Mobile PPC in 2017: A Look Ahead

Seemingly every year is another ‘year of mobile’ for the advertising community. In the past decade, the mobile environment has grown exponentially in both user base and functionality. The smartphone has created an entirely new space for advertisers trying to get their message in front of users. It may be an overused cliché, but 2016 is the year of mobile, and 2017 will be too.


Google AdWords is responsive to this mobile trend and is making changes and modifications within their system that will help advertisers reach mobile users. Picture yourself on a crowded train or in line at a restaurant for lunch, chances are good that most people around you are going to be on their phone. By 2020, there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users worldwide.  

With 47% of millennials consistently searching for local products or services on their mobile devices, and more importantly, mobile finally having overtaken fixed internet access,  the time is now to take advantage of mobile PPC. In this post, we’ll review some of the new capabilities Google has added for mobile PPC in 2016 and how you can use them to build your 2017 advertising strategy and goals.

Source 1 & 2

The influence of mobile has been incredible, and it will only continue to grow. The smartphone is here to stay, and that means people having internet access wherever they go is here to stay as well. It is necessary as PPC managers to consider the mobile space for your advertising along with what tactics Google has enabled you to use in this environment.

As the graphs above show, mobile is now the most used channel for web browsing and overall users. In response to this shift, Google has introduced device level bidding.  This procedure entails adjusting your bids based on what devices your users are using to search. Desktop is the obvious counterpart to mobile, but it is important to consider the functionality of tablets as well.

In spring of this year, Google announced a change that will give PPC advertisers increased power over device-level bidding in AdWords.  Before it had been hard to scale desktop, tablet, and mobile bidding individually. The old system had standard bid set up and the ability to add a mobile modifier or bid adjustment. Google’s change here is that advertisers will now be able to set individual bid adjustments for each device type, including tablet and mobile.

The format will now work like this: you’ll set a default bid for one type of device, and then be able to set bid adjustments for the other two. This also can essentially make mobile the foundation of an entire campaign, as you can now set base bids for mobile, then add modifiers for desktop and tablet. (This only worked with modifying mobile based off your desktop bid before) This makes the practice of having multiple campaigns targeting different devices an outdated approach since now you can optimize and keep things simple with a single campaign that reaches and engages consumers across multiple devices

This puts more control in the advertiser’s hands for several reasons. First, consider that with all this influx in mobile usage there are going to be rising costs. More people on the platform means more advertisers fighting to be seen, which means higher costs and average cost per click. Mobile CPCs have increased 150% since 2012 and are expected to keep rising. If that’s going to cut into your marketing budget too much, you can use a mobile adjuster to reduce your bids and while you may win fewer auctions, you won’t be losing too much of your budget share to mobile. Reasons to increase mobile are plentiful also, advertisers might want to adjust bids higher on mobile or tablets when they are encouraging users to give them a call or download their app. By understanding our mobile traffic through the AdWords interface and eventually Analytics, advertisers can now make decisions on how active they want to be in the space by using the device bidding adjustments.

Next, we’ll look at ad extensions. By now, advertisers should be taking advantage of any ad extension that makes sense for their PPC campaign and content, but there are a couple methods to highlight in regards to this mobile marketing wave.

Call extensions and call only campaigns

Most advertisers have heard of call extensions and are familiar with how they appear in search results on both mobile and desktop. As shown in the image on the left, call extensions place the client phone number into the ad when it shows in the search results. On the right, we see a call only campaign. Technically this is not an ad extension per se, as it is an entirely separate type of search campaign, but given that we are on the topic of mobile searches and phone calls this is appropriate.

A call only campaign will only be served on devices capable of making phone calls, (mobiles) and utilizes the same keyword bidding structure and average positioning system to get your results in front of a user searching for one of your terms. Instead of clicking on the ad to visit your website, they click to call straight off their device. These campaigns and call extensions are great ways to take advantage of increased mobile shoppers and enable conversions to happen easily and naturally

App extensions

Keeping on with the theme of mobile searches, another excellent ad extension to use is the App Extension. Granted not every business or service provider has an app, but those that do probably spent a lot of time and money getting it developed. Now that we know more and more people are using mobile to search we can target them directly with an effort to download our app.

Users searching on mobile or tablet can be served with an ad extension that looks like the above, giving them a clear path straight to downloading your app. (The extension takes the user straight to their respective app store, to your app’s download page.) This can be used in both mobile and tablet searches, so bid adjustments for the two could be utilized along with the app extension to encourage downloads.

The best part of this extension (and all ad extensions) is they are not going to raise your CPC, so your app can be downloaded by someone at the top of a conversion funnel for just the cost of a normal click. In fact, it is argued that because ad extensions increase CTR, they can eventually increase quality score, which in turn down the road can lower your average CPC.

Message extensions

Finally, a new extension Google has just announced that has been long awaited by mobile PPC advertisers. The message extension is basically a click-to-text function and is currently being tested in select accounts by Google before they roll it out to everyone this winter. Just like other ad extensions, these show alongside (or below) PPC ads on the results page, generally making these ads appear larger as they take up more ‘real estate.’ They appear just like the call extensions, but offer users to send a direct text to the brand, as shown below:


One can assume the massive implications this feature could have on CTR. The option to text message a question is more engaging than simply visiting the website, and less work and worry about getting someone on the phone. The preliminary results from WordStream show that these extensions usually perform the same as (if not better) than call extensions in the same space.

Consider the mobile shopper and millennials we spoke about at the beginning of this piece; this is a generation who have grown up with text messaging and are completely in their own element when it comes to sending a text. It is a good bet that down the road, click-to-text will be the most desired ad extension providing valuable conversions to the brand owners.

Rounding up

In today’s search environment, having a mobile strategy in your PPC plan is imperative. The data tells us that mobile searches are trending up, and will be for the foreseeable future. Digital marketing is competitive enough at it is, don’t fall behind in the mobile space just because it doesn’t seem as complete as desktop search.

Digital advertising is an ever-changing industry and being on the cutting edge of the advancements in relevant technology can set advertisers apart from the pack. For example, consider something like cross-device advertising. While not a new technology, it is finally being realised for its advertising power. The advantage here is being able to target and remarket to a user across their multiple devices (including their mobiles) without them having to be signed into a social platform or any kind of identifying profile. Advertising agencies are developing technology to unify and understand user interests, passions, and behaviors. This creates a scenario where they can maximize exposure for a client to one user across multiple devices.

That’s not all they do, though. Ultimately it is about figuring out the ideal amount of impressions, and when and on which device to serve them to a user to promote the desired action. Technology and ideas like this are what’s pulling the mobile marketing industry forward with innovations and game-changing implementations. As advertisers, it is important to be aware of and recognize potential opportunities created by these advancements.

Utilizing available tools to help give your ads substance and developing a clear, data-driven mobile PPC strategy can help you get in front of users for months and years to come. As with any PPC campaign, we encourage marketers to test, learn, and then optimize their accounts. Mobile is different but provides unique opportunities, get out there and start considering how you want to show on mobile search results and start researching and applying tactics to go get the lion’s share of mobile PPC traffic.

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