By the end of this year, mobile is projected to account for 25% of all online searches — a 5-time increase from just 5% in January of last year. At the same time, paid search (Google adWords and similar programs) is up 39% year over year. Put these two trends together, and there are some important implications for your 2013 marketing:
Watch your mobile traffic. If you don’t already know what percentage of your search volume is coming from mobile devices, stop everything and find out! If you use Google Analytics, you’ll find the data under the “mobile” option in the “overview” section in the left column. The higher your percentage of traffic from mobile, the more important a priority it is for you.
Separate your paid search accounts. People search differently on a mobile device than they do on a desktop or laptop, for many reasons. Typing is harder, so they tend to use shorter search terms. Navigating is tougher too, so they’re likely to view fewer pages. They’re less apt to be at work, so they’re in a different mindset — which may have implications for the keywords you use.
What’s more, the marketing landscape is different on mobile. On the plus side, there’s less competition, because fewer companies are running mobile ads than desktop ads. On the minus side, fewer ads fit on a mobile screen, so ranking high becomes more critical.
For all these reasons, it’s only natural that your metrics from mobile searches will differ from those on a desktop. And if you’re running a Google adWords or other paid search campaign, that has an important implication: You should be separating desktop and mobile searches into two distinct campaigns, and managing them separately.
A word of caution here: Google adWords and Microsoft adCenter both offer three ways to target searches by device: 1) desktops and laptops, 2) mobile devices (such as smartphones), and 3) tablets. While many people consider tablets mobile devices, they tend to have more in common with desktops. Most websites display well on a tablet, and they’re far easier to navigate than a smartphone. Take a look at your own metrics to determine the most sensible way to segment your paid search campaign.
Once you’ve separated your paid search campaigns, you’re able to manage them independently. Chances are you’ll be able to pay less per click to get the same ranking on your mobile campaign as on your desktop campaign. As mobile increases in popularity, that balance may shift, but for the time being, mobile ads have a competitive advantage.
You may find that keywords perform differently on mobile, and your conversion rate differs as well. Likewise, don’t assume that your best performing ads will be the same on your desktop and mobile campaigns. For more suggestions, read what Google has to say on Creating a Mobile-Specific Campaign.
In an ideal world, you already have a mobile-friendly site (more on that below) that will make the most of your mobile paid search campaign. But even if you don’t, you should know how your paid search campaign performs on mobile sites. Worst case, you’ll learn that you shouldn’t be showing your ads to mobile users at all, and that knowledge alone can save you a lot of money.
Make your site mobile-friendly. Just because you can see your site on a mobile device doesn’t mean it’s mobile-friendly. When your site appears on a mobile device, it should:
• Load in 5 seconds or less
• Be easy to navigate without pinching or zooming
• Not require scrolling in both directions to see the site
• Include links and buttons that are “thumb-friendly”
• Show your phone number prominently
• Not include missing or broken pictures
You may be able to dip your toe in the water by simply using a mobile-friendly landing page to start.
For an evaluation of how your site displays on a smartphone and personalized recommendations on how you can improve on that experience, try Google’s GoMoMeter tool.
Keep watching and adjusting. Whatever you decide to do about mobile marketing in general, and mobile paid search specifically, don’t just “set it and forget it.” Mobile usage is changing far too rapidly. What’s optimal today will undoubtedly be outmoded a year from now. Revisit your strategy every few months and make sure your decisions are based on current information.