June 13, 2013
Case Study

Mobile PPC Advertising: 25% more calls, 103% more conversions using these 5 tips

SUMMARY: Smartphones and tablets continue to gain popularity and mobile search is growing right alongside them. Double-digit increases last year caught the interest of many marketers who have started to test mobile PPC ads to find what works.

This marketing team used ads to convince 25% more of its mobile visitors to call on the phone instead of clicking to the website. Learn five tips to help you weigh the opportunity, choose better keywords and connect with mobile searchers.
by Adam Sutton, Senior Reporter

The use of search engines on desktop computers may have peaked. The number of searches in the U.S. declined last year for the first time, falling 3%, according to comScore.

Mobile search is exploding. It grew 26% from March to December last year, and searches on tablets increased 19% from April to December, according to the Local Search Association.

Some analysts predict mobile search will soon eclipse desktops in search volume and PPC revenue. Marketers are positioning themselves in front of the trend and 42% are buying mobile PPC ads, according to the MarketingSherpa 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report – PPC Edition.

Among those marketers is Pamela Olson, Marketing Manager, King Schools. King Schools provides home-study courses for pilots to help them prepare for aviation exams. Almost half of the site's traffic comes from paid search. Smartphones account for 5% of its traffic and growing.

"I've noticed an increase in phone calls coming in," Olson said. "People are driven to call on their mobile device more than they were in the past."

Olson heads the company's PPC program and has overseen an annual increase in conversions on the company's website of about 50% for the last two years. During that time, she's targeted mobile users with search ads to learn more about their preferences and behavior. Below are five tips she shared from her work.

Tip #1. Weigh the opportunity

Mobile search traffic is increasing broadly, but not evenly, across the Web. It's only a fraction of the traffic at King Schools, but some companies see 25% or more of visitors coming from smartphones and tablets.

Before you spend hours honing your mobile PPC ads, check your website analytics and gauge the size of the audience. Make sure it's large enough to give you a good return on investment.

Also, check how many visitors are coming to you on smartphones versus tablets. You may find you have to accommodate one device more than the other.

"I find it much more interesting to see who is searching by tablet than by [smartphone] because the tablet market is definitely increasing for us," Olson said.

Tip#2. Use click-to-call links

Like every other marketing department, resources are tight at King Schools. The size of the company's smartphone audience means creating a mobile site is not a priority. Olson strives to connect with the audience in other ways.

One way she does this is with click-to-call buttons. Since adding them to the team's mobile PPC ads, about 25% more smartphone users call the company instead of clicking to the website, she said.

"I really would rather have them speak with somebody than go to the website. I think being able to speak with a peer is more important than flipping through a website as a mobile user," Olson explained.

Emphasize the value of calling

To encourage mobile users to make the call, Olson writes the ads to emphasize callers will speak with a specialist instead of a generic operator. This is done with ad copy, such as:
  • "Call now to speak to a pilot adviser!"

  • "Speak to a pilot adviser today!"

"When people can relate and say 'I'm speaking with another peer, another pilot,' that's going to help them a great deal in their confidence in calling," Olson said.

Tip #3. Add site links

"Site links" are a feature of PPC ads allowing marketers to include several links to their websites below the ad copy. For example, a retailer can have a main link to a homepage and several links below it promote specific product category pages.

Adding site links to the team's mobile PPC ads helps people get the information they want faster, Olson said. They can also emphasize appealing aspects of the business.

"I like people to know about us, who we are as a company, and what separates us from the competition," Olson said. "People can see our guarantee before they even click through to the website."

Examples of the site links used by King Schools:
  • "Your guarantee" — link to a description the company's money-back guarantee

  • "Legendary instructors" — link to a description of the company's founders

  • "ATP courses" and "CFII courses" — links to specific aviation courses

"Provide as much information to your target audience as possible without them having to dig further on your website," Olson said.

Tip #4. Target broader keywords

Marketers can target PPC ads to specific phrases or general ones by using match types. For example, you can target the exact phrase "white wine glasses" and only show ads for searches containing that phrase. That’s called phrase match.

You can also target ads to searches that are generally related to "white wine glasses." That's called broad match.

"Mobile users are not searching for long intricate sentences," Olson said. "I stay away from the phrase match unless it's a phrase that is a signature phrase everyone uses."

Try modified broad match

For mobile ads, Olson prefers a hybrid of the two called modified broad match. It allows marketers to specify words that must be contained in the search query as well as words that are generally related to it. This allows marketers to target ads more closely than with broad match, but not quite as narrowly as phrase match.

For example, you can specify that a search must have the word "glasses" and something related to "white wine." This would potentially display the ad for a search of "chardonnay glasses."

Tip #5. Adjust landing page design

For Olson's team, the costs of creating dedicated landing pages for smartphone visitors outweigh the benefits. Instead, the team is testing landing pages that work well on desktops and that include features to make it easier on mobile visitors.

"It's not ideal, but when you have limited resources, you make the best of it," she said.

For example, the team recently tested a new PPC landing page to offer courses for a private pilot certificate. The new page increased the conversion rate 103% over the old page and increased its number of completed orders 125%.

Here are some of the biggest changes the team made:
  • Fewer links — the original page had more than a dozen links in the left-hand navigation and more than a dozen listed halfway down the center of the page. The links were listed one after the other, single spaced, which made them difficult to click on smartphones and tablets.

    On the new page, the team cut the left-hand navigation and simplified the list of links, substituting it for a tool with five tabs. Visitors could click tabs that said "What will I learn?" and "What's included?" to see more about the product.

  • Bigger call-to-action — the button on the original page was small, green, and titled "add to cart." The team more than doubled the size of the button to make it easier to click, changed its color to red, and changed the text "Buy Now."

  • Landing page optimization — the new page was a radical redesign of the first with many other changes. The team added a headline, sub-headline, and bullet points that emphasized the benefits and value of buying the course. The new page also reduced visitor anxiety by using a testimonial and an image of five stars next to a link to customer reviews. It also included a video formatted to play on mobile devices.

"We were able to answer the typical customer questions on these landing pages. It's really important that our credibility is there and the usability and we don't want information overload. It needs to be clean and not cluttered," Olson said.

Creative Samples

  1. PPC click-to-call buttons

  2. PPC site links

  3. New landing page

  4. Old landing page


King Schools

Related Resources

MarketingSherpa 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report — PPC Edition — PDF excerpt

PPC Advertising: 5 winning display ad tactics that increased paying customers by 2,900% and dropped cost-per-lead 37%

PPC Advertising: How to track AdWords and Facebook ads in 5 steps

Desktop search declined for the first time in 2012, report says — via CNET

Search On Smartphones Up 26 Percent, On Tablets Up 19 Percent In 2012 [Study] — via Search Engine Land

Google: 41 Percent Of Super Bowl Ad Searches Were Mobile — via Search Engine Land

Mobile Local Search Volume Will Surpass Desktop Local Search in 2015 — via BIA/Kelsey

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