Mobile Search 101: Ins and Outs of Mobile Search

Within weeks into 2011, the search community has become frantic about jumping on the mobile search bandwagon in Asia Pacific. According to the latest Asia Pacific Search Behavior Study released by my agency in October 2010, a whopping 79 percent of respondents indicate they have performed searches on their mobile device. Fifty percent of respondents indicate that their use of mobile search has become more important in 2010. China, Thailand, India, and South Korea led the study by having the highest percentage of mobile search users. This is driven by the fact that in those countries, mobile phone penetrations tend to be higher than regular landlines, in part due to local government initiatives to encourage the development of mobile services in rural areas. Mobile phone penetration rate in many APAC countries have surpassed that of desktop/laptop computers, making the mobile phone become the primary way for people to access Internet.

Running mobile search campaigns is not new to many advertisers; especially Google AdWords have made it so easy for you to opt in to mobile search by simply checking a box in the Setting tab to enable their ads to be shown on mobile devices. Many would assume that advertisers could reap the benefits of enabling their ads on mobile devices in no time. Unfortunately, in reality, many who tested mobile search campaigns last year saw dismay results. So, what went terribly wrong in their campaigns?

In desktop/laptop searches, people perform a variety of search functions, ranging from information gathering and sharing, product reviews and price comparisons, to making actual purchases or conversions online. According to a mobile search study by OneUpWeb, when people are on-the-go using mobile search, there are two types of users: Need-it-now shoppers who are very close to conversions because of time sensitivity; Killing-time shoppers who are further up in the conversion cycle and are simply gathering information to kill time during waiting. Because of these differences, simply duplicating the same set of keywords and ad copies from your search campaign to run on mobile devices simply won’t work. You would end up having terrible click-through-rate (CTR), low conversion rate, and high cost per acquisition (CPA).

However, there are ways to launch your mobile search campaign properly to monetise the mobile search traffic. To dramatically improve the performance of your mobile search campaigns, you should consider the following steps:

1. Create a stand-alone mobile search campaign.
Yes, that little check box to enable mobile search in Google AdWords is very tempting. However, its easiness is also its own curse! You should create a separate mobile search campaign so that you can have better control over your keywords, ad copies, budget, as well as landing page selections.

2. Create a new keyword list.
Because of the on-the-go nature, mobile users tend to use shorter search terms when performing searches. Therefore, your typical long-tail keyword strategy may not work very well when it comes to mobile search. In addition, majority share of mobile searches are local in nature. Therefore, you should think of creating a keyword list that can connect mobile searchers quickly to their desired results without an additional click. For example, if someone types in Hong Kong Buffet [Location term + search phrase], your ad should speak exactly about Hong Kong buffet and take people to your buffet page, rather than trying to create an ad copy talking about your restaurant offering and driving them to a page listing all of your restaurants.

3. Ensure your ad copy is optimized for local search.
As stated previously, since local search is a big component of mobile search, it is essential for you to create very tight location specific ad groups, with ad copies specifying the offering closest to the mobile searchers’ physical locations. For example, if someone searches for Manhattan Pizza Delivery, your ad should specifically talk about your local offering in Manhattan and enable AdWords extension features such as click-to-call and Google map results. If you don’t have a physical store presence, you should enable site link extensions and drive mobile searchers deeper into your site so that the conversion is only one click away after landing on your page.

4. Ensure that landing pages are optimized for mobile platforms.
Nowadays, many advertiser websites are heavy in Flash for aesthetic reasons. You may have noticed that Google AdWords specifically allows you to select the type of mobile devices (even mobile carriers) that you can target for your mobile search campaigns. There is a reason for it. I have come across advertisers who enable their ads on iPhone but once you click on the ad, it takes searchers to an almost full-Flash page that iPhone users basically can’t see. They end up wasting their money and mobile searchers are frustrated with the website mobile usability. Therefore, if most of your landing page content is in Flash and your site cannot automatically detect non-Flash browsers and drive them to the HMTL version of your site, you should only enable your ads on non-iPhone full HTML Web browser devices such as Androids. You should even create a separate mobile ad campaign targeting iPhone users by taking them to a non-Flash landing page.

Ideally, you would have a mobile website that you can drive users to after they click on your ads. Mobile website is a lot cleaner and easier to navigate compared to your standard website. If you take a look at some examples of mobile websites , you would see that the mobile website usually present the information in a much more concise and simplified format to cater to the usage pattern of mobile users (small screens, harder to type, download time, and mobile data charges etc.).

5. Determine your mobile search campaign KPIs.
Following up on my previous column here on determining an appropriate KPI for your campaign, when evaluating your mobile search campaign KPIs, you may want to focus less on the time on site but rather on the CPA/CPL or whatever conversion metrics that you are measuring. To justify the spending on mobile search campaigns, many clients are first targeting the Need-it-now group, rather than the Killing-time shoppers.

Hopefully, by following the rules stated above, you will start seeing a profitable return on your mobile search campaigns!

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