The effect social and mobile has on paid search advertising

The @AdobeUK Team

June 12, 2012

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We should be thankful that despite these times of economic gloom, the online advertising world is still growing at a tremendous pace. In fact, two pieces of recent research have recently caught my eye on this topic and have reinforced in my mind both the growth and dynamics of this market.

Firstly, eConsultancy is predicting that the UK paid search market will grow 14% this year, with advertisers spending £4.19bn in 2012 on media, agency services and consultancy.

Forrester has also estimated that paid search spending across Western Europe will by €10.61bn in 2012, up 19% on 2011.

Both reports can’t help but mention the importance of two essential trends which are having an instrumental affect on the advertising industry. Social media has a critical role that complement and sometimes supplants, traditional search. For example, social content created and shared by users generates inbound links playing a key role in SEO. Likewise the rise in social ads, brings a new way of targeting consumers at the awareness and consideration stages of the buying funnel which complements paid search’s usual role of delivering conversions and sales.

The other key trend is mobile, and the IAB’s recent report on this estimates the global mobile ad market was $5.3bn in 2011. Nearly 62% of this media investment came through paid search ads. Econsultancy and Forrester both note that smartphone penetration is continuing to increase across Western Europe and so having a key mobile strategy is essential. Twitter and Facebook are also doubling-down on their mobile ad offerings too. Consumers are accessing their social networks on their mobile devices more and more – exploiting upcoming ad formats will be essential.

So what does this mean for advertisers?

  • Optimise across channels and devices: the online ad market has never been more dynamic. You need to understand how consumers interact with your ads and the roles they play in delivering a final sale. But understanding this attribution between search and social, desktop and mobile isn’t enough. You need the agility to move investment quickly and accurately too.
  • Figure out your KPIs for each channel: of course we all want to drive sales, but is that a fair or useful metric for ads on a mobile device or a social network? Think about what the consumer wants at the time and how you can help them. Perhaps a location based store finder, an in-store voucher or a link to your mobile app is more useful than asking them to ‘Buy Now!’
  • Create the right mobile experience: a properly optimised mobile web site will lead to positive customer experiences. Cramming your desktop site on to a small screen will not. Think about what consumers want to do when accessing your site on a mobile device.
  • Test and experiment: new ad formats and opportunities seem to come out every week. Some will work for you, some won’t. You can’t test them all and you shouldn’t try, but pick out some opportunities that fit with your broader strategy. Then test them well (investing time and budget) and test them properly (if your team doesn’t include at least one stats genius, it’s time to hire). Then repeat, learning from your mistakes and improving your process. Your test isn’t going to produce a world-beating ROI first time round; fourth or fifth time it might.

The pace of change in this industry continues to breathing-taking. To learn more about mobile search, check out the on-demand replay of last month’s webinar “Mobile Matters: Optimizing search for mobile devices”.

Jonathan Beeston, director, new product innovation at Adobe

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