Reggie Stjernholm

by Reggie Stjernholm | Search Marketing Strategy

May, 2015: Google officially announces that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.” If you hadn’t already, you realized that it was time to focus on mobile users. Then, a few months later, you gave up when your mobile advertising failed to achieve the same (or better?) results as your desktop ads.

As frustrating as this may be, mobile is different, and mobile searchers behave differently. This might be obvious (or it might not be), but until you fully understand and adapt your goals and strategy specifically for mobile users, your mobile marketing efforts will suffer.

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Are you reaching as many mobile customers as you could? Photo via Pexels

Setting Mobile Goals

After countless mobile analyses and goal discussions, one recurring truth can be hard to stomach: it’s really hard to attribute mobile researchers to desktop converters. While there are methods to track cross-device performance, none of them are 100% accurate, and few are easy to employ. We know that mobile users are on the go, in between activities, or even lying in bed looking things up, and we also know they aren’t always willing to fill out a lead form on a tiny screen, or buy an item when their credit card is across the room. Understanding this truth requires that you shift your goals regarding what you consider a conversion for a mobile user, and how much that conversion is worth.

When considering mobile-specific goals, you should pay special attention to your mobile CPA/ROI threshold and micro-conversions.

“Soften” Your CPA/ROI Goal for Mobile

Because mobile devices are more commonly used in the research phase of the buying funnel, you must allow some budgetary leniency for these researchers. Or, more specifically, you must set softer mobile goals, with the understanding that some of your mobile clicks are contributing to a conversion on another device, such as a direct desktop conversion by a searcher who found your site via a mobile ad. Typically, we recommend mobile CPA goals that are 20% – 40% higher than your desktop goals, or mobile ROI goals that are 20% – 40% lower than desktop goals.


These goals account for the additional mobile searchers who click through to your site, then return later on desktop to complete a conversion. Make sure to evaluate overall account performance: if your mobile CPA increased (or ROI decreased), but overall conversions for all channels increased, then you have successfully captured the right mobile searchers at the right time.

Start Evaluating “Micro-Conversions” for Mobile Users

You should also consider attributing different value to conversions from mobile users. Sure, you would love for a user to buy those $200 boots right away, but if that’s not possible, you can still connect with that researcher in a meaningful way that will allow you to consider your “cute fall boots” mobile ad successful. A few examples of micro conversions below:

  • Short form fill (e.g., just an email address for remarketing purposes)
  • Viewing or engaging with a video
  • Subscribing to an email newsletter
  • Direct phone call (even if it doesn’t result in an immediate sale)
  • Account creation
  • Add to Cart or Wishlist
  • Click on Location Extension (if you have a physical store)
  • “Following” on YouTube, Facebook, etc.
  • Download a File or PDF
  • Forwarding or Saving a Gmail Ad

Conversion attribution is tricky, particularly when you can’t track direct onsite conversions. No advertiser wants to waste ad spend, but you also shouldn’t consider your mobile advertising efforts a failure when your CPA or ROI performance is worse than desktop. Instead, shift your goals and provide users with secondary micro-conversions to connect them with your brand quickly. Viewing the bigger picture as you test mobile advertising, and thinking from a mobile-user’s perspective, will help you adapt to the changing search landscape.