January 14, 2011

Why Google’s New Keyword Data May Actually Make 2011 “Year of Mobile Marketing”

(Read in entirety at Search Engine Land. Published 2011)

By helping solve the fundamental business problem of resource allocation, Google’s freshly announced Mobile Keyword Tool has the potential to ignite mobile search marketing and propel mobile web marketing into orbit, right now. How is that? The announcement revealed a new feature designed to help marketers build segmented keyword lists that better target ads toward mobile searchers.

By using the “Advanced Options” tab in the familiar interface, you can now get keyword ideas not just for desktop search, but for mobile WAP search (most feature phones), and full Internet browser search (iPhone, Android, and other high-end smartphones). As with the desktop searches, you can filter these keywords by average CPC, competition level, search share, and other metrics to target mobile search campaigns.

This all makes sense: Google’s reports mobile search volume as up 130% year-over-year. The Keyword Tool data is an enabler for mobile PPC execution. Without it, marketers and agencies hesitate to fully embrace mobile search campaigns.

But one of these statistics stands out to me. Though all the data helps marketers plan and execute mobile PPC, one statistic is broader and more powerful. The statistic is this: mobile query demand.

Mobile query volume is a bit magical. It’s like peering through the Hubble telescope to see beyond the Milky Way, into deep space, for the first time. Amidst mobile’s perennial hype and conjecture, this is our first real, quantifiable read on that new and mysterious thing called mobile search behavior. I think this data is the essential link that marks the beginning of the mobile marketing era.

The Countdown Begins…

For at least 5 years, marketers have endured prognostications that “the year of mobile” had arrived. Yet it continued to elude us all. In 2010, we witnessed high-end smartphone shipments achieve record growth and market penetration, plus the emergence of the new tablet category.

Yet the measurable business impact seemed negligible. We learned how consumers are embracing their newfound mobility – through mobile web, mobile search, local search, SMS, email, social networking, apps often to make immediate buying decisions. Still, with all that explosive market and growth data, marketers hesitated to allocate budget to mobile marketing. When it came to the hard questions of mobile ROI and volume, marketers were left wanting.

The most meaningful data it seemed was found in site analytic reports – but this revealed only limited, self-reinforcing information. For example, how much traffic you got from direct-load mobile users, or from mobile searches for your brand name. You could infer market domination. But you couldn’t learn what you didn’t know. How big is the “non-brand” universe that you’re missing? It was anyone’s guess.

The result: Data-driven marketers were “forced” to optimize the home page for mobile consumers, but leave all other entry points untouched (see examples like Target, Amazon, Macy’s, Zappos, Home Depot). Even if deeper mobile-ready landing pages were available, searchers could not access them through Google/Bing, only through the mobile home page.

This poor showing from mobile organic search hurt the overall case for mobile (higher bounce rates, lower conversion, potential attrition). But ignorance was bliss, and no one really knew how much they were missing, or the value of optimizing the channel.


But Google’s mobile query volume data changes all of that. Overnight, every marketer has just gained access to the most reliable source of information with which to size-up aggregate demand across all three pillars of mobile search behavior: paid, organic, and local.

It’s like a rosetta stone for marketers to stop their mo-babbling and start speaking the language of the CFO and CMO: financial forecasting, mobile campaign planning, competitive marketshare, and performance management.

And converting this data into something meaningful is straight-forward. Here is a quick tutorial:

First, download from your analytics the Google organic search phrases driven by smartphone devices (iPhone, Android) over the last month. If you have thousands of such phrases, pare the list down to say the 20% worth 80% of traffic. (Processing over 1,000 at a time has some negative side effects on your browser as well.) Paste subset into the Keyword Tool input box.

Next , uncheck the default “Broad” Match Type on the left menu, and select either “Phrase” or “[Exact]” instead. At the “Show Ideas” menu, select “Mobile devices with full internet browser”.

Depending on your business type, filter by “Global” or “Local” monthly searches. Then press “Search” and download results to CSV. Repeat the process using the “desktop and laptop device” filter to compare mobile and desktop demand data.

Then using Excel, simply match mobile and desktop demand volumes against actual organic traffic. Calculate mobile search CTR and demand across as many terms possible. (Perhaps Bing can comment below on when they plan to offer marketers similar data. Until then, one can obviously extrapolate Google’s data for a crude approximation.)

Escape Velocity

Learning this aggregate mobile keyword demand is powerful stuff: It flips the mobile argument upside down and right-side up by taking the focusing off of mobile’s small contribution to your web traffic, and focus on your organization’s small share of market. When an organization realizes how small its share of an addressable market is – or the size of the competition’s share – priorities change.

But this data is powerful in other practical ways. Compare to current performance to calculate opportunity cost. Are there channels, technologies, or methods to increase click-through and conversion?

Model the ROI. Compare ROI against other mobile channels. You could calculate, for instance, the best promotion strategy to maximize app downloads through a combination of mobile web / ppc / organic / social / display ad promotions.

And where the mobile web has most underperformed (the unoptimized landing pages cited above), brands can make better ROI-driven decisions to switch on mobile-ready pages that increase relevance, ranking, and conversion for paid, organic, and local search.

These developments may be spurred on by the mobile search business case, but they will be optimized to benefit the gamut of mobile web campaigns – from paid search, organic search, local search, social media, display, and more.

From this vantage point, I think the days of mobile contributing negligible website traffic will soon be a faint memory.

The bottom line is that, with such powerful data now freely available, every marketer has an opportunity to intelligently and aggressively optimize for the mobile web requirement.

For those who take advantage, 2011 will indeed be the year of mobile marketing.

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