How to Run Profitable Tablet-Focused PPC Search Campaigns

Tablet devices are not mobile devices in the same way that a smartphone is a mobile device. From a click quality and search query standpoint, tablet browsing behavior is more similar to desktop and laptop search behavior. This means that you may want to set up a campaign specifically targeting those devices, either en masse or even specifically for the growing iPad user marketplace.

There’s some good news in regard to targeting tablets in search. In case you hadn’t noticed, Google made an important change to its campaign settings options recently. Previously, tablet device settings were buried under the mobile options. Now, your three device categories are as follows:

  1. Desktop and laptop computers
  2. Mobile devices with full browsers
  3. Tablets with full browsers

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s adCenter interface still has only the following two device options: target desktops and laptops, and target smartphones and other mobile devices with full browsers. (Of course, right now, the amount you spend on adCenter may not be large enough to warrant a tablet only-campaign.)

I continue to be amazed by the number of accounts I look at, after getting a new client or even during prospect discussions, where the original settings for devices have never been altered from the default “All Available Devices (recommended for new advertisers),” a state which of course results in a comingling of clicks from all devices. This is not smart, because users of some devices may not transact with the same frequency as others. This situation causes measured conversion rates to be brought down and may result in you having lowered bids on one or more important keywords, thereby missing opportunities.

One place to start when evaluating the opportunity in tablet traffic is your existing analytics for organic and (if your campaigns are set to “all devices”) your paid traffic. What percentage of your organic traffic comes from each of the tablet devices? If your overall traffic numbers from tablet devices are in the double digits, then continue with your analysis. Evaluate what the relative positive behavior metrics are for the tablets as a whole and for the iPad in particular. If your particular industry and business is like many others, you may find that iPad and tablet traffic converts better than smartphone traffic but perhaps not as well as desktop/laptop traffic.

If your tablet metrics look good and your tablet traffic volume opportunities are sufficiently large to justify targeting the tablet audience, you need to determine whether your conversion and profit metrics for tablets are better or worse than for desktops. In addition, ask yourself if there is some different way you want to treat (market to and communicate to) your tablet audience. For example, should your buy-flow and registration forms be simpler for tablet users because they have less usable keyboards, or because they may spend less time on these devices than a desktop user?

Once you’ve determined whether or not you need a different site-side experience for your tablet audience and you know that the tablet audience converts well enough, you must decide whether or not to clone all the campaigns in your account, a single campaign, or just some Ad Groups within certain campaigns. To help you make this decision, take a look at the tablet-specific keyword volume available within those campaigns and Ad Groups, either because you have it in your analytics or use the Google Keyword Tool (which unfortunately, as of this writing, still lags behind the AdWords interface and comingles all “mobile with full Internet browser” traffic together).

Once you’ve cloned the Ad Groups or campaigns (consider using the AdWords editor or a campaign management solution), set the device targeting appropriately to “tablets,” and then consider adding some different tablet-specific ad creative. Google will auto-rotate the new ads into the mix and auto-optimize for the highest CTR (unless you override the default settings).

After going live with your tablet campaign, manage your bids using best practices given your industry category. Obviously, cloning campaigns to target such devices increases the need to automate bid management if you aren’t already using a system to manage bids. If your business uses simple conversion metrics, you may want to use Google to manage bids using its Conversion Optimizer.

The same process outlined above can also be used to target and market to smartphone users in a separate campaign. So, if your smartphone conversion data also suggests a separate campaign (perhaps with lower CPC bids), then go though the same process above and clone the campaigns as necessary to target the smartphone user. If you have offerings specific to a device, you can even go down to the device level, for example, targeting iPhone, iPad, and/or Android users.

The ubiquity of connectivity increases our opportunities as marketers to reach our target audience while simultaneously making our campaigns more complex. This represents a tradeoff, and you’ll have to use your data to help you decide on the right balance. Remember to recheck your data every six months because the tablet and smartphone user base is growing.

This column was originally published Sept 2, 2011.

Related reading

Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.