Why You Can’t Hide From Mobile PPC

shutterstock_207905572-mobile-is-coming-2“Mobile is coming.” This Game of Thrones-esque quote has been thrown around a lot this past year, serving as an ominous warning of our mobile-dominated future. However, I’d argue that it’s time to stop talking about mobile in the future tense and bring it to the present: for many of us, it’s already here.

We’ve already seen this transition in some of our longest-standing accounts. Two years ago, mobile made up a tiny fraction of their overall spend and traffic. Now, those same accounts have ceded as much as 50% of their desktop traffic to mobile, getting a majority of their clicks from mobile and tablet devices. This is reflected in the industry-wide data, where mobile saw 98% growth year-over-year in Q2 2014.

Basically, my point is this: if you don’t have a mobile strategy in place, you’re late to the party. To get you caught up, I’ve compiled a list of the most common objections I’ve come across when it comes to getting started with mobile PPC — as well as a few things you can do to improve your mobile performance.

1. Don’t Use Mobile Advertising

This is a surprisingly common scenario — and one that is increasingly untenable for advertisers as desktop traffic loses market share. With every client I’ve ever worked with, regardless of industry or business model, the goals have been two-fold. They’ll say, “Make my account more efficient, and make it grow.” If you’re similarly steadfast in that commitment to account growth, then you really need to reconsider your stance on mobile advertising.

As an exercise, take your top twenty converting keywords and plug them into Google’s Keyword Planner. It’s been recently updated to include mobile search volume data, and it can be helpful in understanding the scope of your mobile audience. I ran a similar analysis for one of my few non-mobile accounts, and was surprised at the results:

Google Keyword Planner trend data.

[CLICK TO ENLARGE] Over the last 12 months, mobile has seen consistent growth on these terms.

For their top twenty keywords alone, 20% of the overall search volume comes from mobile devices– traffic that they’re missing out on. Keep in mind that many of these were brand and core term keywords, the lowest-hanging fruit. That’s a 25% boost in traffic volume with no work involved, save for an edit to their campaign settings.

2. Don’t Use Mobile Advertising — Traffic Won’t Convert

My first response is to challenge the notion that it has to. It’s definitely assisting in your conversion process already: the 2013 U.S. Mobile Path-to-Purchase study reported that 46% of survey respondents said that they relied exclusively on mobile devices in their pre-purchase product research. By choosing to not advertise to these users, you’re neglecting the top of your sales funnel.

I’ll be honest: attribution modeling still has a long way to go to properly account for the value of these users. Goodness knows that Google has been trying with Cross-Device Conversions and Estimated Total Conversions, but we’re still waiting for the technology to catch up. In the mean time, I also recommend playing with a pair of “Think With Google” tools: Mobile in the Purchase Journey and The Full Value of Mobile Calculator.

However, if you’re dead-set on measuring direct conversions only, I’d also recommend that you broaden your scope of conversion types to better suit these users: namely, by measuring phone call conversions through the use of call tracking. If phone calls aren’t an option, and your mobile traffic still won’t convert, then perhaps you have another problem: your site might stink for mobile.

3. Don’t Use Mobile Advertising: Your Site Might Stink For Mobile

A fair point. If a user has a poor mobile experience with your site, they’ve had a poor experience with your brand as a whole. Given what we know about mobile research habits, that kind of poor site experience can damage your bottom line. With that in mind, I wouldn’t recommend paying to actively disenfranchise potential customers by using a poor mobile site.

First things first: I’d recommend auditing your site for both speed and usability– even if you don’t do mobile advertising. Knowing what we know about conversion rate, there’s a definite correlation between site speed and the willingness of a user to convert. That doubly goes for mobile users, where page load times can slow to a crawl with the inclusion of one poorly optimized image.

Take, for instance, this site we recently audited:

Analytics Site Engagement

Mobile users are clearly having a rough time on this site.

Engagement for mobile paid traffic was pretty awful– the average session duration for mobile was 63% lower than desktops and tablets, pages per session was roughly halved, and the bounce rate was 27% higher on mobile devices.

These metrics are bad enough on their own. They’re doubly harmful here because, proportionally, more of these mobile users are new to the site than desktop and tablet traffic. They’re the exact same “researching,” top-of-funnel users discussed in the previous section. So what causes this kind of discrepancy in site engagement? Take a look:

Analytics Site Speed Analysis

You’re reading that correctly: a 45-second average load time for mobile users.

The average page load time for mobile traffic was over 45 seconds, over nine times higher than that of the tablet and desktop traffic. That average is thrown off by three huge outliers (and remember, averages lie), but the overall mobile site load time is still markedly higher than on any other device. It’s no wonder mobile users didn’t bother to stick around, let alone convert, with numbers like that.

So what can we do to improve the mobile experience? You can always go with a mobile landing page, but if that’s not in the cards, check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights. This tool will provide you with some helpful mobile (and desktop) recommendations to improve both site speed and usability.

Google's PageSpeed Insights Tool

Comes in both mobile and desktop flavors.

The best part is that they tell you exactly what you’ll need to do in order to fix each of these issues.

Now since I work in PPC, I’ll take a PPC-specific view of our final objection and provide you with some easy tactics you can employ to improve your mobile ad performance.

4. Don’t Use Mobile PPC: Performance Is Lackluster

If this is still the case even after you’ve worked on your site and improved your conversion rate, here are some other hacks you can employ to get the most out of your mobile advertising:

  • Mobile Sitelinks: More sitelinks equals more attention. Making sure that you optimize your mobile sitelinks to have 12-15 characters (so they show properly on mobile devices) and that you have as many of them as possible will make your ads stand out from the crowd. 
  • Mobile Display Campaigns: Beware of app traffic. Strongly consider excluding AdSense for Mobile Apps from any and all display campaigns, unless you want to risk Flappy Bird tanking your campaigns.
  • Mobile-Preferred Ads: The main point here is that you should use them. They allow you to funnel users to mobile-optimized landing pages, as well as employ mobile-specific calls to action. It’s a win for all involved! Just take a look at these account metrics, courtesy of my colleagues Sam Owen and Carrie Albright:

Mobile Preferred Ad Metrics

Some account metrics, pre- and post-mobile ads.

In the above case, the new mobile-preferred ads made use of mobile-specific calls to action like “Call Now,” as well as pointing out that the site itself was mobile friendly with “From Your Phone” in the copy, as well as “/Mobile” in the Display URL. This small change led to a 10% increase in mobile CTR in account 1, and a whopping 39% increase in mobile CTR in account number 2.

The fact of the matter is that mobile is here to stay. If you have any desire to grow your PPC accounts (or your business in general), it’s time to come up with a plan– because “ignoring it” isn’t a very good plan.

Stock image used with permission of Shutterstock.com

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