly reactive to payday, as shown by the aggressive bidding on cell phones a week ahead.

Because of Yellow’s strategy, our own top-of-page rate declines on cell phones much earlier.

Based on these insights, we might implement many possible changes, such as timing bid changes to capitalize on Blue’s off periods.

By tracking fluctuations, over the short and long term, Auction Insights can tell you a lot about who is dominating mobile and where there may be opportunities for maximizing your performance.

7. Constantly review your mobile strategy

For the past few years, Google has steadily been ramping up its focus on mobile. According to Forrester, US mobile ad spend will reach $57.3 billion versus only $37.8 billion for desktops in 2018. Everyone is on board with the fact that mobile is growing, but many still struggle with their overall strategy.

According to Google’s research, over 40% of people prefer completing their shopping journey, from research to purchase, on mobile. It’s important to make this journey as easy as possible, because even a “neutral” experience is a negative one and can hurt the perception of your brand.

Don’t shy away from mobile users – capturing this growing part of the market isn’t as hard as it looks, and it should be top of every marketer’s priorities.

About the author

Daniel Gilbert is the CEO of Brainlabs, a PPC agency and technology provider. Daniel was recently named #3 in PPC Hero's Top PPC experts and one of the most influential people in digital by Econsultancy. In the space of five years, Daniel has led Brainlabs to become the fastest growing company in the UK, employing more than 170 of the smartest people in PPC, who use data and automation to provide remarkable growth for clients.