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More and more consumers are accessing the internet on their mobile devices each day. There are over 5bn mobile phones worldwide and by June 2012, smartphones will account for more than half of the UK’s mobile users.

The majority of these mobile users are performing Google searches, providing a growing marketing opportunity for paid search advertisers. In addition, rising smartphone use means consumers are expecting more from their mobile experience.  

So how can advertisers make sure they’re making the most from mobile search? 

With fewer consumers checking information before they leave the house, there’s an increase in the number of people now searching for places and services with their phones on–the-go. 

At a high level, managing mobile paid search ads is very similar to managing desktop paid search campaigns. However, user patterns and consumer intent are different on mobile phones and therefore, campaigns should be managed separately. 

In fact, the 2011 UK Search Engine Marketing Report from Econsultancy showed that mobile campaigns have three times higher click through rates (CTR).

Here are some best practice tips:

Run separate campaigns

As above, ads perform differently on mobile devices. To therefore make the most out of mobile, we recommend advertisers run separate mobile campaigns to their traditional desktop paid search ads.

The best way to do this is to replicate existing high volume campaigns and target them specifically at mobile devices. Marketers should start pulling together data for mobile campaigns by using their existing brand keyword campaigns. 

This will not only offer improved brand protection, but also ensure lower CPCs while getting started (since brand terms typically have higher quality scores than other keywords).  By running separate, mobile specific campaigns, advertisers can experiment with the granular control over bids, creative, and landing pages that mobile targeting provides, before scaling out their efforts.

Think about the user

As most mobile browsing takes place on smartphones, the desktop browsing experience is mimicked, but with two key differences: everything is smaller and there is limited support for Flash. 

With the proliferation of smart phones, it’s not necessarily important to have a mobile specific (or WAP) website for your brand, but you want to ensure that users get the most from your landing page, especially if they’re going to be making social arrangements on the go. 

To do this, you need to evaluate what pages look like on standard phones (iPhone and Android) and fix those that show broken images or flash files. The user’s experience is the most important thing, yet they are often forced to scroll back and forth to read the content on a page. 

Tailoring mobile landing pages or developing smartphone-specific websites is also a good way to streamline the conversion process, and make it easier for users to get information on the go.

Position is important

Google shows only 1-2 paid search ads on the top of mobile search results, and a couple of ads at the bottom of the page. This means that mobile searches have limited inventory in comparison to the 10+ ads that are displayed on the top and side of desktop browsers.

Therefore, in order to get ads to appear when a user searches, brands need to place bids that ensure a listing in one of the top positions. On top of this, advertisers need to be setting their bids higher, even though the typical clearing price may be lower. In this case, they should look to experiment to make sure their ads are coming top.

Get the creative right

The combination of limited listing space for mobile search results and different user intent, means that ad copy must be specific for mobile. Shorter, snappier messaging is more successful than ads that use all of the available characters. 

You also want to make your advertisements as clear as possible so that consumers know they will be able to book a table for dinner, cinema tickets, or even flight when they click on your ad. 

Customising creative to the browsing device, for example putting the words “iPhone” or “Android” in the creative text has also demonstrated better click-through-rates— just be sure that you set the device targeting parameters to match the messaging.

Focus on local offers

With separate mobile paid search campaigns, you can now begin to focus on the mobile experience for your customer. Consider how consumer intent for mobile users might vary from your traditional desktop browser. 

Are mobile searchers looking for a special deal on a product?  If so, you can use location and click-to-call extension to provide that information directly in the search results. As well as providing additional information, local offers or coupons placed directly within ads provide further encouragement for in-person conversions.

Mobile search may still represent a small amount of overall spend, but it’s crucial that marketers get ahead of the trend. With the use of mobile devices growing, mobile needs to not only be considered, but must be a significant part of campaign development.

With so many consumers looking to make the most from their handsets while out and about, advertisers are missing a trick if they neglect mobile search.

Ed Stevenson

Published 10 August, 2011 by Ed Stevenson

Ed Stevenson is Managing Director (Europe) of Marin Software, a paid search technology firm, and a contributor to Econsultancy. He also writes the Big Search blog. 

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