July 24, 2012, 1:06 PM

How to make mobile paid search pay off

One search marketing executive offers tips for making the most of mobile paid search.

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More consumers are buying smartphones. 49% of U.S. adult men in February 2012 owned a smartphone, up from 39% in May 2011, Pew finds. 44% of women were smartphone users in February 2012, compared with 31% in May 2011.

As a growing number of consumers use their phones to access the web, more are using their phones to search the web as well. Google predicts mobile search will surpass desktop search at some point between 2014 and 2015. And it seems more marketers are noticing the trend. Mobile advertising revenues grew by 149% over 2010 to $1.6 billion, according to a 2011 IAB report.

Udayan Bose, founder and CEO of NetElixir Inc., a search marketing agency, says many digital marketers struggle to understand how mobile search advertising works and how to effectively harness it. He offers retailers some tips for getting the most out of mobile paid search.

For example, he says it’s important for retailers to bid on shorter keywords for mobile than for desktop. Mobile users typically enter fewer words, and search query length is 30% less on mobile than on desktop. Bose says the most successful mobile campaigns use broad matching and more general keywords to capture relevant traffic. That’s because a consumer is more likely to search for “red sweater” on a mobile device, whereas on a PC she might type into the search box “red 100% cotton sweater.”

Bose also suggests using a using a short, attention-grabbing call-to-action phrase. “Your ad text can dramatically influence your ad's click-through and conversion rates, so make it catchy,” he says. For example, he suggests not only highlighting promotions, but also their end dates. For example, an ad might read “30% off all winter boots. Ends 10/30!”

Another mobile search tip that store retailers can use is to implement click to call or click to map in mobile search. This enables consumers who are out and about to easily find a store location or call a store if they have questions. Bose says many smartphone users are not at home when they are searching. Instead, they are using their smartphones to find local stores and services and often times a mobile search leads to an offline purchase. “The search process that may have started on smartphone may end with a purchase from a neighboring store,” Bose says. To track store purchases originating from a mobile search, retailers may want to link their search ads to an online coupon that can be redeemed in store.

"Ad extensions like click to call, local extensions and user reviews bolster the listing credibility and increase click through rates and eventually conversion rates," Bose says. "Many advertisers do not use ad extensions effectively and as a result fail to maximize their mobile search advertising performance."

Bose points out other differences between mobile  and desktop search. Mobile search ads have higher click-through rates, he says. This, he says, this could be because search engines typically only display one or two paid search listings on mobile screens while they present  many more ads on search results pages that consumers view on PCs.  

On the other hand, mobile search ads have lower conversion rates. This may be because many search advertisers still do not have mobile web sites. “This is the biggest culprit for low conversion rates,” Bose says.  “The mobile searcher gets frustrated with the on-site navigation and abandons the site.” Another reason relatively few consumers buy as a direct result of a search is that their reason for searching may be to find a store or its hours, and not to make a purchase.

 But because consumers are spending so much more time on mobile devices, advertisers will inevitably spend more to reach them via mobile search, Bose says. “Mobile search advertising is poised for explosive growth,” he says. “Retail marketers that invest adequate efforts to understand the mobile consumer and are able to test and establish strategies that work can ride this huge wave and see their e-commerce revenues soar.”

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