Getting Started with Cross-Device PPC Marketing

cross deviceAlthough the world’s first smartphone, Simon, was introduced to the market over 20 years ago, mobile devices have only recently become a major game changer for the digital marketing industry. Mobile internet traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time ever last August, though many consumers continue to use both platforms interchangeably on a day-to-day basis.

Looking at this trend from an advertiser’s perspective, it’s clear that any companies that are investing in PPC campaigns must structure their ads in such a way that they reach consumers wherever they are—whatever device they’re using.  And since some customers will use multiple devices throughout the day, it’s critical that campaigns take that into account.

Importance of Cross-Device PPC Marketing

Certainly, the customer buying process varies across industries. Some companies need to spend months nurturing leads in order to convert them into sales, while others only need to engage with leads a few times before generating a sale. Most, though, fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, requiring multiple touches before a conversion occurs.

For this reason, consumers’ first experiences with a brand may take place on a desktop, while  the next few engagements take place on a tablet or smartphone. Consider the following statistics that prove the importance of optimizing marketing campaigns across multiple devices:

  • According to an infographic published on this blog post at Crazy Egg, 56% of customers researched a product on a smartphone and then made a purchase from their computer.
  • Research from the Multi Screen World Research report of 2012 found that 90% of consumers who own multiple devices switch between them to accomplish various tasks, illustrating the importance of creating a sound user experience across various devices.

 

A brand may have a well-optimized campaign to target desktop users, but it will inevitably fail to convert those customers if the campaign isn’t setup properly for mobile devices. Since PPC advertising is a core component of many brand’s digital marketing campaigns, it’s important that these companies begin optimizing for customers using multiple devices.

Cross-Device Marketing Challenges

Overall, the number of companies using cross-device marketing increased 59% between 2013 and 2014, but unfortunately, many of these brands have discovered that cross-device marketing can be complex – especially when it comes to PPC campaigns. Here are a few of the specific challenges that brands face:

Optimizing for User Experience

It isn’t surprising that the growing number of customers using multiple devices presents challenges for the brands that market to them. Not only do brands need to create an exceptional user experience during each stage of the buying process, they need to create a consistent, uniform experience that sets expectations and boosts the company’s brand image. This is one of the reasons that an estimated 88.5% of businesses use responsive websites.

But a responsive website alone does not a cross-device marketing campaign make. You could have a website that formats beautifully on every device known to man, but if your PPC campaigns can’t tell that you’re dealing with the same device user that was on a desktop PC earlier, you’re throwing money away. That’s where tracking consumer behavior comes in…

Tracking Consumer Behavior

Tracking user behavior is an obvious challenge, with less-than-obvious solutions. Historically, brands embedded cookies in users' web browsers to track their activity, which enabled them to maintain a consistent experience across multiple browsing sessions on the same device or computer.

Unfortunately, the growing prevalence of “cross-devicing” has left many of these companies without a clear cut solution to issues involved in the logistics of tracking consumers.

Some help comes from Google, which recognized the difficulty many brands faced with cross-device tracking and offered “Estimated Cross-Device Conversions” to Adwords users in 2013. The new option helps brands to measure the effectiveness of their PPC campaigns across all platforms and to optimize them for higher conversions.

That said, Google typically only presents this data to brands with at least 50 conversions a day, leaving smaller merchants unable to benefit from this useful feature.

Building Landing Pages Around Consumer Behavior

Businesses are also realizing that consumer behavior changes on different devices.

People typically use computers to send emails and make purchases, while they use mobile devices to engage with followers on social media or research local businesses. While these trends obviously don't encompass all users, these new behavioral patterns are significant enough that you can use them to inform your PPC marketing efforts.

So how do proactive brands decide what types of landing pages to build? Unfortunately, even this question is complicated by the fact that split testing—a popular approach for improving landing page effectiveness—becomes more complicated in a cross-device environment.

If your split-testing tool doesn’t allow you to separate desktop conversions from mobile actions, how will you ever be able to tell if your landing pages are meeting the needs of these distinct groups of visitors?

Though the answers to these questions aren’t entirely clear yet, best practices are emerging to the challenge of cross-device marketing, based on the results experienced and reported by marketing thought leaders and large brands.

Creating an Effective Cross-Device PPC Campaign

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The benefits of cross-device PPC marketing are undeniable. When executed correctly, cross-device PPC marketing strategies can ensure a strong user experience, attract customers at the appropriate stage in the buying process and boost conversion rates over brands that adopt a “one size fits all” PPC marketing approach.

However, these ideals rarely materialize in the real world. Companies using these strategies report varying results, due to both industry differences and the fact that some brands’ cross-device PPC strategies are optimized better than others. Here are a few things you should keep in mind in your quest to implement a successful PPC campaign for customers using multiple devices.

Optimize Website for Different Devices

It should go without saying, but one of your first priorities as a cross-device marketer should be to make sure that your users have a great on-site user experience, regardless of the device they’re accessing it with. Creating a responsive website is the best way to accomplish this goal, so if you’re one of the 11-12% of business sites that don’t take advantage of this technology, consider this your first assignment.

In addition, take the time to view your landing pages from different devices to make sure that it always loads properly, contains all the key elements needed to prompt users to action and has a crisp layout that isn’t impinged upon in any way by your site’s responsive styling.

Online emulators can show you how your site will render on different devices; take advantage of them, but also test your site on the live environments of you and your friends’ devices to be sure the emulators are accurate.

Target Keywords By Device

As with any solid PPC strategy, you need to consider the different stages in the buying process before choosing keywords. Customers using mobile devices are often looking to research a product, but will eventually go on to make the purchase on their desktop computers. These differing needs are confirmed by Alex Harris, of Alex Designs, who told Unbounce that businesses should think of mobile as more of a lead generation tool than a sales generator:

“Through our research we have found that mobile users tend to do research on their phone and then complete transactions and purchases on their other devices (tablets and computers). This makes generating leads the most important conversion for the mobile device.”

With this in mind, consider targeting mobile PPC campaigns towards keywords that appeal to customers that are still in the research phase of the buying process. This can be accomplished in a pretty straightforward process using Adwords PPC (though the process is similar for most other PPC providers:

  • Log into your Adwords account
  • Select the campaign you want to edit (you can select multiple campaigns by selecting the respective checkboxes)
  • Go to your edit menu
  • Click “Devices”
  • Choose the devices that you want to target

 

Remember, if you encounter any difficulty setting up mobile campaigns by device, you can always call in to speak with an Adwords representative. Even if you are able to set up your campaigns on your own, setting up a call with these PPC professionals to be sure your targeting selections are set the way you intended can be beneficial.

Keep Devices in Mind While Creating Landing Pages

While creating landing pages, keep in mind that the devices consumers are using will impact their behavior. You’ll need to match your conversion goals to these devices, which means that you’ll need to create landing pages with those devices in mind.

To see this idea in action, here’s an example of the different types of landing pages a sample health insurance agency might use in its cross-device PPC advertising campaign:

  • The brand decides to targets customers with the keyword, “how to choose health insurance.” Since this particular keyword is ideal for generating new leads rather than closing sales, the agency decides to build a landing page around the keyword that’s tailored to mobile web users. The final page contains all the information users need to make an educated decision on their insurance needs, in addition to encouraging users to subscribe to the agency’s mailing list.
  • The insurer then uses its mailing list to nurture those leads and encourage subscribers to click a link to a landing page to sign up for one of its insurance packages. Since consumers are more likely to complete the sign up action on their desktops, the landing page is optimized for desktop users.
  • In addition, the agency recognizes that the keyword “sign up for health insurance” – a query it deems to have sufficient traffic volume to be worth pursuing – is better tailored towards desktop internet users. As the company builds its desktop PPC campaigns alongside its mobile advertising programs, it creates a landing page built around this keyword to attract desktop users.

 

Using a responsive website is a good way to create a pleasant user experience on any device. However, you’ll still need to consider the devices your users are likely to be using to maximize conversions, as some factors (such as sales copy and calls-to-action) will require additional planning and foresight.

Set Up Customer Tracking Tools

Tracking user activity is critical to optimize landing pages. Unfortunately, due to the growing prevalence of cross-devicing, you may need to leverage some special services and tools to monitor customers and conversions. The “Estimated Cross-Device Conversions” feature in Adwords can be very helpful if you’re planning a large scale campaign, but smaller brands may need to turn to different solutions.

Tapstream is a great third-party provider that’s worth looking into. You may also want to check into Facebook’s Atlas Ad Platform, which offers specific features targeted to advertisers trying to reach customers using multiple devices.

If your budget allows, experimenting with these services can provide valuable insight that enables you to track potential customers as they learn about your brand—no matter where they’re accessing that information.

Tailor Your PPC Campaigns to Users With Multiple Devices

Optimizing PPC campaigns has always been difficult, but cross-device internet browsing has added a new layer of complexity to the equation. As a result, you need to be aware of the various devices that customers are using, as well as the inherent differences in their behavior on these devices, compared to traditional desktop usage.

Can't handle these changes on your own? If the thought of structuring your PPC campaigns to reach users across the different devices they interact with throughout the day seems overwhelming, consider working with a qualified consultant or marketing agency like Single Grain that can help keep your business ahead of this important marketing trend.

But whether you handle it or you pay a consultant to create your campaigns for you, keeping these new considerations in mind while selecting keywords, creating landing pages and adding tracking tools to your campaigns will help keep your conversion rates high in a time of shifting user behaviors.

 

Have you tackled cross-device internet usage, either in your traditional marketing efforts or your PPC campaigns? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

Image: Wikimedia Commons, MarketingFacts

 

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