Should you show ads to people on their phones?

It is a fact that more people use the internet on their phones than they do on computers these days. But are these glued-to-their-phone types going to buy from you?

That’s an important question if you’re using Google AdWords to find customers. Even more important if you’ve got a limited budget that needs to work hard.

In 2015 I wrote "You don’t wander into an architects office and see her looking up insulation specifications on her iPhone. The maintenance foreman doesn't order a new distribution board on his Samsung. Our architect might use her phone to clear her inbox on the train home. The foreman might update his status on his phone at lunchtime but they're still using their computers for most of the day."

Today seemed like a good time to revisit the numbers and look at how important mobile phone internet users are as potential customers in 2017.

I’ve pulled stats from a handful of campaigns from various industries and markets:

  • B2B hospitality industry.
  • B2B engineering.
  • B2B and B2C computers.
  • B2B and B2C repairs.
  • B2C tourism.
  • B2C home improvements.
  • B2C automotive.
  • B2C repairs.

I’m going to talk about just 2 headline metrics today: effectiveness and cost per lead.


How well does the combination of the Google AdWords campaign and your website work to generate sales enquiries.

I'll talk about sales enquiries because my business uses AdWords to generate sales leads for offline businesses. If you were using AdWords for ecommerce you’d measure sales.

Effectiveness is a function of both click through rate (CTR) and conversion rate.

- CTR indicates how well the mix of keyword choice, advert copy and bidding works at convincing people to click your ads.

- The conversion rate indicates how good the website is at getting people to fill in the enquiry form.

Looking at one without the other is crazy. You might have a high CTR so you’re getting loads of traffic to your website but visitors are not worth anything if they bounce off the page. In the same way you might have a good website with a high conversion rate but it’s not going to bring you any sales leads if your ads aren’t working.

Measure them together instead.

The graph below shows the relative effectiveness. The blue bars are for searches made on computers, the red bars are for searches on mobile phones.

Take a look at the first campaign, B2B hospitality. You’ll see that mobile phone searches (red bar) turn into sales enquires less often than searches on computers (blue bar).

The difference is huge in the B2B engineering campaign and the B2C home improvement campaign. Mobile phone searches convert into leads at less than half the rate of computer searches.

It's opposite in other campaigns. In the B2C tourism campaign mobile searches convert more than computer searches.

Cost per lead.

Is it more expensive to get a sales enquiry that started on a mobile phone search or a computer search?

This is important if you’ve got a limited budget. You’d want to prioritise the device with the lowest cost per lead.

The big red bar in the B2B engineering campaign sticks out. An enquiry generated from a mobile phone search costs 3 times more than an enquiry from a computer search.

The B2C home improvement campaign is similar. It costs almost twice as much to generate an enquiry from a mobile phone search than from a computer.

The difference is less profound across the rest of the campaigns.

So what do these numbers mean to you?

The specifics of these campaigns are not important. You can’t extrapolate these results to your AdWords account. You can see the numbers for your campaign. You can segment most views in your AdWords account by device. Google’s instructions for doing so are here.

This offers some low-hanging fruit for optimisation. Yell if you get stuck.

Want higher conversion rates?

I’ve seen conversion rates double, triple and even 10X after a few quick and easy changes to the enquiry form.

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