Optimising Search for Mobile Devices

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With the exponential growth of smartphone and tablet use for search, research and online purchases, mobile is quickly becoming the focal point of digital marketing. For most marketers, these increasingly ubiquitous devices are transforming the way customers engage with companies and their brands. This guide focuses on current trends in mobile traffic, engagement and advertising. It examines the rapid growth of user traffic on smartphone and tablet devices, the increased activity in mobile search and the best practice advice to consider when developing your mobile marketing strategies.

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With the exponential growth of smartphone and tablet use for search, research, and online purchases, mobile is quickly becoming the focal point of digital marketing. For most marketers, these increasingly ubiquitous devices are transforming the way customers engage with companies and their brands. Recent Adobe Digital Index reports have confirmed that smartphone and tablet traffic is rapidly on the rise, making these channels that advertisers need to be paying attention to as mobility trends continue to evolve.

This guide focuses on current trends in mobile traffic, engagement, and advertising. It examines the rapid growth of user traffic on smartphone and tablet devices, increased activity in mobile search, and best practices to consider when developing your mobile marketing strategies. A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer optimal. Rather it’s important to optimize your site not just for mobile in general, but specifically for the different needs and behaviors of smartphone users and tablet users. You will also learn about how Adobe technologies automate processes and provide the analytics you need to truly optimize your digital marketing campaigns.

Trends in mobile traffic and advertising

Adobe® Digital Index analyzes anonymous and aggregated data collected by the Adobe Digital Marketing Suite from billions of site visits from over 5,000 companies across the world to get a better handle on what’s happening in e-commerce and in digital marketing. Importantly, the analysis is not based on panel data or surveys, but uses actual consumer behavior. When digital marketers and advertisers understand how customers are interacting with their websites and how they are behaving based on those interactions, interesting and valuable insights emerge.

Three recent Digital Index reports focus on the mobile marketplace. The January 2012 report, The Impact of Tablet Sales on Retail Websites, looked at how tablet traffic and tablet visitors are impacting retail websites. Based on the analysis of over 16 billion visits to 150 U.S. websites, it shows that consumers using tablets are a distinct and lucrative customer segment.

Similarly, the April 2012 Global Digital Advertising Q1 2012 Update looked at digital advertising worldwide. This report analyzed over 27 billion impressions generated by nearly 100 advertisers. A May 2012 report looked at how tablets are catalyzing brand website engagement (Rise of the Tablets). Over 23 billion visits to over 325 websites in North America, Europe, and Asia were included in this analysis, producing thorough intelligence across four major industry segments: finance, media, retail, and travel.

Mobile is too large and growing too fast to ignore

Mobile traffic is quickly becoming a significant presence, and search marketers cannot afford to ignore it. This graph charts the mobile share of brand website traffic from 2010 to 2014 (actual and projected). Since Q1 2010, which is about 2.5 years from the time the iPhone was launched, mobile traffic has grown to about 7% of total traffic worldwide. By 2014, it is projected to be almost 10% of traffic.

In the chart, if you just look at the green bars that represent smartphones and don’t look at the blue bars for tablets, you might think that smartphone traffic is growing very fast and we need to take it seriously. But tablet use is growing even faster. Within two years after tablets were launched, the traffic growth was 10 times that of smartphones in a comparable period. By early 2014, tablet traffic is estimated to account for roughly 10% of all website traffic, and smartphones will be just a little behind that. The bottom line is that in less than two years, one out of every five visits is going to come from a mobile device, either a tablet or a smartphone. And it is estimated that tablet traffic will exceed smartphone traffic by Q1 2013.

Mobile search spend continues to grow

By the end of this year, search spend on mobile devices, both tablets and smartphones, will be about 15% to 20% of all search spend. That amount is even ahead of the traffic for mobile devices, so search spend is leading the way. In the United States, 8% of all spend is done on mobile devices. In the United Kingdom, it’s just a bit ahead at 11%. The spend for tablet devices actually passed up that of smartphones in October 2011. It’s interesting to note that cost per click on mobile devices is lower than on desktops, even though the conversion rates are similar. So there’s a temporary bargain opportunity for companies spending money on mobile search.

One-size-fits-all mobile strategy no longer optimal

Many companies lump their mobile devices into just one category—campaigns for smartphones and tablets in the same way. The data is clearly showing that one size fits all is no longer a wise strategy. Instead, companies need to have distinct sites optimized for computers, tablets, and smartphones. Tablets might take priority over smartphones because they generate a disproportionate amount of website traffic.

The graph below compares smartphone and tablet shipments in the past three years with the traffic they generated. Although over five times as many smartphones as tablets are in use, smartphones don’t generate that much more traffic than tablets do. As you prioritize your online strategies and work to optimize your sites, consider that tablets will be driving proportionally more website traffic than the number of devices in use indicate.

Visitor engagement on tablets and smartphones is very different

This chart compares the common engagement metric page views per visit across a number of geographic regions. There are certainly some differences by region, but the main takeaway is that smartphones have lower engagement than PCs and tablets, and tablets and PCs show similar levels of engagement. This indicates that if you’re optimizing your site for a smartphone, you’re probably not setting it up correctly for a tablet. Tablets provide different experiences that are more similar to PCs. We see this same finding across all regions globally.

Device preferences depend on visit purpose

Another reason why marketers should think about having separate strategies for tablets, smartphones, and PCs is that consumers use them for different purposes. This chart looks at device preferences by industry and how consumers choose to accomplish the intended purpose of their website visit. Metrics for PCs were indexed at 100% and then compared to tablet and smartphone engagements by industry.

The results of this analysis show that tablets are close to identical to PCs for routine visits and passive consumption of financial and media, but tail off when higher interaction visits are involved for retail and travel. Smartphones are running third in all categories. The most telling findings are where consumers show a clear preference for engaging with a PC instead of a tablet or smartphone for visits that require more research, more engagement, or perhaps comparing alternatives before making a purchase. Also, for activities that involve spending money, people seem to be most comfortable and willing to spend time on a site using a PC. These metrics indicate that you will be losing consumers when you are not engaging them, and you won’t be engaging them if your site isn’t optimized for the right device.

The key is to have the right technology to enable your site to adapt to and respond by device automatically so that you can present the right messaging at the right to the right users. Automating saves time and effort. If you try to do this manually, it requires a higher level of investment than you might not be able to afford. Adobe has customers who use its technology to scale content and deliver it appropriately across different devices. Some companies are also using HTML5 more extensively, and Adobe supports those kind of authoring tools to allow customers to deliver a more relevant experience across devices.

Tablet visitors may offer superior economics

The economics of tablet versus smartphone visitors is really where the cash register rings. A study of U.S. retailers conducted earlier this year compared how smartphone, tablet, and PC users behaved on retail sites in 2011. People with tablets are increasingly using their devices to shop, whether it’s to browse and do product research or to actually make online purchases. In 2011, tablet website visitors increased 300%, and tablet visitors spend more in terms of average order value—over 50% more than people who visited a site on a smartphone, and 20% more than those who visited on a PC. These are very critical insights, especially if you’re a retail or a travel provider.

Three factors seem to be driving tablet economics. First is the relatively high price point of tablets, notably the iPad. People who own them tend to be more affluent and as such have more discretionary income. Also, tablet users tend to engage more on evenings and weekends than smartphone users, creating a sort of “couch commerce” based on the novelty of using a tablet to drive those higher order values. The third thing is that tablet visitors have a three times higher conversion rate than smartphone users and nearly the same conversion rate as PCs.

Why mobile marketing matters

Adobe Digital Index research affirms the importance of mobile overall as a category in terms of the traffic that it drives to your site. It also underscores the importance of doing search advertising and other types of digital marketing for mobile devices. When you think about mobile, remember that tablets and smartphones should be looked at as different categories. It is estimated that one of five visits by 2014 will be coming from mobile devices, and the majority of those will be from tablets. Tablets generate four times as much traffic proportionally today, and nearly 20% of all search spend by the end of this year will come from companies advertising on mobile devices.

Best practices for mobile marketing

In surveys, 57% of users say that they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed site, and 40% say that they will quickly turn to a competitor’s site. Also, consumers are often at a different point in the purchase cycle when shopping with a wireless device. It is up to you to decide what value proposition your site will offer, and you need to ensure that you are building in features and functionality tailored to your audience and what you hope to achieve. Those that embrace the always-on, multiple device behavior of the consumer will fare well in this industry.

Here are some best practices to consider to help you optimize your website for mobile.

Simplify navigation

Clear navigation and search functionality are both key. Keep scrolling to a minimum, and be sure that movement is vertical. You don’t want customers and prospects having to scroll horizontally to find information.

Optimize the conversion process

Keep forms short and content above the fold, create the fewest possible steps, and have clear click-to-action (CTA) functionality. Avoid cluttered content. Consolidate and optimize the conversion process, particularly for mobile users.

Set up mobile redirects

Work with your internal developers to set up mobile redirects. Make sure that whatever the source of traffic, your internal structure is able to recognize and serve content appropriately, either redirecting it to the smartphone-optimized site or the tablet-optimized site. Give your users the best possible experience, which should include a full site option if they choose to go there.

Test all devices

Test functionality across all platforms and devices, including HTML5 over Adobe Flash® technology and portrait versus landscape orientations. Don’t develop for just a single device. Deliver a strong user experience across all platforms and user interfaces.

Optimize, test, iterate

Set up benchmarks for your key metrics and then continually collect feedback and fold what you learn back into your site. What are visitors browsing? Where are they converting? How long are they on the site? Are they bouncing from any specific part of the navigation process? Maintain a continued and unified feedback loop to iterate and optimize.

Make it local

Keep your content locally relevant to your business and core audience. Mobile visitors are often on the go, walking down the sidewalk, on the train, or in meetings, so it’s critical that you have that local presence wherever people happen to be.

Mobile-friendly websites

Digital advertising links publishers and advertisers, allowing businesses to break out of their current boundaries and step into new markets that had been previously unattainable. Advertisers can obtain the highest quality leads while publishers enjoy the addition of an upgraded revenue stream. By pairing advertising content with accurate demographic information, more traditional online advertising is greatly outperformed. Proprietary technology, as well as cutting edge tools and techniques, allow this data to be applied to flexible, tailor-made lead-generation solutions.

Discover, LendingTree, and 1-800-Flowers.com are three examples of companies that are doing an outstanding job in constructing and continually optimizing their site experiences. These companies help their mobile users quickly and easily find information on their products and services and then make purchases.

The LendingTree mobile site features a short, clean form for requesting a quote. Users can select from two drop-down menus to express what they’re looking for and submit an email address—all above the fold.

Named winner of Mobile Shopping Summit’s Best Mobile Site of 2011, 1-800-Flower.com offers the type of web presence that marketers should be benchmarking themselves against. The top of the screen has a login feature for returning customers. You can keep your cache in your preferences. And it’s designed for thumbs as well: The buttons are large, it’s vertically navigated, and there isn’t a chance to be horizontally shifted around.

Discover’s simple screen gives users two ways to convert: Apply Now or Call to Apply. The site experience is optimized for mobile with a short form that has been reduced from 3–5 pages to 1–2 pages, making it easier to provide information. Perhaps most important is the use of call buttons. From the smartphone, you can call a U.S.-based representative to complete your buy transaction, which increases conversion rates.

These three mobile-friendly examples are in-browser application experiences that are redirected from page search. Some sites prefer to create an app rather than focus on optimizing the in-browser experience. How do you decide what is best for you? The goal is to deliver a seamless yet differentiated experience for your target audience, and users expect a level of consistency from your brand. JetBlue, Delta, or Kayak, for example, are app experiences, probably because it’s a more unified and intuitive experience to search and book a ticket in an application. At the end of the day, data beats opinion, so make the decision based on what your customers are telling you and what makes sense from a budget, business, and resource perspective.

Best practices for mobile search campaigns

When it comes to managing mobile campaigns in search engine marketing (SEM), differentiating mobile devices from the desktop is key.

Give mobile its own incremental budget

Mobile should have a budget that is separate from that fueling the desktop strategy. As the Digital Index has shown, many queries coming through smartphones and tablets are unique and incremental. Marketers need to have the appropriate budget to meet consumer demand and take advantage of the strong ROI, especially from tablets.

Target across devices and platforms

Behavior varies across different devices and also at the software level (Android™ versus iOS). The cost per click and revenue per click can vary quite a bit, so segmentation is key. This differs depending on the nature of your business. It’s important to differentiate and get granular, because you’re able to manage budgets and bits more appropriately with segmentation.

Modify keyword sets

Pay particular attention to the way search terms are typically entered via mobile devices. Terms tend to be shorter in nature, not more than two or three keywords in a query. Focus on a broad rather than exact and finely honed match whenever possible to capture more incremental traffic.

Test search engine results page (SERP) positioning

Optimize spacing constraints. On a smartphone, you have only five ad positions on SERPs, as compared with 10 to 11 ad positions on a desktop SERP. But more importantly, on a mobile device, you have only two positions above the fold. Implement rules that promote your advertisers and ensure that they are securing the real estate at positions one or two while monitoring ROI closely. This increases share of voice and helps boost click-through rates. Avoid forcing mobile and tablet users to scroll down below the organic links to find your product and service.

Maintain strong brand presence

Users are spending a large amount of their time on mobile devices, so it’s critical to be found on the search engine results page. Do what you can to be above the fold, and then do everything you can to enrich the user experience and take advantage of this growing mobile market.

Examples of mobile marketing search engine results

Here are some examples of using paid search for mobile to optimize the conversion process. 1-800-Flowers. com calls out its Best Mobile Site in 2011 award, and then uses a hybrid of a site link (same-day delivery) that goes deep into their site as well as a call option to reach a representative to place an order by phone.

The result of a “credit cards” query brings up two credit card providers (Discover and Amex), both taking advantage of the site links to help prequalify the searcher for different types of cards and product information. The query “airlines tickets” brings up Delta above the fold and presents a click to download their app rather than an in-browser option. From the paid search environment, Delta wants its customers to go into an application experience to book tickets and complete travel transactions online.

Tailor messaging for various mobile ad types

The next piece in the mobile optimization puzzle is to tailor your mobile messaging to leverage the different calls to action available from Google and Bing. It’s ideal to use mobile-specific calls to action, for example, “Shop from your phone” or “Find a store near you,” rather than just the www.com URL link, as you move the user directly into your mobile-optimized experience. These calls to action are eye-grabbers and improve the click-through rate. They attract users into your site instead of losing them to a competitor or affiliate link.

“Click to call” is a Google-qualified extension that can be very powerful because it gives users a quick path to your customer relationship management (CRM) team or call center when you don’t have the resources to build a full in-browser or application experience. Google also offers “call only,” which hyperlinks only the number and doesn’t allow the user to click into the site experience. Marketers who don’t have a lot of time or development budget have had success using this functionality. Although it’s not an intuitive experience on the web, you’re being found, you’re above the fold, and it allows the user to call in and complete the interaction with you. This approach typically raises conversion and customer satisfaction rates.

Google site links can be a very powerful tool for increasing click-through rates as well as conversions for deep linking. Although in mobile you can only have two site links because of the size of the screen, don’t overlook them for deep linking opportunities.

You can use “click to download” functionality to drive users to an application that takes over all of the specifics of an engagement. Experience shows that this typically raises your engagement metrics.

If you want to promote brick-and-mortar locations, you can link your Google accounts and bake in numbers, directions, and distances using Google maps. This can be very powerful to users who are on the go. And it keeps potential customers engaged with you rather than losing them to a competitor.

Leverage time-of-day targeting

One of the many challenges of mobile is securing the correct amount of investment to meet consumer demand, knowing that your ROI compared to desktop is going to be lower. This chart from Google shows that desktop usage peaks during workday hours, with tablet and smartphone traffic leapfrogging in the evening hours. The mistake many marketers make is not allocating enough budget to capture that share of voice in the hours when use of these devices is heaviest, thus leaving a lot of revenue and leads on the table.

To help alleviate the lack of pay per click (PPC) budget and increase mobile ROI, consider evaluating a dayparting strategy for your mobile campaigns. Adobe AdLens™, formerly Efficient Frontier, a leading digital ad buying and optimization platform, can assist with this type of custom analysis, reviewing transactional data by hour of day to help you justify when to have a presence in the marketplace. Tablet usage typically spikes in the evening hours, and many browse while watching traditional television. Understand how and when to reach your audience and how to better exhaust your daily spend by day parting your mobile campaigns.

Making mobile local

The main objective with mobile local is reaching your customers and enabling them to find you effortlessly. Get them in the door when they are right around the corner. According to a recent Google mobile study, one-third of all queries have local intent: 95% of users have searched for local information at one point in time, and 61% follow these searches with a call to the business. In addition, 59% visited the physical store in person, with 44% making a purchase (22% of those online and 36% in store). And 90% of these users take action within 24 hours.

Ads embedded with location extensions that display your business phone number, offer clickable directions to a brick-and-mortar store, and provide distances and maps help give you engagement in the right place, at the right time, and at point of need—all effective strategies for gaining customers and raising conversion rates.

Adobe recently acquired a multichannel advertising solution from Efficient Frontier, now Adobe AdLens, that provides lucrative campaign and bid management capabilities. Marketers also leverage the industry-leading Adobe SiteCatalyst® application for actionable, real-time web analytics and intelligence about their digital strategies, website performance, and marketing initiatives. With SiteCatalyst, marketers can quickly identify the most profitable paths through a site, segment traffic to spot high-value web visitors, determine where visitors are navigating away from the site, and identify critical success metrics for online marketing success.

These platforms are now integrated to give digital marketers the tools to manage their digital footprint in an integrated, customized, and profitable way. Marketers can create, target, optimize, and continually monitor tablet and smartphone campaigns with an intuitive workflow while getting insights from front-end and back-end performance metrics. From a behavioral standpoint, SiteCatalyst provides the insight and data you need to quickly adapt to visible changes, adjusting your in-browser experience based on the real-time data you are observing.

Adobe AdLens technology also powers simulations that are able to forecast the performance landscape of every type of device. This graph shows monthly leads for Client A tracked against monthly search engine spend. These kinds of analytics help provide answers to those what-if questions that marketers frequently wrestle with, and they help guide you in determining the optimal budget and strategy relative to your goals. Whether it is maximizing a certain volume or hitting a specific efficiency point, Adobe is able to paint a picture of the most efficient path within a high degree of accuracy. Mobile is a sleeping giant that can no longer be ignored, and Adobe is there to provide the technology and insights needed for mobile marketing success.

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