Every year, the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) polls hundreds of in-house marketers & top agency respondents for their State of Search Report. The findings of SEMPO’s 2016 report, released on March 29, reinforce what savvy marketers already know – that mobile and social advertising are now must-haves for a successful marketing strategy, but that direct conversion attribution on these channels can be a challenge. What is the best approach to set yourselves up for continued success in these areas? Here are SEMPO’s top trends and how we recommend you put them into practice.

Woman looking at iPhone instead of laptop

Consumers are increasingly shifting towards mobile devices, and meeting them there is crucial to continued growth. Image via Pexels.

Mobile usage is increasing; at 71%, it is the most significant emerging search trend

Annual increases in mobile usage are old news at this point, but it’s only in the past year that mobile has taken the lead for #1 traffic driver. Below is a snapshot of Q1 2017 click data across Metric Theory’s 200+ clients – mobile is not only the fastest growing device, but is now the top traffic device by a solid margin. For the first time ever, failing to implement a mobile strategy will negatively affect the user experience of a majority of your incoming traffic.

Graph showing Mobile rising 42% YoY; Desktop grew just 2% and Tablet shrank 3%

As a strong mobile advertising presence continues to grow in importance, there are a few easy steps to take advantage of increased mobile traffic.

Accept lower KPI targets for mobile devices

Cross-device conversion tracking isn’t perfect, but we do know that users are less likely to complete a purchase directly on their phones, primarily because the mobile user experience is less convenient (entering a 16-digit credit card number is tough on even the most advanced smartphone). Industry research also indicates that many purchasers conduct research on their mobile devices, but purchase through a desktop. For these reasons, conversion rates, CPA, and return on ad spend (ROAS) on mobile devices will typically underperform what you see for desktop users, but it is still important to attract user attention while they are conducting research. Google data indicates that 40% of mobile users go on to convert on desktops, so we recommend accepting a mobile KPI up to ~40% lower than your goal. As conversion tracking improves and users become more comfortable purchasing on their phones, these gaps will narrow, but it’s important to show ads on the devices that your customers are using.

Customize your mobile ad experience

Optimizing your site’s mobile experience is only step 1: A robust mobile strategy includes landing page design, mobile-specific ad copy, device-specific campaigns, ad placements, ad types, bidding strategy and more. Because mobile devices drive the majority of traffic, you should increasingly approach account strategy with a mobile-first perspective.

Social media advertising is the fastest growing digital marketing segment

Several years ago, Facebook was a distant competitor to Google’s Search behemoth. Today, advertising investments on Facebook and other social channels, like Instagram and Pinterest, are growing rapidly, making social advertising a key strategy for many advertisers.

Understand your target market

Which social platforms are best for you depends largely on who you’re trying to reach. If you haven’t assembled a customer profile yet, take some time to understand the age, gender, industry, interests, buying behavior, and time to conversion of your target market. The good news is that Google has already aggregated much of this data for you – just look at Google Analytics & Google AdWords reports to get the insight you’ll need to build user profiles.

Add social channels to your marketing mix

Taking advantage of the growth in social media marketing requires you to make an investment in a social channel. Facebook, with its robust ad platform and user reach, is usually our top recommendation. However, other platforms may be better suited to different advertisers, so consider your objectives and customer profiles carefully. Once you’re armed with a KPI goal and an understanding of your customer, it’s time to take the plunge and begin testing social advertising!

Social ROI is the biggest challenge for both agencies & marketers

Even as investment in social media platforms continues to grow, many advertisers struggle to achieve a strong ROAS from social media platforms. Achieving a lower ROAS on social platforms can be expected for many advertisers, since social media browsers are higher in the purchase funnel than customers actively searching for your product. But there are several steps you can take to drive the strongest return possible.

Stay abreast of ad platform developments & updates

Since Social ad platforms are so new, they change incredibly quickly and those changes can have big impacts on performance. Over just the past couple of months, Facebook has rolled out a new pixel, Pinterest launched search ads and mobile app install ads, and Instagram dipped their toes in Shopping ads. Driving an acceptable Social ROAS hinges on staying nimble with these updates and adapting to the changing ad environment.

Test, test, test for best performing segments

All those updates mean there’s always something new to test to make sure you’re driving the strongest return possible. User behavior, especially on various social platforms, will often surprise you. On Facebook in particular, we’ve found that two critical items to test are campaign objectives & ad placements.

Consider Other Impacts

Social media advertising may not always drive the same ROAS as other channels, but that does not mean that social media advertising is an unwise investment. The numerous targeting options available through Facebook and other channels will help your ads show to a highly-qualified audience that is likely to be interested in your products in the future, if not immediately. The increased brand awareness you gain from advertising on social media will help your brand continue to grow.

The migration of marketing spend to mobile devices and social platforms will only become more important as time goes on – the more you can invest in a mobile & social focus now, the more success you’ll likely see down the road.