What 'Mobile First' Means For Search Marketers

I’m not sure exactly when it happened (my guess is 2011, when smartphone shipments surpassed PCs) but the “Year of Mobile” has officially come and gone. We’re also past the year of “Mobile Too,” in which principles like responsive design dictated our approach to creating experiences that worked for consumers on desktops and mobile devices alike. We’re now in an era of “Mobile-First” thinking, when all marketers must adopt this mantra or (their brands will) perish.

Per comScore, more than 60% of time spent with digital media comes via smartphones and tablets. And we saw nearly 50% of all retail paid search clicks come from mobile devices during the holiday season.



So what does “Mobile First” mean for search marketers? Here are 10 key areas to focus on:

1. Mobile bid adjustments. Google shook up the SEM world in 2013 with its migration to enhanced campaigns. No longer could you manage separate campaigns by device. Instead, the default was to have all devices commingled. You had to set a mobile bid adjustment (MBA) if you wanted to boost or lower your cost-per-click for a certain device.

By now, all search marketers have earned their MBAs -- but the ones who are really moving to the head of the class are able to properly attribute value to each click from each device. During the holidays, we saw phones account for just 13% of all online retail paid search conversions, despite generating 32% of all clicks. But the share of conversions coming from phones was up 225% year-over-year (YoY), showing consumers increasingly willing to transact from their phones. Additionally, tablets drove 15% of all conversions, an increase of 88% in total share YoY.

Beyond direct sales, you must consider the impact of mobile clicks in assisting downstream conversions. Whether it’s finding the closest store or showrooming from the store, phone clicks can lead to latent transactions and must be credited accordingly.

2. Click-to-call and call tracking. Another way mobile paid-search clicks can drive value and sales is when they initiate phone calls. BIA/Kelsey projects that mobile search will generate 73 billion calls to businesses in 2018, up from 30 billion in 2013. Why not make it easy for your customers to connect with you by using call extensions? And why not integrate your call tracking with your paid search software to automatically optimize campaigns based on keywords that are driving the highest quantity and quality calls?

3. Location targeting. Another example of a helpful ad extension is location extensions. For brick-and-mortar businesses, location extensions show your address, phone number and map marker. They can also include a link with directions on mobile. We all remember the old adage that content is king. In a “Mobile First” world, context is king. Knowing where someone is will help you better understand what he or she is looking for when searching. Even if you don’t have a physical business location, you can make important inferences about consumer intent to inform what ad you show, how much you bid, and where you direct traffic. For example, if you sell concert tickets and you see someone is searching for “Madonna” in Chicago (#guilty #sorrynotsorry) you can show them an ad for the appropriate upcoming show.

4. Mobile-friendly landing pages. Do I really even have to point this one out? No? Kewl. But let me just say that it’s even more important since Google started using “mobile-friendly” labels in search results.

5. Apps as destinations. So we all know that having websites optimized for mobile is key -- but “Mobile First” thinking means creating apps as destinations for paid search traffic. This won’t be appropriate for everyone, but many companies can benefit from having an app that consumers can download as a way to drive stickier brand engagement.

6. App-install ads. If you’re one of those companies for which having an app makes sense, you’ll want to leverage app-install ads for user acquisition. From there, be sure you have proper tracking in place to measure in-app actions like purchases so you can gauge full lifetime value (LTV). Better yet, if your paid search platform has a software developer kit (SDK), you can connect in-app actions back to keywords and automatically optimize campaigns based on LTV metrics.

7. Apps for managing campaigns. Another way to leverage apps to help with your paid search is to use an app for campaign management and reporting. If your SEM software offers an app in addition to desktop and Web interfaces, you can untether yourself from your desk and optimize campaigns on the go.

8. In-app search inventory. While we’re still on the app course, consider tapping in-app inventory as another source of quality search traffic. Yahoo recently announced new capabilities for developers to embed search in their apps. Marketers can tap this inventory along with native stream ads through Yahoo Gemini.

9. Premium (non-search) mobile inventory. Along with native, another good source of quality non-search inventory is through real-time bidding (RTB) mobile web ads. If your SEM software connects to premium ad exchanges like MoPub and Nexage, you can easily create and manage mobile display campaigns alongside search.

10. Cross-device tracking. The final piece of the “Mobile First” puzzle is tracking people across devices so you can deliver a consistent brand experience. Alas, the “Year of Seamless Cross-Device Tracking” is not here yet. There have been some great advancements from folks like Atlas and Drawbridge, but there’s still no widely accepted scalable solution. Until then, leverage the leading tools on the market -- ideally by integrating them with your paid search software so you can have a full picture and use the data to fuel campaign optimizations.

1 comment about "What 'Mobile First' Means For Search Marketers ".
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  1. Frank Watson from Kangamurra Media, March 11, 2015 at 11:43 a.m.

    Great article Aaron - thanks for the info

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