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For some reason mobile users are not interested in your pay per click campaign.

Or at least that’s what you had to conclude after reviewing your analytics. You had seen success on desktop devices with pay per click and decided it was time reach users on their mobile devices. How could you not? You read over and over how mobile is beginning to overtake desktops as the preferred method of search on the Internet. You know you need to reach users where they are, and increasingly that is mobile devices.

You increased your mobile bids in your AdWords campaign and began to wait. Days went by and waiting was all you accomplished. No conversions, and very few clicks.

Now you are confused. The very same ads you had optimized to the point of perfection on desktop are now striking out on mobile. You begin to wonder what about mobile pay per click is so different from desktop pay per click? Why do your desktop campaigns not work on mobile?

There is something about mobile advertising you have missed.

You Can’t Just Move Your Desktop Campaigns To Mobile

As a smart PPC advertiser you have some campaigns that perform well on desktop devices. You have found the correct targeting – keyword – ad- landing page – value proposition offer. I commend you on that, because I know from experience that it takes hard work to get a campaign to perform. However, if you simply add mobile to a desktop campaign without crafting your advertising to the users mobile search intent you will fail. You will find that you not only will you have a low conversion rate, your click through rate will also drop significantly.

Mobile Users Have Different Search Intent Than Desktop Users

Often, the very act of using a mobile device means the user has different search intent than they do on a desktop device. When I discuss search intent, I define it as the information the user wants to receive from their search query and the way they want it presented. On mobile devices the user is looking for information that is action based, local and mobile optimized.

As an example, if a user performs the search query Chinese Food on a desktop they may have search intent of looking for a restaurant for dinner that delivers later. They will want the information presented in a way that is suited for a desktop device. This can include large amounts of text such as menus, images like slideshows of the food, and even a form to reserve a table. On a mobile device a user may perform the very same search query Chinese Food and their search intent may be completely different. They are probably trying to find a place immediately around them (local) that they can go to satisfy their hunger (action based) and want it presented in a way that is easy to understand on their mobile device (mobile optimized). The mobile user wants information presented in a way that allows them to quickly find hours and locations with an easily accessible phone number to call to make a reservation. Since mobile users have different search intent they respond to your advertising differently.

Craft Your Advertising To Match The Mobile Searchers Intent In A Way That Is Optimized For Mobile Devices

Now that you understand how search intent is different on mobile devices, it should be evident that you need to craft advertising specifically for mobile searches. This advertising provides the information the user wants and presents it in a way that is optimized for a mobile device.


Step One: Get In Your User’s Head

This step takes imagination and empathy, but you can do it! Think about the search query from the mobile users point of view to uncover what information they hope to receive and how they want it presented. As a marketer you need to answer these questions before starting a mobile pay per click campaign. You could do this via a brainstorming session where you create user stories (this article has a good summary of user stories), or you could invite users into the office and talk to them. Either way it is vital to understand mobile searches from the users perspective.

Step Two: Think about your mobile specific conversions

On a desktop campaign, conversion tracking is easier because conversions generally take place online. However, tracking mobile specific conversion can be difficult. According to Search Engine Land  about half of all smartphone searches resulted in an offline visit to the store. This means that the user didn’t make a purchase online, but your mobile ad is still effective because it got the user into the store where (hopefully!) they make a purchase. There are a variety of ways to track mobile conversions, none of them are perfect though:

  • You could have a coupon that is only available via the online ad.
  • You could ask the customer how they found out about the store at checkout.
  • When they call from an AdWords call extension you can find out the customers information and track them through your sales pipeline.

Whatever you choose to do for mobile conversion tracking, it is important to track these conversions as accurately as possible.

Step Three: Give The User The Information That They Want In The Way They Want It

Now that you understand why your searcher is performing their search query on a mobile device, and you know your conversion metric, it is time to provide the user with the information they want in a mobile optimized format. AdWords gives you some great options to optimize you campaigns for both the searchers intent as well as the actual device. Here are some tactics I have seen success with in the past:

  • Have a mobile optimized offer – Mobile users do not want to read your 25-page whitepaper! Offer that on desktop and not mobile. Offer your mobile users action based offers like coupons and the ability to call your business for a discount.
  • Make sure that you have a mobile optimized landing page – Your landing page should be lightweight and look good on mobile devices. This may seem like a common sense thing, but many companies do not have a mobile optimized page and send users to a page which doesn’t really work with mobile devices. These companies are essentially paying customers to come to their site and leave.
  • Use call extensionsCall extensions are ad extensions that provide users the ability to call your company from the SERP. AdWords allows you to tracks these calls and you can set the length of the call as a conversion goal. For example, I had a client and we determined based on their business data that a 30 second call was a marketing qualified lead so a phone call that lasted 30 seconds became our mobile conversion metric.

As a bonus, if for some reason you are unable to make a mobile optimized page you can simply use call extensions and avoid the need to create a mobile optimized landing page.

  • Use a mobile call to action –Provide users a call to action such as “Call Us Now!” or “Call for More Information” which lets users know what you expect them to do.
  • Use Location Extensions  – Take advantage of the fact that many mobile searches have local intent. Use these extensions to show customers your exact address and get them in the door.

Step Four: Optimize

You begin to receive data as your ads run, and it is important to not just “set it and forget”. Split test your ads and offers to see which have the best return on ad spend. Continuously performing optimization is one of the best ways to both improve your campaigns as well as understand your mobile users.

Adam Lundquist (@adamlundquist) is the CEO of Nerds Do It Better a Philadelphia based Internet advertising company. He was Santa Barbara’s #1 Morning Show Host, an Army soldier, and recently a Harvard graduate. Adam cuts through the marketing noise to create pay per click campaigns with clear business oriented goals and objectives. He has been featured in The Harvard Gazette, Search Engine Journal, PPC Hero, e-Junkie, Mtv, Vh1, Sports Illustrated, and Moz.


Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

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