HOW TO: Get Started With Mobile Search Advertising

Originally written by : September 19, 2011

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Many recent years have been touted as “The Year of Mobile,” but 2011 might just live up to the hype. For the first time, consumers are spending more time on mobile apps than on the web, and mobile devices are edging out PCs and laptops in sales.

Yet mobile advertising is expected to hit just $1.1 billion in the U.S. this year, with mobile search accounting for $295.1 million, according to eMarketer. That compares to $31.3 billion on U.S. online spending and $14.4 billion for web search advertising.

Clearly, despite widespread use, marketers and the search giants haven’t yet cracked the code on mobile search advertising, which is shaping up to be a bit different than the traditional kind. Therein lies the opportunity — people who are grabbing their phones to search something are likely one step closer to buying a product or service than someone at home on their PC.

“People who use search are already intenders toward a specific product or service … and mobile should be even more so, as they may be acting in the moment and time-pressed,” says Ken Willner, CEO of mobile advertising firm Zumobi.

How to Get Started

Picking the right keywords is part art, part science. Luckily, you don’t have to burn many calories trying to figure it out. Google, for instance, is happy to have its search experts find your keywords at no extra cost. Or you could go the automated route. At the moment, Google’s process of buying mobile keywords isn’t totally automated. To get started, you have to create an AdWords account. Once you do that, you click on “Reporting and Tools,” which includes a drop-down menu for “mobile devices with full Internet browsers.”

From there, it gets a little tricky. At the moment, Google doesn’t break out pricing for geographic regions. You can see what a keyword costs (on a per-click basis), but not what it costs only in Passaic, New Jersey. The way it works is, you figure out what you want to spend overall, and a Google rep will tell you how many ads you can get. Google breaks those buys down in three ways — by city, by metropolitan area and by radius.

Google will take any advertiser, but Yahoo is a bit more picky. Yahoo wants to do business with you if you spend more than $10,000 a month, but if not, it will refer to you Microsoft Advertising adCenter. Using adCenter is pretty straightforward. Once you’ve set up an account and started to create a campaign, you’ll see an option for “Target your customers by device,” one of which is “smartphones and other devices with full browsers.”

From there, it’s fairly simple. You can target by city, metro region, state and country and can also use radius to your location.


Mobile search advertising targets a different mindset than ordinary desktop searches. If you’re searching on your desktop, you might be in the midst of researching something or maybe just bored. But if you’re searching on your phone, you’re probably looking for something nearby, or as Noah Elkin, an analyst with eMarketer puts it, it’s where “people have more of a results orientation.” Timing is also important. Michael Slinger, director of mobile ads at Google, says weekends are busier than weekdays, and lunchtime and nights are busier than mornings. In addition, “people are likely on-the-go and searching for something — a store, a restaurant, a product — close to where they are at that moment.”

To get into consumers’ heads at at that point in time, it helps to consider what people are likely to be doing at the moment you target them. According to a study of 5,013 smartphone users by Google and Ipsos OTX MediaCT in April 2011, 59% of people use their smartphones to surf the Internet while they’re waiting in a line, 44% use it while commuting and 43% tap them when they’re traveling to work or school. What does that have to do with what they’re searching?

One possibility is that they’re in more of a “get it done” mindframe than they would be at home. That’s why Google is pushing a “Click-to-Call” feature for its mobile search ads. While consumers are waiting in line or commuting, they can finally make that call they’ve been putting off. A good example of this is the Esurance campaign outlined below. Pricing insurance would definitely fall under the “chore” category.

As for keywords, Slinger says the best way to get a sense of what’s working is to try a bunch of them rather than bet on a few. “Advertisers sometimes think that they should reduce the number of keywords running on mobile, but this is a mistake,” he says. “We suggest running a very broad set of keywords to start — this will make it easier to find the sweet spot and optimize campaigns.”

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The Future of Search Series is supported by SES Chicago Conference and Expo, connecting the digital dots between search, social and commerce. The SES Chicago Conference & Expo takes a critical look at the latest developments to help marketers traverse the quickly developing landscape, with a special focus on the latest ecommerce trends and the latest technology launches from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. Register with MASH20 and save 20%. Join the discussion #SESConf

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