How Mobile Transformed Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

The past year for pay-per-click (PPC) marketing has been, well, difficult. There have been a number of new advertising features released from Facebook and Google, but the overall health of PPC advertising wasn’t always listed as “good.”

In his State of PPC in 2015 presentation, Wordstream CEO and PPC guru Larry Kim said that the cost-per-click on search advertising is at an all-time-high and searches on desktop have been trending downwards for a number of years.

So what’s causing this? All of these changes in PPC is a direct result of one thing, mobile.

The Year of Mobile (We’ve heard this before)

We’ve been hearing that it’s the “Year of Mobile” pretty much every year since 2009, basically, every year since the iPhone came out. Mobile devices have become more sophisticated and more usable leading to an increase in the amount of mobile-optimized content or increase in the success of mobile ad campaigns.

In 2015 however, mobile proved to be dominant. In May, Google confirmed that mobile searches overtook desktop searches in the U.S. (Including 9 other countries). The truth of the matter is if you haven’t started optimizing your campaigns for mobile visitors, your visitors are already looking elsewhere. The good news is that there are ways you can start earning leads on mobile relatively quickly.

Here’s an example. The “click to call” button introduced to Google AdWords in February allows users to connect with you over the phone without having to click through to another page. This makes having a conversation with a potential customer essentially instant.

This isn’t a “one size fits all” scenario. In some circumstances you might want to nurture your leads and guide them down the purchasing funnel. Thankfully, making a campaign specific landing page that is optimized for mobile is relatively easy.

No matter what you do, just know that every year, is the year of mobile.

The Fear of Ad-Blockers

Mobile has brought along so many new advertising opportunities. Those opportunities are severely endangered on desktop as the expansion of ad blockers continues.

This past year, Adobe and Pagefair joined forces to produce The 2015 Ad Blocking Report. Together they found that 200 million users worldwide are using ad blockers. That’s up 41% from 2014. What’s even worse, they’re costing advertisers an estimated $22 billion per year in revenue.

Because of this, Apple’s iOS introduced “content blocking” in its iOS 9. While iOS doesn’t block ads itself, it allows developers to build and release apps that block types of content delivered through Safari. This includes cookies, images, pop-ups and autoplay videos. This types of content can be blocked in Safari if the developer and user choose so.

Content blocking hasn’t taken off quite yet with many sources stating only 1-2% of their mobile users are using ad blockers. However, due to their success on the desktop, along with the fact that ads on mobile devices are more interruptive to the user experience, this threat to marketers should be taken seriously.

The good news for advertisers is that content blocking extensions only work in Safari, meaning in-app advertisements, ads delivered within the app, and NOT the web browser are unaffected.

Consumer habits have since shifted away from the browser on mobile devices, in 2014, Nielsen found that mobile users spent 89% of their time within apps versus browsing the web.

Based on this scenario, Facebook is in prime position.

Battle of Titans: Facebook and Google

Mobile ads have been a huge part of Facebook’s business. The ongoing war between Facebook and Google have resulted in some great advertising products for both company’s,

  • Google gave us “Customer Match”. This allows you to upload a list of prospects’ email addresses and target  those prospects in your campaign. (Functionally, Facebook has offered for some time).
  • Google introduced the ability to target audiences that it thinks is similar to the list you uploaded, another feature Facebook already offered. Except with Google, it works only on Gmail and YouTube and unfortunately, not search.
  • Facebook opened advertising on Instagram (finally) to all marketers, along with new features that include :30 second videos and image carousels.

Most recently, Facebook introduced “detailed targeting.” This gives marketers more flexibility in targeting their campaigns by letting them target particular combinations of factors, and letting them exclude other factors. Google, once again came back with a counter punch, releasing a new format to AdMob. AdMob is its in-app ad network. Trial-runs ad allow marketers to embed 60-second app demos right into the add. They also announced iterative interstitial ads. This is another in-app ad format that can be used to make interactive advertisements with HTML5

While both of these ad formats are in beta, the boxing match between Facebook and Google over who will own advertising on mobile devices is heating up, and leading to some great products along the way.

Don’t be Late, Get That Click

PPC in 2015 was a rollercoaster. There are plenty of opportunities being enabled by the development of mobile, it’s important to not worry about the loss of old features, just be the first to use new ones.

Because users respond to the novelty of new formats at first, but since we, over time, tune them out click through rate of any ad format trends towards zero over time. So embrace the new ad formats ASAP, test your ideas and collect all the data you can as soon as you can.

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