February 13, 2013, 3:21 PM

Nearly a quarter of paid search clicks stem from mobile devices

Big companies allot 18.4% of their search budgets for mobile, Marin Software says.

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Between January and December 2012, search engine marketing firm Marin Software Inc.’s U.S. clients saw their share of Google paid search clicks from mobile devices rise from 14.2% to 23.4%, the firm reveals. In that same period, advertisers increased their share of search budget on mobile devices from 10% to 18.4%, Marin says.

Marin Software studied clients in 13 countries that together manage more than $4 billion in annual paid search spending. The data represents all major industry sectors, including retail, Marin says. Marin’s clients are mainly large advertisers spending upwards of $100,000 per month on paid search; as such, the data is biased toward larger advertisers and may not reflect mobile search trends for small or medium-sized businesses, Marin adds. The company declined to break out the number of clients in the U.S.

The average paid search ad click-through rate for Marin Software’s U.S. clients in 2012 was 2.28% on desktop computers, 4.72% on smartphones and 3.12% on tablets, Marin reports.

The average paid search ad cost per click for Marin’s U.S. clients in 2012 was 75 cents for desktop computers, 48 cents for smartphones, and 62 cents for tablets.

The average paid search ad conversion rate for Marin’s U.S. clients in 2012 was 3.9% on desktop computers, 2.8% on smartphones and 3.3% on tablets.

“It’s important to note that conversion rates for tablet devices are improving relative to desktops and smartphones,” Marin Software says. “During 2012, tablets saw a 31% increase in conversion rates, compared to 9% for smartphones and 7% for computers.”

Though smartphones underperformed on conversion rates, more research is warranted on their role in paid search, the marketing firm says.

“Being inherently mobile, smartphones are used differently and many conversions may be happening in a physical store, making them hard to track,” the company says. “Additionally, the rise of shopping apps makes conversion tracking more complex and somewhat opaque. As such, the value of smartphone advertising is more dependent on the type of advertiser and product, and marketers should keep an open mind about their efficacy.”

The distinction between tablets and desktop computers, however, disappeared earlier this month when Google began lumping tablets in with desktops in the way it offers paid search ads. The only distinction Google now allows advertisers to make is between smartphones and desktops (including tablets).

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