Mobile vs. Desktop: The Case for Switching up Your SEM Strategy

Searching on your smartphone and searching on your desktop computer are wildly different experiences. Are you scrolling to see what catches your eye, researching something specific, or just browsing?

Where you go, what you look for, and what you buy is unique to the device you’re using, which is why it’s a mistake for online marketers to treat these platforms the same way. Of course you need a mobile-optimized website, and you need a different mobile marketing strategy, too.

When you optimize SEM campaigns the same way for desktop and mobile users, you run the risk of alienating one or both of your target audiences. The best practices for mobile SEM differ wildly from desktop best practices because users’ search intent and behavior are different, and you need to manage SEM campaigns for two different experiences.

4 Ways to Tailor Your Campaigns

The mobile search experience is different than the desktop search experience because mobile users are looking for different things.

  • Mobile users tend to use search as a research tool for future purchases.
  • One in three mobile searches have local intent (versus one in five on desktop).
  • Mobile users often look for a local map listing or a phone number for a physical store or customer service line. They’re curious if your store is open or if you have a product they’re looking for in stock.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that desktop users aren’t looking for your store or phone number, but these searches are definitely less frequent. The better you understand what users are looking for on which devices, the better you can optimize your campaign.

Here are a few smart ways to tailor your SEM campaigns for different search experiences:
1.     Optimize differently. The search engine results page on a mobile device is much, much smaller, which means results beyond the top one or two positions are essentially off the page. You’ll see a better ROI optimizing for these top positions on mobile because desktop users are more likely to see lower listings, where traffic is cheaper.

2.     Consider your call-to-action. For most SEM campaigns, your goal is to convert a user either with a purchase or a completed lead. But customers often use their mobile device to find your store’s nearest location, check prices, or find your phone number. For mobile, the best call-to-action is often encouraging people to call now or find the nearest location.

3.     Optimize your landing page. Best practices for landing pages are very different for mobile and desktop devices. For desktop, it’s most important to present information intuitively and logically. Mobile experiences depend on clarity too, but the most important consideration is simple: Can users navigate the page with just one thumb? Forcing users to pinch, zoom and juggle between hands makes using your site work, which means fewer conversions.

4.     Track the correct metrics. For desktop campaigns, running the numbers is pretty straightforward: You measure orders, e-commerce revenue, and completed leads. For mobile campaigns, you still track these desktop metrics, but there are also several “micro conversions” that tell a more complete story. Micro conversions usually include hits for your store-locator page, phone calls, and other indications that a user could eventually convert.

Taking Control in 2014
Nearly half of consumers use their mobile device as their primary research tool, and mobile is only going to continue to grow in 2014. Online marketers can’t afford to lump mobile and desktop users together and lose out on the opportunity to connect with their customers.

If your brand doesn’t have a mobile marketing strategy, you risk losing out to brands that understand users’ search behavior. Start today, take control, and optimize your SEM searches to reach users where they’re at.

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