Last year, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches. This means that the only source of impression and click growth for most industries is on mobile devices. In fact, total desktop searches are decreasing for many industries. Increased mobile search volume means that mobile site traffic and conversions are more important than ever, and it also means that advertisers can expect the shift of searches from desktop to mobile to cause changes to site-wide conversion rates.

In a few circumstances, I’ve seen clients make substantial improvements to their mobile conversion rates, and even make positive changes to their site as a whole, resulting in increased conversion rates for each device. But despite these improvements, the account’s overall conversion rate (calculated across all devices) declines.

In these cases, the overall health of the account is not causing a drop in conversion rate. Instead, changes in the percentage of traffic originating from each device are driving a drop in conversion rate. How can you improve conversion rate on all devices but still see a drop in overall conversion rate? Let’s look at a hypothetical example.

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You should be getting a lot more search traffic from mobile devices in 2016. Image via Pexels

Mobile Improvements

Starting in 2015, you became hyper-focused on your mobile site’s performance by increasing site speed and improving user experience. As a result, your mobile conversion rate increased 30% over the previous year. You also applied some of your learnings to your desktop and tablet sites, resulting in an increased conversion rate for these devices as well.

However, as you were improving your mobile site performance, you also saw a massive increase in click traffic from mobile devices. In 2015, total desktop sessions dropped 17% over 2014, while mobile sessions increased 62%. Desktop searches typically have the strongest conversion rate (2.6%), while mobile searches have the lowest conversion rates (0.8%). Your site-wide conversion rate dropped because you lost sessions from desktop searchers (your strongest converters) and gained sessions from mobile searchers (your weakest converters). The graph below visualizes this transition:


As you can see in the charts below, a sizable portion of traffic has shifted from desktop to mobile year-over-year:

grace_2014 grace_2016_new

You should not despair at this drop in conversion rate, since mobile searches are an important touch-point for high-funnel visitors. Many of those non-converting mobile searchers are likely returning to your site later through an email promo, organic search or direct site traffic. Just make sure to establish mobile-specific goals to allow you to take full advantage of your mobile traffic.

Diving Deep on Conversion Rates

If you are seeing a decline in overall conversion rate, make sure to dive deeper into analyzing the causes of these changes before you assume that account or website performance is declining. And don’t forget to check revenue and conversions trends to see what impact the transition from desktop to mobile searches is having on overall sales.

Most advertisers should focus on improving mobile conversion rates, since the increasing trend toward mobile conversions will continue. Moving the needle to increase conversion rates for a growing mobile audience will drive long-term performance gains for your business.