Mobile performance has been on everyone’s minds the past few years, and everyone knows that smartphone click-through rates have been trumping desktop and tablet click-through rates for some time. But just how important is ad position for marketers looking to capture the attention of their audience? We took a look at click-through rates by ad position to examine just how important this is. The data we examined consists of a large sample set of all Marin US clients.
By examining click-through rates, we can already see that position #1 for smartphones is much more important than that of desktops. Surprisingly, tablets show a similar trend to smartphones, even though they use the same SERP format as desktops. Upon closer examination, however, we see that smartphone CTR drops off much more rapidly than either desktops or tablets, at an average of 30% per position, versus 22% and 28% respectively.
By looking at the CTR-share by ad position, we can see that almost 40% of click-throughs are made in the first position. This is a third more than on desktop, and 10% more than on tablet. Why does this happen? If we take a look at the differences between the desktop and smartphone format, we find that many times on mobile, only a single ad is displayed on the top of a SERP. Meanwhile, on a desktop SERP, we see three or more ads on the exact same search. Naturally, this means that smartphones will see a much larger percentage of clicks go towards the first result.
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Over the last three years, the rapid proliferation of tablet devices has changed the way consumers and advertisers interact across the search landscape. Consumers now rely on their tablets more than ever before to gain access to local business information, product details, reviews, coupons, and competitors. And advertisers responded with relevant ads targeted towards these tablet users.
However, the way these devices are used by consumers today has resulted in a seismic shift in thinking by Google. In an effort to simplify the management of paid search campaigns across devices, location, and time of day, Google upgraded AdWords with enhanced campaigns in early February. According to Google and their data, the line between desktops and tablets is blurring, with search behavior and engagement on the two devices aligning.
A recent 2013 mobile report: The State of Mobile Search Advertising – How Smartphones and Tablets are Changing Paid Search released by Marin Software supports Google’s claim that consumer behavior on tablets and desktops share increasing similarities. However, the data also validates the perception that desktops and tablets are inherently different and perform accordingly so. Regardless, to remain successful in a multi-device world, search marketers must embrace enhanced campaigns and continue delivering a relevant and engaging ad experience.
What Does the Data Say?
Over the last two years, tablets have become a device segment that search marketers can’t ignore. In fact, the share of overall paid search clicks served by Google on tablets increased from 6% to 10.7% in 2012. Consumers are increasingly using tablet devices to research and make purchases on-the-go and, more importantly, in the comfort of their home where desktop devices have traditionally reigned. Marin projects that by the end of 2013, the share of tablet clicks will double in the US, accounting for 20% of Google’s paid search clicks.
In 2012, paid search conversion rates for tablet devices increased by 31%, while smartphone and desktop conversion rates increased by 9% and 7%, respectively. By December 2013, Marin estimates that tablet conversion rates will surpass those of desktops. In addition to this rapid rise in conversion rate, Marin also found that tablet ads are continuing to outperform desktop ads. Click-through rates (CTR) for search ads on tablets were 37% higher than ads delivered on desktops, with the average cost-per-click (CPC) on tablets 17% lower than on desktops. As a result, advertisers increased paid search spend on tablets to capitalize on this opportunity; and by the end of 2012, the share of spend on these devices had increased to 10%, eclipsing the share of spend on smartphones for the first time in history.
Different, But Equal
Tablets will certainly play a crucial role in the future of paid search, but whether the line between desktops and tablets will continue to converge and blur, or diverge and remain distinct, has yet to be seen. Even though these two devices share similarities in search behavior, they continue to perform differently. Perhaps this is a result of their unique user experiences—desktops with their large screens, mouses, and primarily fixed locations; versus tablets and their touchscreens, smaller search real-estate, and portability. Marin’s mobile report appears to support the notion that different user experiences result in varying ad performance. As a result, we expect Google’s enhanced campaigns to evolve as the market demand for additional functionality becomes evident.
The New Multi-Device World
With the migration to enhanced campaigns underway, search marketers must now prepare for a desktop-and-tablet-combined world. Gone are the days of separating campaigns to target these devices individually. Campaigns and landing pages must now be optimized with both the desktop and tablet user in mind. Two strategies that marketers are implementing today include: limiting the amount of Flash-based content on websites, as iPads don’t support Adobe Flash, and using finger-friendly buttons and links.
In an already highly competitive search landscape, enhanced campaigns will change the way advertisers engage with consumers. Sophisticated search marketers will need to continue investing in technology and reestablish best practices in order to successfully drive media and acquire revenue in the new multi-device world.
Download the comprehensive 15 page global mobile report here.
Last week, our mobile report caught the eyes of many journalists, including the Wall Street Journal. However, Wired’s interpretation of the data gave me pause to think further on the trend of consumers ditching their desktops and laptops in favor of tablets. As Michael Copeland points out, tablets are no longer just for watching movies while on the train home, checking emails, or passing the time with Angry Birds. As the power and performance of tablets increases and bandwidth becomes more available, firing up the ‘ol tower computer is becoming a thing of the past. Our data certainly supports the notion.
Tablets are the future that much seems certain, but in a post Google enhanced campaigns world where tablets and desktops are “equal”, which one drives the innovation? Prior to enhanced campaigns, the two devices were treated as separate. Ad innovation for desktops progressed along its own path while tablets were busy carving out one of their own. Now that both are AdWords roomies, will future ad innovation be of a desktop lineage or part of the tablet revolution? The two devices and their user experiences certainly aren’t the same; computers with their large screens, mouses, and primarily fixed locations versus tablets and their touch screens, smaller search real-estate, and portability. Does Google continue to favor market share? If so, for how long? Or, do Google and tablets become BFFs?
Only time will tell.
Marin Software is excited to announce the release of our 2013 mobile benchmark study, a compelling summary of mobile advertising data trends and best practices. The staggering adoption of mobile devices is dramatically changing paid search, especially the emergence of tablets. The report’s findings note that tablets will likely drive 20% of Google’s paid search ad clicks in the US by December 2013. Fueled by consumers’ increasing use of tablets to make purchases and research goods and services online, Marin predicts the conversion rate of search ads originating from tablets will eclipse those of desktops before year end.
Today Marin released its Global Online Advertising Trends Quarterly Report for the fourth quarter of 2012. As with previous quarters, we built this report using the Marin Global Online Advertising Index— for this release, we refreshed our client index data pool to ensure more representative analysis and findings.
The fourth quarter has always proven to be the busiest for marketers—retailers in particular—because of the holiday season. On a quarter-over-quarter basis, advertisers faced increased competition resulting in higher costs per click versus Q3 2012.
As predicted earlier this year, we saw mobile traffic peak at nearly 22% of all paid search clicks on Google in the US; we saw similar mobile traffic levels in the UK and Australia. Most noteworthy in the US was the share of spend on tablets eclipsing that of smartphones at 9% and 8%, respectively.
As Marin’s customer base continues to expand globally, we have committed to expanding our analysis into new verticals and geographies to help provide more granular insights for marketers. In this quarterly report we included insights on paid search performance in Australia as well as industry-specific metrics for the Finance, Retail and Travel verticals in the UK.
At a geographic level, here are some other key findings from the US, UK, Eurozone and Australia:
Read the full report with additional data and trends here.
Last week Marin hosted a webcast to review our recent study of mobile paid search. Speakers for this event included Gagan Kanwar of Marin Software and Josh Dreller of Fuor Digital, an online advertising agency. To shed light on the current state of mobile search, Gagan presented on several key findings from our study, including:
To put these mobile trends in perspective, Josh presented two case studies on recent mobile performance across Fuor Digital’s customer base. He also examined several compelling statistics on mobile user behavior, including:
To view the recording of this webcast and hear more on the state of mobile search, click here.