3 Ways Context Clues Reveal a Powerful Paid Search Opportunity

Last July, Google made a radical change with the debut of enhanced campaigns. While most people by now have adapted to the new workflow and reports, surprisingly many marketers and advertisers have failed to change the approach they take when thinking about context clues.

Google’s change to enhanced campaigns was driven by the idea that every search provides context clues far beyond just a keyword. These context clues include time of day, location, device, and keyword.

However, look around the web and you’ll still see a lot of ads that don’t take these additional clues into account. Talk about a huge missed opportunity.

Search Marketers: It’s Time to Think Differently

See the example below for the search term [checking account]:

Checking Account Google Search Results

The ads are exactly the same for desktop and mobile. This isn’t the worst thing to happen to search marketing, but it presents an opportunity to acknowledge to the user you understand their context.

Let’s look at a couple more quick data points that indicate that need to think differently about how we optimize leveraging clues.

Below is a graph showing the click-through rate (CTR) that my agency’s click-to-call extensions received over the past week:

CTR by Device Type

My hypothesis going in was the mobile click-to-call rate would be much higher than any of the other device types, given the user experience that a smartphone provides. However, the data showed that computers and tablets had a fairly strong CTR for this extension type. Meaning people are frequently writing down the phone number and calling either at that time or later.

Here’s another great example is how device usage trends throughout the day:

Indexed Impressions by Hour of Day and Device Type

You can see from the indexed impressions by time of day chart that computers are fairly steady throughout the day, but mobile and tablet vary significantly, almost never with the indexed average.

This data point isn’t as surprising as the click to call data point, but does help reinforce a thought. This consumer behavior requires some additional thought around how the users expectations of the result change.

Are your customers searching more for location based information in the morning, or store hours? Even if they don’t indicate the specific piece of information they are looking for in the search query their site behavior may indicate it.

Do more people who use mobile phones in the morning look for store locators when searching for [running shoes] and look to browse product information in the afternoon while using the same search term? This provides an opportunity to customize and personalize the user experience.

Let’s look at three ways to leverage context clues.

1. Understand Your Data

Look through primary (sales) and secondary (store locator, email signup) conversion data items by device and time of day. Does anything in the data indicate that you could use to provide a better user experience?

2. Maximize Your Opportunity

If you know that at 2 p.m. on mobile devices you see a great CTR, make sure you’re bidding appropriately. If you know times of day, days of week, locations, or devices don’t work, then don’t force them into your plan.

Be smart about when and where you show your ad and what sitelinks or extensions you use. This should be informed decisions vs. blanket programs.

3. Test, Test, Test

This is probably ingrained in most paid search marketers, but this might be a new type of testing. What different messages can you run across devices, and locations to help create a better and more targeted user experience?


As we continue to move toward a more personalized marketing experience, these context and data-driven clues will be a major catalyst for search marketers. I look forward to the day when I can say that brands know me and what I’m looking for just based on these clues.

Happy sleuthing!

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