Tips for managing mobile search campaigns

Although the mighty desktop SERP will remain the dominant arena for marketers to compete upon in search for the next several years, search queries flowing in from smartphones and tablets will soon overtake it, with forecasters projecting the transition point somewhere between 2014 and 2016. Search-related mobile advertising revenues are projected to rise proportionally, from $400 million in 2011 to $3.2 billion in 2016.

While no one doubts the long-term trends, many marketers have been slow to make the transition to a mobile-centric world. Here are five tips designed to help them come up to speed.

Create unique KPIs for mobile campaigns

Because mobile users behave differently, convert differently, and have different informational needs (multiple studies state that almost half of mobile search queries have local intent), it's best not to hold them to the same benchmarks as desktop and tablet campaigns. Forcing your mobile campaign to conform to a traditional desktop-based PPC campaign might result in under-spending and loss of mobile search market share of voice.

Separate mobile and desktop/notebook campaigns

It's possible that the same ad copy that performs well on a desktop/notebook campaign will win on a mobile device. But the results might be very different, and it's best to give your team maximum flexibility when creating and testing creative for mobile. The same goes for bidding strategies. CTR and conversion rates are lower on smartphones and tablets. The competitive landscape is also very different both because there are fewer marketers bidding for positions and because mobile SERPs cannot provide the kind of commercial real estate available, thus rewarding winners over also-rans in the auction.

(Update: Google recently announced that it would soon remove the ability of advertisers to set mobile-specific bids as well as target specific mobile devices and carriers. These changes are expected to go into effect in mid 2013.)

Use click-to-call ad extensions

Google's AdWords call extensions provide a click-to-call option that can distinguish your campaign. According to multiple studies, more than 50 percent of mobile searches result in a phone call. According to Google, correct implementation of click-to-call can result in conversion rate improvements of 6 to 8 percent.

Create mobile-specific landing pages

Although destination pages viewed on tablets are often as usable as those on desktop/notebook screens, smartphone usability almost always suffers by comparison. Mobile users have neither the patience nor the bandwidth to tolerate overly verbose sites or those slow to load. Mobile-specific pages can also contain unique calls-to-action targeted at the mobile user (e.g., click-to-call).

Think local

According to Google, up to 50 percent of queries from mobile devices have local intent. This number could be higher because a sizeable percentage of these queries likely occur through apps (such as Maps). Marketers with a local presence or with branch offices will especially benefit from deploying landing pages with specific presentations and offers for this locally minded audience.

Preparing for tomorrow's mobile-centric world isn't difficult, but making the transition correctly might be time consuming for many online marketers, especially because the requirement to maintain device-specific campaigns will entail management costs. Make sure your team and agency are equipped with the necessary skills and tools.

Mark Simon is senior vice president of sales and marketing at Didit.

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