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Rising mobile paid-search volumes accelerate the need to address fragmentation issues, according to agencies.

Mobile paid search volumes surged 49% in the fourth quarter of last year, accounting for 12% of all UK paid search clicks in December, according to Marin Software’s latest UK Online Advertising report.

The report, which analyses data from 1,000 advertisers and agencies, that collectively spend over $2.7bn (£1.8bn) annually on biddable media via Marin’s platform, revealed the majority of paid-search spend (92.5%) is still allocated to desktop, with smartphones and tablets accounting for 7.5%.

However, the number of consumers searching via smartphone and tablet devices outstrips the amount agencies are spending on the medium, according to the report, with mobile click share at 12% and spend share at 7.5%. Desktop search volumes are growing faster than budget allocation, which in turn is leading to less expensive clicks on mobile campaigns, according to Marin.

Paid search click-through rates rose 24% across all devices during the fourth quarter, while cost-per-clicks dropped 5% year on year.

The rise in mobile searches has come as no surprise to agencies, although some believe the growth will render fragmentation issues more problematic. Bigmouthmedia’s head of media innovation Andrew Girdwood said fragmentation issues are still barriers to higher mobile paid search spend.

“Google in particular is under pressure to sort out fragmentation across its Android platform,” he said. “Then if you are buying outside of the Google ecosystem, it’s even more fragmented with Microsoft and Nokia’s products, along with those of all the smaller mobile ad vendors, which ultimately undermines the efficiency of mobile ad spend.”

Marin Software VP of marketing and partnerships Matt Lawson said the report showed the highest budget allocation to mobile devices ever, but that mobile search ad spend still “lags” behind user adoption of devices.

Jellyfish planning and strategy director Matt Owen (right) agreed brands are not capitalising on the opportunities presented by mobile search. “From a planning point of view, brands are being too slow to react to the consumer demand that’s there,” he said. “They need to be more aggressive about their mobile search strategies and try and own that space.”  

Owen said digital marketers must ensure they allocate test budgets to really understand how the different mobile channels operate, and drill down into how consumer behaviour when searching across mobile devices differs from desktop search.

However, Mediacom’s regional head of operations Rob Weatherhead (pictured) warned against all brands presuming they must increase investment in mobile paid search spend based on general industry-wide reports.

“Mobile has matured to the point that everyone should take note of it, but it is very much an industry-specific area,” he said. “If you drill into these figures by sector, we would be seeing very different numbers. For example, an individual is unlikely to buy their car insurance via a mobile handset, whereas searching for travel destinations and information is an area that lends itslef well to mobile searching.”

He also stressed the importance of separating mobile and tablet device strategies, adding that the rising adoption of the latter makes this increasingly important. “It’s vital not to group mobile and tablet devices together both in reports like these and with individual strategies because consumers behave so differently on each and expect different things from each,” he said. “An interesting development this year will be agencies distinguishing more about how people interact on each mobile and tablet devices as the two become more and more separate.” 

Media Contact’s head of mobile James Tag also believes budget must be allocated to experimentation in mobile search. “Brands need to start investigating how to use mobile search best, exactly the same way they are in mobile display, and testing different strategies,” he said. “The conditions are favourable – there are higher click-through rates on mobile and it’s less expensive, so why wouldn’t you want to get involved?”

Meanwhile, Steak’s head of search Gareth Owen (pictured) said the increases in mobile search traffic reflect positively on TV ad creativity and effectiveness. “With devices within hand’s reach in the lounge, consumers are acting on ads straight away, with brands seeing a direct correlation between TV campaigns and brand searches on mobile devices, especially in the evenings,” he said.

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Published 18 January, 2012 by NMA Staff

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