A few months ago Google announced a huge change to the way that marketers managed paid search with the launch of Enhanced Campaigns.

One of the biggest changes this involved was the move to group tablet and desktop bids together, so marketers are forced to make one bid for both devices. 

In the past we’ve highlighted numerous studies which show that businesses shouldn’t lump tablets and smartphones under one ‘mobile’ umbrella, but now Google has decided to do the opposite by claiming that tablets are essentially the same as desktops.

We recently canvassed opinion among PPC experts about Enhanced Campaigns with the general view being that despite Google’s claim that it's trying to simplify the way AdWords works, it’s actually a ploy to force marketers to increase their mobile spend.

So to find out whether there’s any basis for combining paid search campaigns for desktop and tablets, here is a summary of seven reports that look at the differences and similarities between the two devices in various metrics including conversions, CTR, CPC and average order value.

And for more information on this topic checkout our new Paid Search Marketing (PPC) Best Practice Guide, which covers everything you need to know about paid search advertising.

Conversions are similar, but huge difference in average order value

  • A report from Kenshoo that analysed the performance of different devices in paid search throughout 2012 found that tablets deliver a similar conversion rate to desktop, but a markedly different average order value.
  • Conversion rates on tablet were 5.85%, which is similar to desktop (6.53%) but massively different to smartphone (1.59%).
  • However the average order value achieved on desktop was £73.78, which is very similar to the AOV achieved by smartphones (£71.98). In comparison, tablet devices deliver a far higher AOV of £88.84.

  • It’s interesting to note that CPCs are also quite varied, at £0.36 on desktop compared to £0.25 on tablet and £0.17 on smartphone.

Tablets conversion rates are 1% lower than on desktop

  • In December last year ecommerce agency Screen Pages published data from 16 of its clients which again served to highlight the big difference in conversion rates achieved by each device.
  • Across 16 of its clients’ websites the average conversion rate was 4.81% between 1 and 15 December.
  • A decent proportion of the traffic comes from iPads (13.3%) and iPhones (6.9%), and the conversions on each device are remarkably varied.
  • The conversion rate from desktops was 5.41% – 0.6% higher than the overall average – while iPads converted at a rate of 4.16%, more than 1% lower than desktop.
  • Unsurprisingly, iPhones proved to have the lowest conversion rate at just 1.3%.

Maybe they are one and the same?

  • Data from Monetate found that in Q2 2012 conversion rates on desktop and tablet were very similar at 3.34% and 3.17% respectively.
  • Smartphones achieved a conversion rate of just 1.09%.
  • Monetate's report analysed a random sample of more than 100m online shopping experiences using 'same store' data across each calendar quarter.

Conversion rates converge on Cyber Monday

Tablet vs. traditional (desktop) conversion rates on Cyber Monday

Tablet shoppers spend 21% more

  • A study by Adobe published in January 2012 - which does mean the results are somewhat dated – found that tablet visitors to ecommerce sites spend 20% more than desktop shoppers, and twice as much as those using smartphones.
  • The AOV for tablets in 2011 was $123, compared to $102 for desktop and $80 for smartphones.
  • The report, which took its data from 16.5bn visits to more than 150 retailers, also found that the average conversion rate via tablet was 2.3% compared with 2.5% for desktop, while mobile lags behind on 0.6%.

Smartphones achieve highest paid search CTR

  • According to a report from Marin Software desktops actually achieve the lowest CTR in UK paid search at just 2.29%, compared to 3.93% on tablet and 5.87% on smartphone.
  • And though the same is true of the Eurozone, the difference is less pronounced – smartphones achieved a CTR of 4.78%, compared to 4.48% on tablet and 3.1% on desktop.

  • However the report also shows that CPCs on desktop and tablet are almost identical at £0.30 and £0.28 respectively, while smartphone CPCs are just £0.15.
  • Marin’s report shows that smartphones achieved a conversion rate of just 1.6% in the UK during 2012, compared to 2.6% on tablet and 4.1% on desktop.

Marketers stuck between a rock and a hard place

  • Digital marketing firm Website Publicity raised its own concerns in a blog post that highlighted data from 10 of its ecommerce clients.
  • It found that for each business included in the sample tablet conversion rates we noticeably lower than on desktop and suggested that this is also true of the rest of its client base.
  • In the test sample one client’s ads to tablets converted just 20% below desktop, but the overall average was a 40% lower conversion rate.

  • The result is that marketers are left with two options: pay too much for tablet traffic, and see their return on ad spend (ROAS) decline, or bid lower for desktop traffic to maintain their ROAS and watch their ad positions, traffic, and overall sales decline.

In conclusion...

Going purely on the data from these surveys, it seems that in some instances there does appear to be a convergence between desktop and tablets in terms of CPCs and conversions, while others show that the two devices deliver wildly different results.

But the inconsistency found in these surveys only serves to underline the fact that Google’s decision to combine PPC for desktop and tablet in Enhanced Campaigns makes it difficult for marketers to properly optimise their campaigns based on different user behaviours.

David Moth

Published 10 April, 2013 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (7)

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Emma North

Emma North, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

In my opinion, Google is mistaken in believing that desktop users and tablet users behave the same and have the same intentions. Tablets are increasingly used as a mobile device, with free WiFi available in an ever-increasing number of locations and cheaper 3G/4G data packages as providers lower costs to remain competitive.

At some point, Google will surely have to separate tablets from desktops in AdWords or at least give users the option to target them independently?

over 5 years ago


David Vallejo

When Google first announced these changes my initial reaction was that this was a play to increase mobile SEM revenue. Now that I've had an opportunity to drill down further, I'm convinced the intention is to actually increase desktop SEM revenue.

Here's why: All SEM campaigns are set to be shown on any device (desktop, mobile, tablet) by default. The legacy system allowed you to then pick and choose how to target. You can choose to keep it as is or select, desktop-only, mobile-only, etc.

The Enhanced Campaigns allow you to bid mobile devices up or down, but you are forced to include desktop/tablet users. So I (as well as other marketers) are no longer able to run mobile-only campaigns.

And while tablet users do use wi-fi in public places and some even have an actual data plan with them, the majority use their tablets online while at home. Mobile users are on-the-go which explains why over 60% of mobile searches lead to an action (call, walk in, etc) within an hour.

over 5 years ago



I agree with Emma North. There are no chance that the users of tablet and Desktop users behave are same. Both are equipment are developed for the different task and peoples are used them at the different work.

over 5 years ago



Great post David! Hi Emma - interesting input. However, in a personal and business POV (using ColibriTool.com) am thinking that Google is right (in a certain sort of way) to suggest that users who used both devices has the same objective and a slight difference in behavior.

For instance, if I wanted to search something, would definitely use the nearest and convenient tool (whether it be a PC or hand-held device). However, using the latter, will have to go for sites that are optimized for mobile devices. Basically, the intention is there, but I wouldn't go out my way to get a tablet if I'm already in front of the PC or turn on the desktop if I can use a smartphone

over 5 years ago

Emma North

Emma North, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai

Finn_Jake, I don't disagree with you; I know I don't boot up the laptop or desktop in my home when I can use a tablet much quicker and more easily. But the same could be said for my smart phone; I'm probably more likely to use a mobile in my living room than a tablet or desktop. At the moment there is no way around that. I don't think this changes things regarding tablets on the go.

over 5 years ago

Dave Trolle

Dave Trolle, Head of Performance Marketing at Summit Media

This is a great blog post with a lots of rich data. Rather than generalising, Summit is taking a category specific view for our retail clients. Dependent on product category metrics such as cpc's, average order values and conversion differ across all devices ... knowing this and all the other facts means advertisers are reluctant about the effects of Enhanced Campaigns.

Even though advertisers are not 100% behind all of the changes that Google are making, we need to embrace these as there is unlikely to be any changes to Enhanced Camapigns functionality before the end of June.

over 5 years ago



I do agree with Emma, user behaviour on a tablet is different from a desktop.

There is a similar pattern of user interaction on smartphone and tablet devices. The most popular times of the day both these devices are being used is morning and evening, on the commute, having breakfast and in front of the T.V.

It would be interesting to see the times of the day people have converted on all devices. Is it higher in the evening or in the mornings? Do people tend to research in the morning then purchase in the evening?

over 5 years ago

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