Targeting Mobile Devices in PPC — What’s Changed and What Should You Be Doing?

September 01, 2015

It’s been two years since Enhanced Campaigns were fully integrated into the AdWords landscape. Let’s briefly revisit the temporary storm that was the crossover to enhanced campaigns, why it was so controversial, and how things are settling in for the future of PPC mobile targeting. As always, I will point out some of my feelings, experiences and best practices in this area.

According to Google, Enhanced Campaigns “allow you to reach those people with the most relevant and effective message tailored to what they’re looking for, where they are, when they’re searching, and what device they’re using.”

Google’s pushed the idea of context hard with this crossover; emphasizing targeting users at that most relevant time, in the most relevant place, with the most relevant device. Google gave advertisers the ability to make bid adjustments based on location, device or ad schedule. However, complaints from the community arose from the other side of the coin: Advertisers could no longer build mobile-specific campaigns, meaning they could no longer budget specifically by device. If you want to target mobile devices, you will need to do so with the same budget as desktop and tablets. Was the change made to force users to get more comfortable targeting across multiple devices and improve overall context of ads, or to simply increase revenue for Google? Regardless of the intention, the changes are here to stay, and you need to settle in and get comfortable (if you haven’t already).

In some ways, Enhanced Campaigns simplified management, if not from simply decreasing the number of campaigns advertisers deal with in any given account. Instead of analyzing the same keywords across two device-specific campaigns, and shifting budget between them based on success, there is one keyword in a single campaign with built-in bidding parameters at the campaign level.

Conversely there are limitations to this simplicity. For example, let’s say you’re running a national campaign on a limited budget and notice certain locations (let’s say Chicago, Austin and San Francisco) are less likely to convert on mobile devices. Concurrently New York, Des Moines, and the entire state of Rhode Island (for some weird reason) are MORE likely to convert on mobile devices. You cannot simply make one mobile bid adjustment at the campaign level, as this would affect all locations, nor can you make specific bid adjustments for location/device combinations. This leaves the advertiser with the time-consuming option of splitting locations into a unique campaign and making mobile bid adjustments individually for each campaign. Ideally, there would be more granular mobile bid-adjustment options to allow for more effective, efficient optimizations.

Despite some lack of options in optimization granularity, Google has given the advertiser a lot of great tools to uniquely target users across devices. Here are few that are simple and often overlooked:

Mobile-Specific Ads: For any ad group with substantial traffic, it’s important to utilize MSAs. All mobile traffic will automatically direct to these ads, which when formatted correctly (simple reshuffling of description lines), will display your ad’s call to action right in the headline of a mobile device ad. Don’t waste your time doing it for every group if you have thousands of ads/keywords, but make sure you have them in the important niches.

Mobile URLs: Is your website responsive, or do you have a mobile-specific website or landing page? If you’re the latter, make sure to use Google’s new option for final mobile URL, or simply route your mobile-specific ad URLs to their respective mobile landing pages.

Mobile Bid Adjustments: This one’s big, even with the limitations mentioned on the previous page. If mobile devices perform better than desktop/tablets, consider tilting the playing field in their favor. If mobile devices perform poorly, or you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, consider bidding down or even (gasp) turn off mobile targeting altogether by placing a 100-percent bid adjustment on mobile devices.

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