In a previous column, we covered the ways in which you can get your native mobile apps discovered using Paid, Earned, and Owned media. But what about your mobile website?
If you’ve built a mobile site and put redirects in place, your content will stand a good change of getting found via mobile search traffic — assuming, of course, that your desktop site is search optimized as well. If it is, odds are it will rank highly on mobile devices and your mobile site can simply piggyback on this search equity via the redirect.
But you can’t depend on this scenario alone. “If you build, it they will come” isn’t a guarantee in any kind of marketing, let alone mobile. More and more users are searching for and engaging with brands on their smartphones. Search engine marketing (SEM), display and other forms of mobile advertising play a big role in making this happen.
Today, lets start by taking a look at the basics of mobile SEM, the first and most essential form of mobile advertising that most of us will engage in.
Mobile SEM Fundamentals
Most mobile searches still flow through mobile browsers and native app versions of Google, Yahoo!, and Bing (at least here in the U.S.A). Right now, Google dominates the US market, owning 96.9% of mobile web searches as of May 2012, according to web analytics service StatCounter, which makes the mobile search landscape familiar territory for most of us. Mobile SEM will be highly important to you if:
- You’re a brick-and-mortar business
- You drive leads, subscriptions, or direct sales that can be executed over the phone
- You are distributing native mobile apps
- Your content and offers are time sensitive
- You are doing local marketing of any kind
Essentially, if you are looking to drive certain types of conversions via mobile, SEM will be your primary, go-to solution.
But take note that these conversions don’t necessarily involve ecommerce. Ask any SEM professional who has explored mobile and they will tell you that actual online purchase on smartphones still lag behind the desktop and, especially, tablets. While tablet users are making mobile purchases in high numbers, smartphones support shopping in a different way, leading to information that supports the customer experience, helps qualify purchase decisions, and leads to in-store transactions.
That’s not say there are no purchases happening via mobile — clearly there are and smartphone transactions will continue to climb in the next year, but that’s a topic for a whole different column. You simply need to keep in mind what the current strong points of mobile SEM are, as you craft your strategy.
Mobile Search Ad Types
You can place mobile search ads through Google and Bing, but chances are you’re going to focus primarily on Google since it owns the biggest audience. The other engines do matter, of course — Bing, for example, is the default search engine on Blackberry devices, which, despite the hits the platform has taken in the press in the past year, still owns a significant audience. But Google will be your starting point given its volume.
If you’ve ever used AdWords, you’ll see that the Google mobile ad layout is quite familiar — there are slight differences, but it’s mainly the same old search ad format with special options layered in for mobile. While you can target by keyword, there are extra mobile inclusions such as device platform, operating system (OS), and wireless carrier plus old standbys such as language, day parting, and geography. There are also special mobile ad formats that you’ll want to be aware of, including:
• Click-to-call: these ads leverage the fundamental and often forgotten feature of your smartphone — the ability to actually make a call! They show a clickable phone number within the body of the ad, and, according to Google, increase CTR by 6% – 8%.
• Click-to-download: These ads have been specifically crafted to drive downloads of native mobile applications, appearing only on the devices your app is designed for — e.g., an ad for an iPhone app will only appear on iOS devices. The clickable link takes the user directly to the app’s download page in the app store (iTunes or Google Play.)
• App Extensions: this format is a twist on the previous one. Like Click-to-Download, these ads are designed to promote apps but in this case, they target users who already have your app installed, encouraging them to open the app and interact with it. Whereas the previous format drives downloads, this one drives engagement.
• Click-to-offer: This format inserts a special offer or deal into the body of the ad which the users can then redeem online, offline, or send to themselves via text message or email for future redemption. Click-to-Offer has a unique appeal since it can be used to drive online transactions as well as in-store traffic.
• Mobile site links: Like the desktop version, mobile site links are additional, clickable links in the body of your ad that increase the odds of capturing a user’s attention, creating a faster, more efficient path to conversion.
• Local and Hyperlocal extensions: Since 1 in 3 searches on high-end devices have local intent (again, according to Google, and they should know)—location is probably the most effective targeting you can do in mobile search advertising. Local and hyperlocal extensions enable users to find local locations faster and easier by including a phone number and/or a link to a maps application, usually Google Maps.
All the mobile ad formats give you a rich array of options to choose from in driving search traffic to your site (or store!). But there are a few additional things you’ll need to keep in mind in the process:
• Separate mirrored campaigns are a must: many SEMs still run hybrid mobile campaigns by simply opting in for all devices in their main desktop campaign, but that’s a missed opportunity! Separate, mirrored campaigns for smartphones and tablets enable you to take advantage of the unique, aforementioned ad formats and to craft mobile-specific calls-to-action that will be more compelling to these users. Go the extra mile and separate your campaigns out. It’s worth the effort!
• Use Google’s mobile keyword tool: Mobile keywords do differ from the desktop and Google’s free keyword toolbox has mobile options baked in that will help inform your mobile ad strategy.
• Bid to the 1st two positions on a mobile SERP: Smartphone SERPs have only four ad positions at most —two at the top of the page, two at the bottom. It’s not unusual to see CTR drop roughly 90 percent between the first and fourth positions. Long story short—if you aren’t at the top of the page, you may as well not be there at all. Be prepared to bid aggressively at the start, and then manage your budget to maintain high visibility.
• Day-part effectively: Different mobile devices have varying spikes and ebbs in traffic. Smartphones, for example, tend to peak at lunchtime and on weekend days, while tablets rule the evenings all week long. Watching your site analytics will give you sense not only of what platforms your customers are engaging with, but when they are doing it — highly valuable information to feed into your day-parting strategy.
• Send mobile users to mobile content: this probably goes without saying, but in most cases, you will only mobile-optimize a subset of your desktop content. So revisit our first tip above about separate, mirrored campaigns. If you’re simply transferring your desktop SEM campaigns to mobile, you may be driving traffic to areas of your site that aren’t mobile-friendly — which is a waste of time for your customer and reflects poorly on you. Think carefully about the ads you create and where they will lead the user.
The idea of mobilizing your .com content is probably daunting enough and no doubt, having to consider driving traffic all over again might seem overwhelming. But the good news is that for most of us, Google is such familiar territory that it won’t be a scary leap. So, if you’ve been opting-in your desktop campaigns for mobile, stop right now and separate them out.
You can start small. I’d recommend you allocate a percentage of your overall search budget to mobile using your current mobile search traffic as a guide. If you’re seeing 10% of your overall site traffic from mobile devices, then 10% additional spend on top of your current SEM budget is a good place to start.
And remember, that these are the basics—your first starting point in driving mobile traffic. We’ll talk about most advanced options next time around…
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.