Up Close @ SMX Advanced: What Advanced SEMs Should Be Doing About Mobile

Every year is the year of mobile, and 2014 hasn’t been a disappointment. Mobile screen time now exceeds TV in the United States. Fifty percent of paid-search clicks on Google will come from mobile devices in 2015, according to one forecast. So what do advanced SEMs need to know about mobile, and what should they be doing about it? upclose_adv14

Mobile device marketing is undergoing drastic change, particularly as it relates to understanding how multiple screens effect targeting and desired action behavior.

Yahoo is making big advances with its Gemini program. We now have plenty of data on the changes we saw with Google driving participation in mobile through its Enhanced initiative; so clearly, we’ve moved beyond entry-level tactics like setting goals, making sure you have telephone numbers and appropriate destinations for your campaigns.

Let’s take a look at some of the key takeaways from the “What Advanced SEMs Should Be Doing About Mobile” panel at SMX Advanced in Seattle last week.

But, first, the participants in this discussion. I’ll be rounding up insights without specifically naming the speaker, but these are the folks sharing their thoughts and experiences:

What Have We Learned From Advanced Mobile Campaigns?

We can start with requisite advanced mobile campaign characteristics:

  • How easy is the purchase path identified?
  • Is there a clear call-to-action?
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  • Does it consider the utility of the screens?

Behavior on mobile devices is foundationally different than on the desktop environment. A keyword or keyword grouping may be more valuable to you on a mobile device.

As Anna Hughes from Microsoft’s Bing pointed out, there are a lot of options for making a connection to buyers, and simply “porting” a campaign into the mobile environment is a recipe for disaster.


In general, buyers spend less time shopping and more time taking action by virtue of the fact that screens are smaller and less conducive to mindless browsing.

Mobile equals action.

Making sure your campaigns are appropriate for mobile is the best idea since sliced banana bread. You can perform a quick test by visiting the mobiletest.me site (currently in private beta, but accepting sign-ups for invitations) to see how your campaigns will render on multiple devices.

Measurement Should Focus On Each Interaction

Measurement in the mobile environment shouldn’t be restricted to, well, the mobile environment. What that means for marketers is that the next generation of mobile advertising will be connected to people, not devices. As buyers move from device to device, advertisers should be far more interested in tracking their activity. The key measurement point should be how each ad interaction by device impacts desired action activities.

Another interesting point from the discussion centered around positioning in mobile results. According to Marin Software’s Jeremy Evans, research the company conducted noted that going from position one to two in mobile resulted in as much as a 50% drop in conversions.

Mobile Devices

From the “user experience” perspective, if you don’t have a very mobile friendly – and by ”mobile” we often mean a lot of different types of devices — site, campaign performance will almost certainly suffer.

There were quite a few interesting tips that came about in the advanced mobile discussion, here’s a summary of the hotter topics:

  • Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) device-level targeting is mission critical, meaning device-level targeting isn’t dead.
  • Screen resolution should be a key consideration in targeting.
  • Mining analytics for new targeting options is a necessity.
  • Unique ad copy for device and positioning pays big dividends.
  • Bigger bids come with bigger competition.
  • Brand campaigns on mobile devices should be tightly controlled.
  • Stay on trends in mobile tracking. According to Marin, have a look at:
  • Testing domain and URL appearance is important.
  • Tell people you have a mobile site and they’ll be more likely to take action.
  • Compare click-to-call and click-only campaign calls-to-action.
  • Keep descriptions short — very short.
  • Separate ad campaigns by device type, particularly internationally where “flip phones” are still in use.

A Look At Conversion Tracking

Another interesting point lies in taking a close look at conversion tracking. I have never been a fan of the use of the word “conversion” as it relates to an online action because it’s not very precise — it can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

Depending on the type of business you operate, investing in testing multiple variables of targeting, messaging and calls to action can make a lot of sense or be an enormous waste of resources.  While common sense should always apply, 3rd party tools allow an advertiser to really measure the impact of changes like the ones suggested outside the perspective of the one offered by the entity selling ads.

Mobile’s share of clicks are on the rise and most people seem to agree the recent increases have less to do with adoption and use spikes and more to do with the forced (or strongly encouraged, if you like) integration of Google’s “Enhanced” initiative. In any case, the space is clearly very dynamic and worthy of its own scrutiny and dedicated resources.

Check out the speakers’ full presentations embedded below: