Mobile Paid Search Share to Skyrocket in December; Remains a Significant Bargain

Posted by James Beveridge, Sr. Analyst

Performics has updated its mobile benchmarks in anticipation of the holiday weekend and upcoming major shopping events.  We’re happy to deliver some strong early holiday news—mobile’s share of search impressions and clicks took an unseasonal leap over the past few weeks, and as a result we’re revising our holiday mobile forecast.  We now predict that mobile paid search will make up 25.4% of all clicks (desktop + mobile) in December 2011, up 8 percentage points from our projection a month ago. 

As Performics’ holiday retail benchmarking has suggested, “many [advertisers] are dedicating significantly more budget to paid search leading up to Black Friday 2011.”  Mobile search represents an opportunity to further increase share of voice, with increasing mobile search traffic offering significantly lower costs per click (CPC) when comparing smartphones to desktop computers.

Mobile Impressions & Clicks

In October, mobile was 12.7% of all Google impressions (desktop + mobile) and 15.3% of all clicks (excluding content and search partners).  In December, we expect mobile to be 20.1% of all impressions and 25.4% of all clicks.  This projection is up from our previous forecast due to a significant increase in paid search spend across our clients leading up to the holiday with an over-indexed investment in mobile.

Chart


Also notice huge year-over-year increases in mobile impression and click share leading up to Black Friday and Thanksgiving:

Impressions

Clicks

Mobile Cost-Per-Click (CPCs)

As you can see in the graph below, smartphone CPCs remain at about 40% less than desktop CPCs.  Tablet CPCs—on the other hand—have been catching up to desktop CPCs over the past two months.  Recently—possibly due to heavy holiday paid search competition—tablet CPCs surpassed desktop CPCs.  Last week, tablet CPCs peaked at 20% higher than desktop CPCs.  The below graph shows desktop CPCs versus smartphone CPCs, as well as desktop CPCs versus tablet CPCs:

CPC

Performics’ data showing smartphone CPCs below desktop is supported by Google.  Comparisons between estimated desktop and mobile CPCs for top keywords by vertical (using Google’s Keyword Estimator Tool) suggest mobile CPCs are as little as 60% of desktop CPCs. 

Other analysts have reported higher CPCs on mobile than desktop.  The key, however, is mobile paid search management.  This means separating out your desktop, smartphone and tablet campaigns in order to increase relevancy, thus improving Quality Scores and reducing costs.  Ad copy, bid strategies and landing page selection should differ across devices.  For instance, a person searching for a product on his smartphone while walking down the street requires a different paid search message than a person perusing search results on his desktop from his cubicle.  Having a mobile-optimized website also improves relevancy. 

Finding bargains in search marketing has always been about relentlessly seeking to improve relevancy, thus boosting clicks and conversions while reducing costs.  Many advertisers are using last-minute 2011 budgets to test strategies to push them the extra mile before year-end.  If you have extra budget, there’s no bigger potential performance marketing bang-for-the-buck right now than mobile paid search.  As your customers increasingly employ mobile search, it’s time to make the investment to engage them with actively-managed campaigns on their smartphones and tablets.

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