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Mobile Search Advertising: 5 Key Strategies to Optimize Beyond the PC

Mobile Search Advertising

Steve Jobs was quoted in 2010 as saying: “When you look at a mobile device, a phone, it’s not like the desktop. On the desktop search is where it’s at. Right, that’s where the money is at but on a mobile device search hasn’t happened. Search is not where it’s at. People aren’t searching on a mobile device like they do on a desktop.”

Steve Jobs was an unquestionable legend, innovator and visionary in his own right, but he wasn’t right about everything, and he certainly wasn’t entirely right about search on mobile. From 2008 till 2010 mobile search experienced a five-fold growth across smartphone devices (this includes Apple not just Android devices). Steve Jobs was right however, about the fact that “People aren’t searching on a mobile device like they do on a desktop,” mobile search advertising is in fact very different from desktop / laptop search.

In 2012 Search was the number one mobile browser activity (Source: comScore). According to a report released by the Search Agency in Q4 of 2012 called ‘State of Paid Search Report’ 25 percent of search clicks are from mobile devices. Mobile search has exploded, with people increasingly turning to their smartphones to find answers and make purchases.

Mobile Trends

There has been an increased penetration of smartphone users over the last couple of years, specifically in the U.S. Smartphones surpassed 125 million consumers recently, thus surpassing the 50 percent penetration and breaking into the ‘Late Majority’ of the Innovation Adoption Curve. This is huge a milestone for mobile – we are way past the phase of “only the cool kids have smartphones.” If you don’t have a smartphone you are a laggard.

The improved availability of high-speed mobile connectivity has significantly enhanced the average user’s media consumption experience and has contributed to a rapid gain in mobile media consumption. Increased free Wi-Fi accessibility has contributed to default Wi-Fi accessibility for smartphones. Further networks speeds have improved, with 4G and LTE technology, and an increasing number of phones are enabled for these speeds. The result for smartphone users is a faster, more seamless browsing experience, and this has resulted in mobile channels accounting for one in three digital media minutes being spent beyond the PC.

So how is Search on Mobile different?

Search on mobile solves a different need state, the consumer is looking for a more convenient or instant solution (for example: is this the best price I can get?) and often times nearby (local) solution (for example: where is the closest place to have lunch and how do I get there?). Google and Nielsen have recently released a study entitled Mobile Search Moments, which concludes speed and convenience are the main drivers of mobile search, and more interesting is that 77 percent of mobile searches occur in a location (either at home or at work) likely to have a PC available, and not necessarily ‘on-the-go’ (17 percent).

Mobile search is highly goal-oriented and is performed to help make a decision, with 75 percent of mobile searches triggering follow up actions (further research, a store visit, a purchase or a phone call), and of those follow up actions 55 percent happened within an hour. According to Google and Nielsen’s Mobile Search Moments, mobile search leads to almost two follow-up actions on average, with product and shopping searched having a greater number of actions. Mobile searches trigger quick online and offline actions, and mobile drives multi-channel conversion. Further, in terms of time of day for where mobile searches spike, it was found that majority of mobile searches actually occur in the afternoon and evening time. The type of search varies according to context, for example when in-store consumers are more likely to search for shopping or food-related items.

We have entered what Walmart CEO Michael Duke calls the “new era of price transparency” – this is also known as the “showrooming” effect, where U.S. consumers have come to rely on their smartphones to assist with their in-store shopping, arming them with information in the palm of their hands to ensure they are getting the right product/brand and the best price. Almost half of all consumers use smartphones for in-store product research and browsing, according to Google’s Mobile Playbook, 53 percent of men and 38 percent of women say they use smartphones in-store to check prices at other stores.

Gearing up for Mobile Search Advertising

Well we know that Google is gearing up for this upsurge in mobile search by preparing to take advantage of mobile advertising as competition is heating up. In February, Google launched its Enhanced Campaigns which aims to amalgamate desktop search ads with mobile search ads, removing the option for advertisers to opt-out of using mobile ads in their campaigns. Google has pitched this as a better way to advertise across multiple devices. This was a bold move from Google, and shows that the company is quickly spring-boarding its advertiser into the mobile world.

“We want to provide the best search results for users regardless of where they are and what device they are using.” — Susan Wojcicki, Vice President of Google Product Management.

Currently, Google encompasses roughly 95 percent of global mobile searches. In the U.S. alone, the market for mobile search advertising is expected to hit $3.36 billion this year, and eMarketer expects Google to capture 92.4 percent share of that.



5 Key Mobile Search Advertising Strategies

So if Google is taking advantage of this upsurge in mobile search, shouldn’t you as a brand or small business? Here are five simple key strategies for  mobile search advertising:

1. It is crucial to show up. We know the real-estate space for PPC ads on mobile devices is less (normally two PPC ads are featured at the top of the search result), for this reason it is even more important to show up in terms of both SEM and SEO when generic terms are searched for. In the Google and Nielsen study 59% of people said they found mobile ads useful. On mobile devises, low ad rank wouldn’t cut it!

Mobile Search Ads

2. Have a mobile optimized website. According to Google 67 percent of users claim they are more likely to purchase from a mobile-friendly website. There is a lot of debate at the moment regarding Responsive Design vs. Mobile specific sites. An outcome from the 2013 SMX West Conference was that Dynamic Serving Single URL (Separate URL) strategy is best for device intent changes (e.g. services, commerce) and Responsive Design Single URL for universal intent (e.g. information, news, blogs).

3. Optimize mobile search for local businesses, as 50 percent of mobile search is local. To make sense of it in terms of ad spend, location targeted ads currently accounts for under half of mobile ad dollars according to BIA Kelsey, growing to almost two/thirds by 2016. Understanding the nature of how and what people search for on mobile is crucial, knowing that mobile users often times look for nearby (local) solutions with speed and convenience in mind, is critical to success on mobile, especially for local businesses who need to embrace mobile search as a key channel to reach consumers.

4. Have a clear call-to-action, as stated previously mobile users are more inclined to take action, on average 75 percent of mobile searches trigger follow up actions, with 55 percent of those follow-up actions occurring within the hour and 84 percent of those follow-up actions occurring within five hours. Mobile search users have a end goal in mind when using mobile search and therefore your mobile search ad should make it obvious what that next step is.

5. Take advantage of and implement innovative mobile ad formats. For example  ‘click to call’ button or ‘click to download’ options within search ads that allows downloading of mobile apps. As of this month Google’s AdWords will no longer allow hyperlinked phone numbers within mobile search ads, advertisers who want to display phone numbers will have to use the call extensions. Google is always looking for ways to make search easier and more convenient for users across all devices, so keep up-to-date with the mobile search ad changes that they release.


LishaK Bio PicLisha Klopper (@LishKapish) is an NYU M.S. in Integrated Marketing student, concentration in Digital Marketing. Before joining NYU as a graduate student she was an Account Manager at BBDO in South Africa. She is highly curious about the evolving world of marketing and advertising. Learn more about Lisha here and check out her blog about living in New York City.

2 replies
  1. Amy
    Amy says:

    Great post. There is definitely more pressure on search engines to deliver more customized and relevant results. I recently read in article in the NY Times which indicates that while Google still leads in Search, they have slightly declined in PPC ad $$ (from 74% to 72.8%) and may be threatened in the future. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/04/technology/as-web-search-goes-mobile-apps-chip-at-googles-lead.html?ref=technology&_r=0
    Somehow I don’t see this being an issue for the giant, people have Google habits and it’s very hard to break habits.

  2. Monica De La Villa
    Monica De La Villa says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post because it is a great summary of all what we saw going on last year with mobile.
    Mobile represents a challenge for everyone Search Engines and Advertisers tehy both need to modify their game in order to keep up with consumers demands.
    It is going to be interesting to see how mobile search keeps evolving!

    I read an article in Search Engine Land that complements this post very nicely. The article focus on refute 8 myths regarding Mobile and Search and SEO. http://searchengineland.com/mobile-seo-is-not-a-myth-8-popular-claims-refuted-141386

    By being aware of these refutations advertisers can take real advantage of mobile as one of the most important channel to contact with their prospects!


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