Are You Ready for the Mobile Challenge?

Recent modifications in Google AdWords along with the emergence ofsmartphones and tablets as market-moving devices for online search activity has turned the eyes of digital marketers and web analysts  towards understanding how smartphone and tablet web search behavior differ from that of desktop users.

There are certain things that simply cannot be done on a mobile device – but the gap is quickly closing and both smartphones and tablets are at the center of attention as consumers are embracing mobile browsers for search.Targeting modifications in Google AdWords will be limiting marketers on smartphone & tablet traffic isolation.  It’s only a matter of time for other search engines to step up their game and announce “any device user friendly search policy”.

As consumers increasingly live in a multi-device world, new targeting modifications in Google AdWords (“Enhanced Campaigns”) will place limits on how marketers can differentiate their campaigns at the device level.  It’s only a matter of time before other search engines announce similar efforts to unify the search experience.

With these changes comes an opportunity to use analytics at the device type level to more effectively tailor the post-click experience to the intent of the search. Digital analytics will be a key driver for mobile optimized content creation and successful integrated mobile campaigns efforts (SEO, SEM, display and social targeting).

Comparing Desktop, Smartphone & Tablet Performance

Below, I’ve normalized some KPI’s for mobile and tablets relative to desktop.  The first set represents benchmarks provided by a campaign integration platform. The second set shows normative healthcare industry performance across a wide range of categories.

The most significant variance by device comes from click-through rates and total impression volume. There just isn’t as much search volume on tablets and smartphones relative to desktop searches yet. But smartphones show spectacular growth in query volume and, importantly, significantly better click-through rates than desktops.

Even though relative click-through rates for smartphone are higher than tablet users, tablet users are inclined to engage at a deeper level and convert at significantly higher rates than smartphone users. However, both smartphones and tablets still trail desktop engagement.

Diving deeper into the post-click analytics, we can observe what happens between the click and conversion via on site metric such as page views per visit.

With respect to the “Pages Viewed per Visit” metric, smartphones show poor performance relative to desktops. Smartphone users are less likely to stay on the site, moving faster and bouncing more often than desktop users who are more willing to engage with and seek out interesting content on a larger format device.

What is behind the difference in conversions? Looking deeper at  searches and user sessions by device type reveals that traditional KPI’s don’t translate for the mobile experience.  Both smartphones and tablets need a separate, unique set of KPI’s.

What makes mobile device KPI’s unique?

Mobile KPIs are different in the same way that all mobile content should be – tailored to the mobile experience and environment.  Conversion KPI’s designed for mobile devices (particularly for smartphones) should pop visually and be simple enough to make decisions quickly without having to navigate extensively.


Mobile KPI’s for Healthcare and Pharma should answer questions like…

  • What does condition X looks like? (image, video, symptoms)
  • What is the dosage recommendation? (typical HCP search)
  • What is wrong with me? (symptoms, side effects)
  • Can I take drug X with milk, coffee, etc? (drug interactions, side effects)
  • Where is the closest medical center? (searching for medical center location)
  • When does the doctor’s office open today? (searching for a local doctor office)

After learning what your mobile site visitors are coming for, make sure you are offering the right digital content. For example, if they are looking for dosing information, make sure it’s easy to find.  If they are looking for driving directions to your medical center, make the directions simple and accessible. It may seem obvious, but many mobile consumers are still presented with bare bones mobile sites that lack the information and services they are seeking. While some mobile optimized sites are overly simplistic, others serve their full desktop experience, asking their mobile visitors to pinch and zoom on a screen that is one tenth the size. No wonder these frustrating experiences force visitors to abandon their favorite brands for their competitors who took the time to bring their mobile web experience up to date.



  1. Similar to desktop users, smartphone and tablet users search with a purpose and are even more likely to click through an ad.
  2. But unlike desktop users, smartphone users are less likely to engage with a site after clicking, requiring a different approach to conversion behavior.
  3. In short, depending on your site’s method of monetization, the value of a click on a smartphone may outweigh the value of a click form any other device if the experience is tailored thougtfully.
Brett Landry