Maximize Your ROI from Search Campaigns


Feb 23 05:00 am
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A close-up study on how separating mobile & desktop offensives could help your business.

Mobile web adoption is ramping up eight times faster than the desktop web did in the mid 1990s. With total ad spend on mobile expected to rise from $1.4B in 2009 to $6B in 2014, search marketers and advertisers need to understand how to harness the power of mobile. Everyone needs to begin to understand how this new channel differs from desktop. The only way to do this is by testing. Testing not only allows you to find what works but, more important, what does not work. is starting to use the mass amount of data available to develop strategies and tactics that keep its dealers ahead of their competition.

Separating Mobile and Search Campaigns
Car buyers consume mobile and desktop advertising differently. Do results change when dealers separate their mobile and desktop search campaigns? performed a test to find out.

The Answer: Yes, when you manage mobile and desktop search campaigns separately, results will change. To find out if our hypothesis was right, and to gain greater insight into the nature of the changes projected, we tested it. Tests the Theory

  • developed three phases of testing which ran November 14, 2011 – February 6, 2012, across 13 client sites that have both a mobile and desktop presence. In Phase I (November 14, 2011 – December 12, 2012), we examined how separating mobile and desktop campaigns affected clients’ search marketing key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • In Phase II (December 12, 2011 – January 9, 2012), we took things one step further, raising max Cost Per Click (CPC) bids on mobile campaigns by 50%.
  • In Phase III (January 9, 2012 – February 6, 2012), we measured the impact of not only increasing CPC bids on mobile campaigns by 50%, but also adjusting ad copy.

Findings from all three phases were compared to baseline metrics from jointly-managed search campaigns in which mobile and desktop offensives were not separated.


Phase I
Separate Mobile & Desktop Search Campaigns

Click-Through Rate (CTR): > by 32.6%
Phone Leads: > by 19.4%
Cost Per Lead (CPL): < $1.27 (or by 14%)
Conversion Rate (CR): > by 17.9%
Impressions: < 24.9%
Clicks: < 0.4%
Total change in leads: > by 17.4%

Phase II
Separate Mobile & Desktop Search Campaigns + 50% Increase in Max CPC Bids for Mobile Only

Click-Through Rate (CTR): > by 19.1%
Phone Leads: > by 1.6%
Cost Per Lead (CPL): < $1.87 (or by 15%)
Conversion Rate (CR): > by 12.5%
Impressions < 24.2%
Clicks: < 9.7%
Total change in leads: > 1.5%

Phase III* 
Separate Mobile & Desktop Search Campaigns + 50% Increase Max CPC Bids for Mobile Only + Mobile-Specific Ad Copy

Click-Through Rate (CTR): > by 18.7%
Phone Leads: < by 4.9%
Cost Per Lead (CPL): > $0.46 (or by 5%)
Conversion Rate (CR): > by 0.3%
Impressions: < 20%
Clicks: < 5%
Total change in leads: < by 4.7%

*Note: During Phase III of testing, experienced a-typical, technical issues with our premium paid search advertising tool, TotalControl DOMINATOR (TCD). This could have, and likely did impact results.

Managing mobile and desktop search campaigns separately has significant impact on results. Despite global trends such as decreases in impressions and clicks, dealers generally experienced improvements in CTR, phone leads, CR, and overall number of leads – not to mention a decrease in CPC.  The exception is, of course, evidenced in Phase III (the results of which, as previously mentioned, could have been swayed negatively by internal system errors).

Tactics beyond simply separating mobile and desktop search campaigns (i.e., adjusting bids and copy) appear to have a very minor impact on dealers’ search marketing KPIs in this test specifically, although strongly recommends using best practices when optimizing campaigns which include bid and ad copy management.


  • Consider overall budget within a campaign. If a campaign budget is not significant splitting campaigns, and thus budgets could have a negative impact. Consult with your search specialist on this topic.
  • Create separate mobile and desktop search campaigns.
  • If you don’t have a mobile site – get one. You’re missing a lot of valuable opportunities.
  • Make sure all campaigns are call-tracking enabled. Mobile users are much more likely to call than fill out a web form.
  • Bid appropriately on keywords and test ad copy according to best practices.

Mobile Search Marketing Best Practices

  • Similar to desktop best practices create tightly themed ad groups, creative units and relevant keywords.
  • Include a strong mobile call to action in your ad text to increase performance.
  • Be aggressive when bidding on mobile. (Remember, there are only two positions above the fold.)
  • Use click-to-call if you take phone leads.
  • Use click-to-download if you have an app.
  • Leverage analytics to gain insight into mobile natural search performance in lieu of paid search results.
  • Ensure landing pages are mobile-friendly (i.e., no flash and few form fields).

Brian Jones is the Senior Manager of Search Operations at

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