When It Comes to Mobile PPC Advertising – Just Think Adwords & iPhone

By Tad Miller | Jun 22, 2009
More Articles by Tad


Hype about mobile search engine marketing being “the next big thing” has been going on for about 5 years now.  But, all that hype has yet to materialize into even half of the results that so called experts proclaimed it would be delivering by now.

The U.S. has been lagging behind Europe and Asia for years in the area of mobile search usage.  For example, for the last 3 years in Japan more people have accessed the Internet with their telephones than with person computers.

U.S. Mobile search traffic numbers still trail PC search by a huge margin, but the growth of mobile search is exponential:

Mobile Search is an ever growing part of the larger search market. Last year, according to ComScore, more then 20 million people searched from a mobile device in the USA alone. That’s an increase of 68% from the year previous. This is a fraction of all cell phones in the United States, and as wireless internet speeds and smart handset penetration increase, so will the number of users using search from a Mobile device.

The potential for even larger growth of mobile search going forward will be driven by 2 important factors:

  1. The death of analog TV. Anyone that watches TV knows that the switch to Digital TV and abandonment of the old analog signals is now a reality.  Commercials and an almost constant reminder from local TV news departments have given everyone notice.  Almost all of the old analog TV frequencies will now be used for wireless broadband internet services.  That means Faster broadband wireless and more availability of wireless broadband for everyone.
  2. More affordable smart phones – Namely the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS.  T-mobile’s G-Phone (Google Android) and the Palm Pre will also contribute once the price goes down on those devices.  You can now get an iPhone 3G for only $99, and the iPhone 3GS appears to be much faster than the 3G.  Expect iPhone growth to be even more explosive if legislation prohibiting exclusive use by Mobile Phone carriers is passed.  Imagine how many Verizon subscribers would buy an iPhone if they could use it on Verizon’s network?

When it comes to Mobile Search PPC advertising Google is King and so are customers that surf the web with Smart Phones.

Smartphones made up only 12% of device sales worldwide in 2008, but accounted for 35% of mobile ad impressions in April 2009, according to AdMob’s latest mobile metrics report.

Using phone sales data from Gartner, the study also showed that while the iPhone accounted for only 8% of the smartphone market, it generated 43% of mobile ad impressions in April. (Ads served into iPhone applications made up a significant portion of overall impressions.)

As recently as February 2009, Market Share reported that Google had 97.5% global market share of Smart Phone Searches.

Google Share of Smart Phone Searches

What You Need to Know about the iPhone and Google Adwords:

  • If you use Google Adwords already, you are probably already advertising on the iPhone and don’t even know it.  As of December 2008 every Google Adwords Account changed it’s default setting for showing ads on the iPhone and other mobile devices with “Full Internet Browsers” (i.e. T-mobile G-Phone and the iPod Touch).  Most advertisers don’t even realize that this setting is turned on, and many of these advertisers have websites that aren’t even viewable in mobile search.
  • Mobile sites often times don’t have the same functionality as there regular internet browsers.  Sometimes the very conversion actions you optimize to on normal websites aren’t even available on the mobile website.  All-Flash websites will not work on Mobile also.
  • Your regular PPC ad copy will show on iPhones, G-Phones, iPod Touch and possibly the Palm Pre.  All other mobile devices will use much smaller ad copy – which isn’t much space for any calls to action.
  • The Long Tail isn’t that long on mobile.  One or two word keyword phrases will get the most traffic.  Most people hate to type letters on their mobile browsers.
  • A maximum of 4 ads will appear on a mobile search page.  Two ads on the top of the results and two ads at the bottom of the results.  That’s 6 fewer ad positions to work with than with normal search engine result pages.  The top two results will get most of the clicks.
  • Google Mobile Content Network ads do appear on mobile websites, and their quality is just as suspect as normal Google Content network ads.  You need to monitor them with Placement Performance Reports and evaluate them as being a place where you want your ad to appear.
  • There currently is no way on Adwords to see how much of your existing search traffic is coming from iPhones and other phones with full internet browsers if your campaign shows ads on both iPhones and PC search results.  You have to set up all new Campaigns that are only enabled to show mobile ads and disable the default setting on your old original Campaigns to also show your ads on smart phones.
  • Typo keywords are important.  Smart phones like the iPhone are using touch screen keyboards, which increase the potential for typing errors.  Tiny little keyboard buttons are hard enough to type on, but they are at least tactile.  Use of the most common typo keywords associated with your keywords is a no brainer for mobile search.

So is the future of U.S. mobile search advertising finally here yet?  Not yet, but the major players (Apple and Google) that are most likely to usher in mobile search as a large scale advertising medium in the U.S. appear to be set.

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