Budgeting Ad Spend Across Mobile Channels

With all the talk about mobile ad opportunities, marketers are faced with some tough questions: just how do you go about diverting ad budget from other channels an allotting to mobile?

Well, before you can do that, you have to understand just what mobile channels are relevant to your business. From there, you can take a measured risk approach by diverting ad spend from a variety of channels and re-allotting them over to their respective mobile counterparts.

Mobile Marketing Channel Opportunities

From QR codes to developing mobile apps, there are many ways in which marketers can invest in mobile. Not all of them are advertising specific, though. So before trying to determine how much ad spend to divert over into mobile, it’s important that you (1) appraise the different mobile advertising channels available to you, (2) determine which ones are relevant to your business based on desktop-mobile counterparts, and (3) divert/allot budgets proportionately.

Mobile: Display vs Search Spend (2011-2016) – Source: Forrester


Mobile paid search is probably one of the most immediate and tangible mobile ad opportunities available. In addition to the trends in mobile search behaviour, mobile search ad formats offer marketers quite a bit in terms of lead generation and foot traffic.

Let’ start with mobile search behaviour, though. According to Nielsen, mobile search users aren’t just available in vast numbers, they are also engaged in the purchasing decision process. Consider that:

  • Google was the #1 mobile site destination for iPhone and Android users in the US
  • Search portals account for 3 of the top 10 mobile site destinations for both iPhone and Android users
  • 49 percent of mobile consumers say they frequently use their smartphones while shopping
Source: Nielsen – Click to Enlarge

This tells us that (1) mobile users are active search users, and (2) many of them are searching during the purchasing process — meaning they’re comparing reviews and prices. This makes them ideal targets for paid search advertisers. Not only are they searching regularly and frequently, but many of those searches are purchasing-related, meaning that they’re pre-qualified users.

Paid mobile search, moreover, offers a number of formats that lead more directly to conversions. In addition to ecommerce  landing pages and geo-targeting campaigns according the proximity of brick-and-mortar (B&M) locations, mobile paid search advertisers can also leverage formats such as:

  • Click-to-call – consumers can verify inventory
  • Click-to-get-directions – consumers can navigate to the closest point-of-sale (POS)
  • Coupon downloads – consumers have an incentive to shop with the advertiser

Each of these formats help advertisers drive both foot traffic and conversions, an advantage over desktop paid search that cannot be overlooked.


Now, granted, SEO isn’t quite advertising. But it’s a powerful complement to PPC and, in many ways, is the justification for paid search in the first place — i.e. if you’re not yet ranking organically on targeted terms, you end up having to buy impressions and pay for the clicks they produce. After all, that’s the importance of syncing PPC and SEO efforts.

Mobile Search Queries by Category – Source: Google 2011

So for the reasons listed above (that users are present in and engaged with mobile search), mobile SEO deserves its proportionate share of either your SEO budget or mobile search budget. After all, you’re going to need these resources to ensure that (1) you have a mobile site with that (2) has basic onsite optimization for keywords and is (3) optimized for local search using (4) clean code (the less javascript and images, the better), and (5) features a mobile sitemap.

After all, just like desktop search, you don’t want to have to pay for each and every click. And ideally, you want to reduce the amount you’re paying for clicks over time, so that means both increasing Quality Score on your paid search campaigns, but also building mobile SEO equity so that you rank well organically, both globally and locally.


Source: Nielsen

Even though search engines dominate the amount of time users spend surfing the mobile web, users still spend more time using apps than they do surfing. In fact, according to Nielsen’s State of the Media: Mobile Media Report Q3 2011, users spend more than twice as much time with apps than they do with the mobile web.

It’s important, then, that marketers not ignore the display ad opportunities that exist for mobile. Indeed, for some mobile advertisers, display advertising will comprise the lion’s share of their mobile ad spend.

Consequently, advertisers should look at investing enough of a budget in campaigns on mobile ad networks, such as AdMob and Apple iAds, that they can actually generate results and measure performance. After all, not only do mobile users spend the most time with apps, but it’s through apps that they’re the most engaged. Rather than representing transient pageviews (i.e. that results in click-throughs to some other page), app users have actively and consciously entered the app experience with express intent on interacting with its content.


Although so much of mobile social media interaction occurs through apps, marketers still face a challenge in that many social media apps (such as Facebook and Twitter) don’t really offer advertising real-estate. That doesn’t mean, however, that marketers can’t leverage app activity in their social media ad campaigns.

Checking In…

Specifically, I’m talking about Facebook Check-Ins. By offering incentives such as check-in deals, you can not only encourage users to visit your B&M location(s), but encourage them to promote your business to their personal network.

Of course, this all begs the question: what about check-ins on other services? Well, the reason

First, at 800 million users, Facebook has hit critical mass (whereas Foursquare is a much more niche user-base). Nearly everyone and their dog (literally, there are a lot of pugs with profiles) are on Facebook. So simply put, there’s a lot more potential for both reach and ROI.

Second, Facebook check-ins can be tied to your Facebook page. With the critical mass factor, this means that your brand can obtain additional brand exposure when users check into your B&M location — and possibly support any desktop campaign you have focused on your Facebook Page.

Finally, check-ins themselves can become sponsored stories in your desktop Facebook ad campaigns. This makes them an ad format that allows you to (1) further leverage users’ personal networks, (2) make ads more meaningful and engaging, and (3) potentially drive more traffic/fans to your Facebook page (if you have just the one Facebook page tied to a location).

Distributing Ad Budgets Across Mobile Channels

Once you appraise the opportunity that might exist for your business across different mobile advertising channels, the question remains: how do you go about diverting and allotting budget from other channels into their mobile counterparts? Well, there are three things to consider.

Marketing Spend Projection According to Forrester

First, you can’t think of each of these mobile channels as distinct from their desktop counterparts. Yes, mobile is still young, and many of us are still working out what works and what doesn’t on mobile. But as devices become more portable and tablets continually blur the lines between mobile and PCs, what we consider “mobile” today (i.e. phones and tablets) will become just another targeting options within larger search and display campaigs.

Second, you have to plan for increased mobile ad prices. Because mobile is still new, mobile ad space is selling below market value. As much as this makes it an ideal time to test things out, it also mean that the budgets you can work with today won’t be sufficient for running a campaign tomorrow.

Finally, since mobile prices are still low, emphasize mobile in your test budget. Now is the time to take advantage of how much testing you can do with so much less budget, because in the near future, you’ll have to divert even more spend into mobile.


CT Moore

CT Moore

A recovering agency hack, CT Moore now runs Socialed Inc., an inbound marketing consultancy that specializes in SEO, content marketing, and social media strategies for ecommerce, media, and B2B companies. With over a decade of experience in marketing communications, CT has managed SEO, social media, and content marketing campaigns on both the agency and client side, for start-ups and multinationals alike. CT is also a widely published writer and blogger, and has spoken at conferences in Canada, the US, and Europe. You can read more from CT on the Socialed Blog.

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