Pinpointing mobile search

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More than ever, consumers turn to smartphones to find information on products and services
More than ever, consumers turn to smartphones to find information on products and services

For example, Cars.com's marketing team was frustrated that while it could trace clicks from the search ad to the app store, it couldn't track whether the user actually downloaded the app.

“We can look at total traffic to our mobile site and downloads of our apps and try to correlate to mobile advertising that we have run,” Myszkowski says. “Depending on goals for each campaign, optimizing against clickthroughs only may not be enough.”

As mobile becomes more critical to companies' strategies, she expects that measurement will follow, just as it has over the past several years in the digital and social channels.

Southwest has moved cautiously into mobile SEM, partly because the nascent tracking and analytical capabilities make it harder for the company to correlate marketing spend with results.

“Right now, we're diverting some spend into mobile because of its growth and the potential we believe is there for our mobile apps and mobile sites,” Sacco says. “But we don't quite have the measurement in place to get good ROI analysis — it's sort of going on faith at this point.”

Besides its clear potential, Sacco emphasizes mobile search's value as compared to standard search, since only the top two paid search ads will display to users on the mobile screen at one time, compared to the three available on desktop search.

“There's limited inventory that they have at this time,” Sacco says, adding that he views that as a temporary situation. “It's still early as far as large-scale investment in [mobile search], but we're seeing good buys as far as the cost.”

He adds that as capabilities and sophistication on the search providers' side improve, allowing for greater ability to connect with customers who are most likely to be interested in particular messages, that Southwest's investment in this area is also likely to grow.

Tabeling expects to see ad formats advancing to better leverage mobile devices, even drawing in the smartphone's camera, GPS and audio capabilities. One area he is watching closely is voice search, which has enjoyed an enormous amount of attention from the Siri program on the iPhone 4S.

“It will take off with enough momentum; right now it's a nice toy to play with when you first get the iPhone,” he says. “I think there's opportunity there, but don't think it's the most important thing currently.”

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