Search and performance marketing agency Performics says that among its aggregate client base 14.2% of all Google search clicks come from mobile devices. Given the velocity of mobile growth and the patterns seen last year during the holiday gift searching season, the company is projecting that in December mobile paid search will account for 17.3% of all search clicks. The company also says that mobile search needs to be planned differently, by considering the multiple platforms on which people will see results.
Describing the search patterns seen last year in a company blog post, Senior Analyst James Beveridge and Research Associate Cristina Lucero say that mobile search share often drops in November simply because of the volume of desktop searches around Black Friday. But as shoppers get beyond the final days before the holidays, when shipping from mail order and online vendors is no longer feasible, mobile usage is expected to spike as people hunt for local brick-and-mortar sources. The unknown element this year is tablet use, where people are known to search actively for goods. Performics says that tablets’ share of mobile search has risen from 34.4% in August to 35.8% in September.
The good news for marketers is that mobile search remains cheap, with much lower CPCs than standard paid search. “Average mobile clicks are currently 53% less expensive than computer clicks,” the Performics analysts write.
Beveridge tells me that keyword planning and buying on mobile has emerged as a discrete discipline. “Mobile paid search campaigns should be managed completely independently of computer paid search programs,” he says. “Advertisers leveraging mobile paid search should leverage different keyword selection, bid management and other portfolio management strategies.”
The brutal reality of mobile search: there just isn’t much hope for results that don’t fall on that first screen. Beveridge says that marketers should be bidding on that top spot on smartphones when it comes to “mission-critical keywords.” But tablets now put yet another wrinkle into the search game. Not quite mobile and not quite desktop, tablet-based searchers are, not surprisingly, showing signs of browsing results in a way that smartphone users don’t. “So it's possible for a brand not to have to run in top position to achieve high visibility,” says Beveridge. “ The difference in bidding strategy is one reason why smartphone and tablet campaigns need to be broken out and managed separately.“
Performics says that a day-to-day comparison of mobile search levels between last year and this year shows significantly more activity on mobile this year. Even before we close in on Black Friday, mobile click share has remained fairly steady at around 17%. Last year mobile search clicks escalated in that final week before Christmas and got downright frantic in the closing days.
Beveridge says that the 100 or so advertisers included in this survey of clients focused on Google placements only and included retail, lead-gen, auto, insurance, CPG, healthcare and financial categories. One imagines that teasing out just the retail piece here would have rendered even more dramatic mobile search spikes.
Timing is everything, too, when it comes to synchronizing strategies across the multiple search platforms. As Johanna Werther of Google demonstrated at Tuesday’s OMMA Mobile, the flow of relative usage across platforms is markedly different device to device. The steady use of desktop throughout the workday starts to decline slightly as prime time moves in, but both mobile and especially tablet spike considerably in those last two hours of the day. With an enormous number of mobile users second-screening during the prime time TV viewing period, the next great oppor-challenge for digital marketers will be finding ways to capture this activity.
And of course having a good keyword strategy for mobile search is wasted if the post-click experience is poor. Werther showed Compuware stats that should be pasted on every search marketer’s display. With 79% of large online advertisers still not having a mobile-optimized site, consumer will vote against them with their clicks and conversions (or lack thereof). About 40% of consumers say they are likely to visit a competitor’s site with a better mobile experience if an advertiser disappoints them on the landing page. And more than half say they are more likely to purchase from a mobile-optimized site. Well, of course. Mobile-friendly sites are key to raising confidence in m-commerce among consumers. If retailers aren’t taking the mobile experience seriously enough to optimize for it, then why should their customers?