Search Beyond the PC: It’s Time to Mobilize

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Search Beyond the PC: It’s Time to Mobilize

Search Beyond the PC: It’s Time to MobilizeMy wife and I haven’t watched TV in roughly two years, even though we sit on the couch in front of the set for about an hour each night. While I wish I could say we’re too engaged in conversations about art or politics to pay attention to what’s on TV, the truth is she is on her iPhone playing Solitaire or looking for toys for our kids. Meanwhile, I’m on my tablet looking up information on whatever show we’re supposedly watching or searching for toys for me.

Though I’m slightly embarrassed by my inability to be entertained by just one thing at a time, I’m certainly not alone.

According to Google’s Our Mobile Planet, 52% of smartphone users watch TV programs while using their smartphones, and Nielsen reports that 88% of U.S. tablet owners use their devices at least once a month while watching TV. Of course, people are also using their mobile devices while dining in restaurants, waiting for buses, and driving their cars (a bad thing).

This emergence of always-on, on-the-go behavior is important for digital marketers because it means the portion of overall searches coming from smartphones and tablets is growing. For instance, mobile searches can account for up to 30% of all brand searches for the clients of digital agency 360i. Given the enormous importance of brand terms, that figure alone is enough to attract attention.

But here’s what should really keep us up at night: one-third of smartphone users reported that using their mobile devices as shopping aids has made them change their minds about online and offline purchases. In other words, if you aren’t running mobile campaigns, you are losing customers to brands that are.

The threat is obvious, but the opportunity—and how to leverage it—is less so.

Tablets are easier to use, and the people who use them tend to have a higher HHI, which means they convert about as well or even better than PC users. So let’s focus on the challenges affecting mobile campaigns:

  • Consumers tend to find it easier and more secure to purchase via their PC. This is a problem if you’re focused on ROI, because it’s difficult to track the sale to the mobile query that led to it.
  • Our clients have seen CTR drop by as much as 90% when dropping from position one to position two. This means there is very little flexibility in optimizing bids.
  • With the growth of smartphone and tablet searches, you now have to run three accounts that require their own strategies and tactics using limited resources.
  • In the absence of provable ROI, it’s difficult to justify investing precious marketing dollars into a mobile program.

Addressing these challenges will take a blend of technology, strategy, brain power, and hard work (Sorry!):

  • If you have tracking limitations, you can heavy up in test markets to see if the extra spend results in incremental sales online and/or offline. Also, we at 360i are trying out new router-based solutions that allow for passive tracking, which is great for drive-to-store initiatives.
  • The average-rank question is tough. You’ll need to do your keyword research to have the best possible coverage, and then fine-tune your bid optimizations to ensure the maximum volume and efficiency allowed by your budget. Running creative tests can improve your CTR, which can lower your CPCs due to improvements in Quality Score.
  • You can ease the burden on your resources by being fanatical about account structure. Although it takes hard work up front, well-structured accounts are easier to manage. Also, all that research you did to find the right keyword mix will help you understand the size of the opportunity in smartphones and tablets, which will help you allocate your time appropriately across media. You may be tempted to save time by running Google-only campaigns, but that could be a mistake. For instance, Yahoo! is nearly on par with Google in terms of mobile-Internet users. By broadening your reach, you increase your ability to optimize.
  • If you can’t commit budget to mobile because of ROI limitations, look at the organic data to find what keywords are working well and test them in paid. Bidding on brand terms will offer up insights into your customers’ mobile behavior and likely have an acceptable ROI. You can also define your KPIs using more mobile-focused actions like click-to-call and store locator. Finally, consider spreading the budget across e-commerce, mobile, and branding, because, as we’ve seen, people are looking for your brand on their phones. You want people who are actively seeking out your brand to have a positive experience.

Every brand has its own dynamics so the ideas above may not exactly apply to you. Hopefully, though, it is clear that even with all the limitations, it is possible to run a successful mobile campaign. One crucial thing to remember is that no matter how smart your strategy, sophisticated your technology, or clever your people, you won’t succeed if your mobile site doesn’t provide a great user experience.

Until recently, it may not have been worth the trouble to craft individual mobile and tablet strategies, but that time has passed. The number of people searching on smartphones and tablets is growing at an accelerated pace. Before you jump into the market though, define your objective, optimize your site to meet that objective, and have a clear strategy to drive targeted visitors to that site, wherever they may be searching.

We couch potatoes will reward you. I promise.


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Jason Hartley

Jason Hartley is Associate Media Director at digital agency 360i. His specialty is in retail SEM.

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