New data suggests that tablet computers are changing the way we search, shop, and play online. If you advertise on AdWords, more and more of your prospects will be finding you via iPads and other tablets. To reach and influence these prospects, you need to understand when, where and how they use the Internet - and adjust your advertising strategies to accommodate them.
Device Search Volume by Time of Day
Google search data released in September, 2011 shows that search volume on smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers varies by time of day. As tablets gain in popularity to become our "third screen", our browsing habits on smartphones and desktops shifts to accommodate the new medium.
Desktops are used predominantly during business hours. Usage rises at 9am and falls at 6pm, with a small spike around 8pm. Smartphone usage increases throughout the day, spiking during the morning and evening commute and in the evening. Tablets get a rest during the day, but are used intensively in the evening.
Tablet Usage Study
The Google Mobile Ads team then conducted and reported the results of a 2-week-long diary study that explored how, when, and where users interacted with their tablets. The unsurprising punch line: tablets are overwhelmingly for for personal use.
But that's not the only difference. Tablets appear to be the ultimate multi-task device, with over 40% of tablet use coinciding with some other activity like watching TV, cooking, eating, and even getting dressed (thankfully, the published study did not get into personal hygiene or amorous activities).
During the week, tablet use tends to be "short burst"; checking email, playing a game, and watching YouTube "video snacks", to borrow Vidsense.com CEO Jaffer Ali's memorable phrase. On weekends, the activities expand to fit the larger chunks of free time: watching whole movies and TV shows.
Tablets are not as mobile as mobile phones outside the home; most respondents report leaving their tablets at home when they go to work (tablets do go on vacations and business trips, however).
Within the home, tablets seem to follow us everywhere; the couch, the kitchen, the table, the bedroom. Respondents listen to music and search (for recipes?) in the kitchen. They check email on the couch and in bed, and Facebook everywhere but the kitchen.
More and more consumers are using tablets as "real world interface devices"; browsing and shopping online, searching for local businesses, and managing finances. Almost 20% of tablet-based activities are also carried out on desktops and smartphones, suggesting that the search funnel has just become hyper-dimensional. A consumer might begin browsing on their desktop and complete the purchase on their tablet in the privacy and convenience of their living room.
Implications for Search Marketing
If you advertise on Google, assume that your prospects are seeing your ads on tablets as well as desktops and phones. If you're running campaigns according to Google's default settings, you're already showing ads on all three devices so you can see actual data for each device.
From the All Campaigns view in AdWords, click the Segment button and select Device from the drop-down list:
Now you can see the data for each campaign broken out by device type. In the screenshot below, the campaign is targeting desktops and tablets, but not smartphones:
While there are many fewer searches and clicks, the CTR from tablet traffic is twice as high as that from desktops, while the conversion rate is about one third lower. This advertiser might examine their landing page on a tablet, looking for clues and ideas about how to improve the conversion rate for those visitors.
Separate Campaigns by Device
If you're seeing significant traffic from tablet users, you should create a separate campaign just for that device. Here's why: your landing page may work for desktops but not tablets. Or your ads may be too attractive to tablet users, thereby delivering unqualified prospects to your landing page. Either way, you need the ability to tweak your campaign for each traffic stream separately.
Bid by Device
Once you've separated your traffic streams, you can now raise or lower bids by device as well as keyword or placement. In the screenshot above, suppose the value of a conversion were £2.50. The desktop traffic comes in lower, at £2.17, but the tablet traffic is too expensive, at £3.12 per conversion. While you tweak ads and landing pages, you should lower the CPC bid so that each click approaches break-even ROI. Your ads will appear lower on the page, perhaps in position 5 or 6 instead of position 2.4, while you experiment to raise the quality of your traffic/conversion funnel.
Create Ads and Landing Pages Based on Context
When I write a search ad, I visualize my prospect during the seven seconds leading up to their search. In the past, I saw them at their computer: wanting, worrying, wondering. Now, in the age of the iPad, I need to expand the range of my imagination. Is my prospect sitting on the couch watching Glee on Hulu, wondering if Brittany's lion hat is available from Hot Topic? Or have they just tapped away from a Facebook chat about last night's episode to do the search??
Can you see how putting yourself in your prospect's shoes (or slippers) can help you craft much more relevant ads and landing pages?
Also, consider your prospect's time frame. Tablets are multitask machines; you may have less time to get and keep their attention even than on a desktop. And the ad that does catch their eye and the landing page that turns attention into interest and action may have to be more interactive and casual than if you were appealing to desktop users.
Study Time Dimensions to Optimize Your Campaigns
Finally, given what we know about device usage by time of day and day of the week, you can see how those variables affect campaign performance in the AdWords dimensions tab. You may find that some campaigns should be turned off at certain times, while others should have their bids lowered or raised to achieve maximum ROI.
While the Google search volume data and tablet diary study are fascinating and useful as starting points, you should make these decisions based solely on the real results in your own AdWords account. In my next article, I'll dive into the dimensions tab and day parting in detail.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to find that Hot Topic Lion Hat. Hear me roar!