The desktop’s death has been greatly exaggerated: How it’s holding its own in a mobile world


Sometimes when I’m talking to search marketers, I feel a little bit like Jan Brady — but instead of everything being about “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha,” the conversation turns to “mobile, mobile, mobile” as we ponder the potential micro-moments and ways to increase a brand’s mobile presence.

We are now seven years into the mobile revolution and have seen huge opportunities and growth in mobile advertising, both in the US and in emerging markets. The continuous growth in mobile queries as they officially outnumber desktop queries on Google and show no signs of slowing down has led a shift in the marketing mix of mobile versus desktop advertising in search.

This makes sense — according to Gartner, global smartphone sales were expected to hit 1.5B units in 2016, reaching market saturation in most developed countries. But I wouldn’t give up on desktop search quite yet and move all of my advertising dollars to mobile, and here’s why.

[M]arketers always overestimate the appeal of new things and underestimate the power of traditional consumer behavior.

Bob Hoffman, The Ad Contrarian

Consumers engage with devices differently

Even though consumers are spending roughly three hours a day on their smartphones (versus one hour a day five years ago), advertisers need to be careful about how they approach mobile advertising. It’s almost too easy to jump to the conclusion that you should shift your focus to a mobile-first strategy based on the increase in time spent on device and mobile search volumes.

Although search volume is clearly shifting to mobile, there is still an important gap in how consumers interact and when they use mobile devices versus tablets and desktops. And, of course, not all of our three hours a day on mobile devices are search-related.

According to FlurryMobile, 90 percent of mobile user time is spent in apps. Consumers are often using their phones with entertainment and communication intent — calling, texting, checking email, engaging on social media, watching videos, listening to music, getting directions, checking store hours and playing games such as Pokémon Go.

To get a better understanding of consumer behavior, I pulled device-specific data to get an updated view of when consumers were more likely to be using desktop versus mobile devices and tablets.


The results in the chart aren’t shocking, but it does provide an interesting view into how to adjust your bid modifiers by device. As a marketer, you’ll want to understand when consumers interact with your site on a mobile device and what their intent might be as you focus spend on mobile search traffic.

Desktop plays an important role in complex purchasing decisions

I think it’s safe to say that most consumer journeys involve cross-device usage; however, the device used for the final transaction is often determined by the type of transaction and the amount of data needed to complete the transaction.

An example of this type of deeply considered journey can seen in the financial services sector, when a consumer opens a retirement account and makes initial investments. It’s a complex decision with a high cost of failure, and the average consumer will research the process across multiple devices; however, the final transaction of creating the account requires entering a significant amount of data. For that reason, this step is more convenient to complete on a desktop or tablet then on a smartphone.

On the other hand, when the purchase is simple and straightforward without a high cost of failure, like booking a hotel room due to a flight cancellation, I’m more likely to book my hotel stay on my smartphone as I’m exiting the terminal instead of opening my laptop to complete the transaction. And in e-commerce scenarios, the ease of completing the transaction through a one-click purchase option can help increase mobile conversions.

Depending on the complexity of the purchase decision and transaction type, marketers should be careful not to move too much budget away from the desktop search, where important decision journeys are still taking place.

Desktop is still driving conversions

Despite the rise of mobile searches, most conversions are still taking place on desktops. According to eMarketer, on average 80 percent of conversions are taking place on desktops, versus 20 percent on mobile.


As seen in the chart above, conversion performance will vary across verticals, though US consumers still use desktop for the majority of their online purchases. The Mary Meeker KPCB Internet Trends report also shows that conversion rates on desktops are 2.8x greater than on mobile devices.

Leveraging both desktop and mobile

As mobile continues to gain momentum in our cloud-first, mobile-first world, it will be important for advertisers to create strong mobile strategies. But the desktop is equally important, especially as part of the overall marketing mix. Stay aware of the nuances between mobile searcher intent and desktop searcher intent to create powerful campaigns that leverage the strengths of each device.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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Author: Christi Olson

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A look back at the stats behind the 2016 Facebook holiday advertising season

facebook-magnifying-glass-600From October through December in 2016, e-commerce advertisers on Facebook conducted their annual tradition of clamoring for holiday season shoppers. While different brands have varying methods for determining which users to target, the aggregate results pointed to mobile and dynamic ads being big hits. Overall, advertising costs expectedly rose from non-holiday levels thanks to increased competition.


Before tackling more esoteric trends, let’s first examine some high-level figures from the quarter, beginning with Facebook ad CTR (click-through rate). As always, data cited here reflects my work analyzing customer advertising activity at Nanigans, with these specific stats pulled from the latest Q4 Facebook benchmark report (registration required).

Aggregate CTRs decreased worldwide just 5 percent quarter over quarter but remained near the record high levels of Q3 2016. The broader trend in CTRs continues to advance upward, with Q4 2016 global figures up 42 percent year over year. This applies to both the e-commerce and gaming verticals, which each saw CTRs either at or just below historic highs.


Meanwhile, Facebook CPMs, while increasing on a quarterly basis, are gradually rising at slower rates over time. Global CPMs are up only 10 percent year over year. That’s the lowest year-over-year increase in three full years of our reporting, and the second-straight quarter growth has fallen below 20 percent.


Collectively, these CTR and CPM figures underscore the evolution of Facebook as an advertising platform, particularly for the primarily direct-response advertisers who are reflected in this sample. These organizations have become increasingly focused on profitable actions, rather than solely looking at the costs of driving those actions.

Improving CTRs, while not necessarily a predictor of revenue, understandably portend better results downstream (assuming you are targeting and segmenting well, increasing clicks likely will increase purchases or downloads).

The slower growth in CPMs is more multifaceted, but also reflects this change in industry thinking. For example, e-commerce marketers actually experienced a year-over-year CPM decrease as a larger amount of spend went to carousel ad units. Carousel ads are generally less expensive than photo or video ads, but they tend to drive more purchases.

Along these lines, advertisers committed more of their budgets to Facebook’s Dynamic Ads in Q4 2016. These include single and multi-image product-oriented units and those focused on mobile app installs.


Across Nanigans advertisers, the share of all Facebook ad spend that was allocated to Dynamic Ads increased 164 percent from Q4 2015. The pricing of these ad units also tracked well with Unpublished Page Post placements.

The slow dip in desktop for retailers

When it comes to advertising spend, online retailers are generally more focused on desktop. That is because while mobile users traditionally boast higher CTRs, desktop users tend to actually purchase at higher rates.

Thanks to changing shopper habits and dramatic price swings on desktop, e-commerce advertisers have shifted more of their holiday ad spend toward mobile — the graph below showing the change in 2015.

In the most recent Q4 benchmarks, online retailers scaled up on mobile at substantially higher rates than in 2015. Looking at a same-advertiser set, mobile captured a 23 percent greater share of total spend in Q4 2016 compared with the same period one year prior.


For marketers in the e-commerce vertical, these trends collectively point to a couple of notable takeaways. Chief among them is the importance of a profit-focused (ROAS, or return on ad spend) advertising strategy, rather than one concerned with costs (e.g., CPA, or cost per action).

This is the reason advertisers continually make those dramatic swings toward mobile during the holidays; mobile users’ purchase rates and the share of overall purchases increase, while costs generally equalize with desktop.

While dynamic ads may not be right for everyone, their usefulness as a retargeting method on Facebook is especially worth testing. We’ve seen these ads outperform more traditional website custom audience-referred retargeting campaigns, and the recent increased spend shares going towards this ad unit points to positive performance gains.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Refreshing competitive search strategies in 2017


With search marketing in a relatively constant state of evolution, refreshing competitive strategies is an exercise that is easily overlooked. As we enter a new year, it seems like a good opportunity to highlight a couple of the competitive strategies my agency, ZOG Digital, employs for our clients for both paid and organic search.

1. Paid search conquesting

Paid search conquesting is the act of bidding on your competitor’s brand and/or branded product names. What we love about conquesting is that it can allow for brands with less product awareness to siphon conversions from better-known companies.

However, we’ve seen time and time again that brands make costly errors when it comes to their competitive keyword targeting and content strategy. Here are some important considerations with conquesting:

Use keyword targeting best practices

Most search marketers understand the importance of match types and negative keyword lists with their own brand and non-brand campaigns, but for some reason this gets overlooked with competitive targeting. Beyond your competitor’s brand names, look to target names of their products and purchase consideration keyword modifiers like “reviews,” “ratings,” “durability,” “reliability,” and so on. You should look to exclude keyword modifiers that are irrelevant from a conversion perspective, such as “corporate address,” “manual,” “installation,” “stock” and “merger.”

Compelling content is key

Even when marketing a commodity, ad copy and landing page content used for competitive conquesting is critical to success. Users searching for specific brands or branded products need to feel drawn to click something other than what they were searching for; this isn’t an easy proposition, and unfortunately, this core principle is often missed.

For ad copy, dig into the competitive queries you’re targeting and map the modifiers to attributes of your own brand and products. If you stack up favorably with ratings and reviews, this is an easy ad extension to implement for applicable keywords. If your products offer the same or better features (e.g., AWD, waterproof, lifetime warranty and so on), be sure to make these clear in your ad copy.

UberEATS is a great example for this type of competitive ad copy:


For landing page content, you’ll want to consider the aforementioned mapping exercise, but also consider going further and directly compare your brand/products with a competitor’s. The comparative queries (“product vs. product,” “product or product”) are a great opportunity here — direct users to your website to see the comparative messaging you want them to, as opposed to a review website. Simplisafe is a great example of this type of landing page strategy:

Finally, conquesting can be a costly exercise, especially considering the CPCs of different competitors’ brand names and products. If the cost is too prohibitive for your brand, consider targeting a competitor’s brand and product keywords through RLSA. The reach will be limited, of course, but at least you’ll continue to be top-of-mind for consumers during their consideration process.

2. Analyze a competitor’s historical data and emerging trends

Although paid search conquesting offers one of the few ways to directly target consumers who are searching for your competitors’ brands and products, a mountain of actionable insights can be gleaned from the activities your competitors have undertaken historically, as well as what they’re potentially doing to stay ahead.

Historical data: Paid search keywords, ad copy

We’ve talked in previous posts about our affection for SEMrush; their Ad History report is one of our favorites for competitive insights. This reports breaks out keywords and search volume, along with estimated CPC and traffic percentage.

From a historical context, the most valuable data comes from the Coverage %, which applies a percent of visibility based on how often an advertiser was found for a keyword over the past 12 months. If you know your competitors have some paid search prowess, you can safely assume that keywords that have the longest visibility (Coverage %) are performing well.

From a competitive perspective, you can take pertinent keywords from this report, create ad copy that differentiates your brand/products and start bidding.

Emerging trends: SEO and paid search keyword changes

As search marketers, we can get tunnel vision with a core set of keywords and an ongoing performance optimization intent. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it should be balanced with a continual eye on competitors’ keyword changes, both for existing and new terms.

For SEO, competitors making significant gains in keywords you’re already monitoring can mean that they have enhanced site content, corrected technical issues, received an influx of social shares and/or picked up high-quality links or citations. Big jumps can also signal a positive alignment with algorithm updates and should be investigated to address any competitive gaps that may have emerged.

For paid search, new keywords and position changes can signal a potential shift in a competitor’s strategy, new products or a new testing approach. You’ll know the keywords that stand out and whether any should be added to your targeting; for keywords that are questionable, let your competitors test before jumping in. The aforementioned Ad History report is a great way to manage this.


A competitive strategy refresh is a process that involves ongoing monitoring with deep-dive analyses on a regular basis. The second part is more difficult to manage than the first; we recommend defining a cadence for the deep-dive analyses. It can vary by industry, but our team has found that performing the analysis bimonthly provides enough data to draw actionable insights and optimize your search marketing accordingly.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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Author: Thomas Stern

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