The Importance of Mobile Ad Text Testing

By — 11.04.15

Mobile Ads

With mobile sales and traffic projected to increase this holiday season to 26% of total online sales (vs. 21% in 2014) and 56% of online traffic (vs. 45% in 2014), it’s more important than ever to focus on improving your mobile CTR during this competitive holiday season.

Mobile Sales

Source: IBM, Annual Holiday Readiness Report, 2015

One way to maximize your opportunity in the mobile space is ad text testing. Google and Bing both offer device preference for ads, allowing advertisers to alter their ad text depending on which device a user is searching on. This isn’t revolutionary or new, yet it remains a missed opportunity for many Retailers.

Ad Text Testing

It is important to mention that once an ad is set to a mobile device preference a mutually exclusive shift happens to the ads within that ad group. The ads that are set to an all-devices preference are now unable to show on mobile devices, and your newly minted mobile ad will not show on desktops. Because of this exclusivity it is imperative that advertisers are conscious of the number of ads each device preference has within individual ad groups. If you only look at total number of ads per ad group, your results could be misleading as you may have 2 mobile ads and 0 desktop. In this particular scenario your mobile ads will be shown on desktop, which is far from ideal. Mobile showing on desktop is due to a Google fail-safe that prevents an ad group from not showing on desktop due to a lapse in desktop ads.

Why use mobile ad text testing

There are a number of compelling reasons to do mobile ad text testing and one that stands out to us is that 60% of our online time now is on mobile devices, according to findings from comScore. The time we spend on mobile is frequent but in short sessions, generally referred to as micro-sessions. This means that mobile users are action oriented, and on the go, giving retailers a very short period of time to enable a mobile user to find what he/she is looking for, and to present them with the most relevant content. Ensuring that your mobile ads are optimal based on how your customers use and search on mobile, as it pertains to your site, is imperative to capturing that traffic.

Another compelling argument for mobile ad text testing is the potential for nuances in ad performance between different segments such as brand and non-brand, different product categories, or even sister-sites. We often find these nuances when testing on mobile for our clients. This leads us to our recommendations on where to focus your mobile ad text testing.

Where to focus mobile ad text testing

It is important to test all aspects of your mobile ads including specific language used and across all categories. One area to test within mobile ads is how to reference mobile in the ad text. For example, will you reference your mobile friendly site, or simply the fact that the user is browsing on a smartphone? Be sure to also test which language best describes the device. For example: mobile, cell phone or smartphone? These nuances often make a big impact based on the target users for a site.

Also, consider focusing on what you do well, or what advantages your site may have over the competition. Here are a couple examples: If you have a virtual try-on feature for sunglasses, you would want to mention the mobile accessibility of this feature in your sunglass ads. Or, if your competitors’ mobile sites are slow or difficult to navigate, you will find it valuable to mention the ease of your mobile site in your ad.

Mobile ad text in action

To determine whether or not mobile-specific ad text is impactful, we looked at ad performance for a large Retailer who receives a substantial amount of non-brand mobile traffic.  Our analysis focused on non-brand Google mobile ads within a one month time period that did not include holiday peaks. We analyzed various attributes for all of the ads within the ad group to determine if there were any trends within the ads that improved click through rate. For the purpose of the study we used CTR as the KPI.

The overarching trend we discovered was that having mobile specifically mentioned in the ad text by acknowledging that the user was on a mobile device, did result in a higher CTR by almost 2x. An example of an ad which includes a specific reference for mobile in the ad text is:

“Easy-to-Use Mobile Site” or “Easy Mobile Checkout”. The ads in this test group had an 11.2% CTR versus the ads in the other group that did not acknowledge that a user is on a mobile device. Those ads had a CTR of 5.9%. The improved performance for ads with mobile called-out held constant, even when looking at the performance of different calls-to-action.

Getting started with mobile ads:

If you don’t already have mobile ads, we recommend duplicating your best performing desktop ad from each ad group and uploading it as a mobile-preferred ad. According to Google, having mobile ads enabled will increase your mobile quality score, so this is a great first step. The next step is to create a second mobile ad in which to test these against. The quickest option is to duplicate your new mobile ad, the one based on your best desktop ad, and manipulate it to call-out mobile within the ad text. Here are some suggestions to consider testing:

  • Adding “mobile” to the end of your display URL. Here are some display URL examples:
    • retailer.com/mobile
    • retailer.com/mobile_friendly_site
    • retailer.com/m/product_category
  • Consider phrases that help minimize consumer hesitancy to purchase on mobile.
    • Returns: Knowing that you offer “free and easy returns”, or a “guarantee”, are ideal to use in mobile ad text.
    • Price: We know consumers use their phones to do price comparisons, so include ad text which addresses that behavior. Test phrases such as “price-match guarantee”, or “guaranteed lowest prices”.
    • As always, test to see which phrases resonate best with your audience.
  • Adding a mobile reference to your descriptor lines in various combinations. For example, test changing the positioning of the mobile reference line:
    • Headline
      1000’s of products to choose from.
      Shop On Your Phone Today & Save!vs.
    • Headline
      Shop On Your Phone Today & Save!
      1000’s of products to choose from.
  • Testing multiple mobile references to find which phrase works best. Ideas to consider:
    • Shop Our Mobile-Friendly Site Now
    • Shop On Your Phone Today & Save
    • Shop On Your Mobile Device & Save

Be sure to track performance and expect to see some nuances. As long as you optimize for each segment, you will begin to see an increase in your overall mobile CTR. 60% of our time online is on a mobile device or tablet, so for the long-term success of your paid search program, testing mobile ad performance is more important than ever. For even more ways to optimize your mobile ads please read our full report here: 3 Ways to be Mobile Ready for the Holidays.


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