Adwords: Google goes mobile-first

Google warned us for a while: everybody is going mobile! Google Partners, in last handful of years, have received important, recurrent updates and insights from Google about everything mobile compared with desktop usage. Statistics showed a constant, persistent growth of mobile users.

Google mobile searches
So it does not surprise Google’s recent change in layout affecting Google AdWords’ advertisers regarding the way ads show on the search result pages (SERPs). We have no longer ads on the side and the top ads went from three to four.

Google also has become more sensitive to users’ behaviours and improved, more accurate algorithms play a key part in delivering results that will adapt and show adverts only if still relevant to a specific user. This should result in better AdWords campaigns’ performance if ads are not being showed to people who are not really interested in them.

User-sensitive Google SERPs

Since the launch of the Partners Program, few years ago, Google seems to be moving on two different tracks: partners to push towards bringing more wealthy clients on the AdWords ship and a wider, more direct attempt to bring small fish on board too with a variety of initiatives including the now notorious, local and quite interesting Google Garage. Google also has moved towards monetising as much as it can of its systems so now you need to pay to access important data you don’t normally have access to despite being a paying client. The message could be that if you want to advertise on Google, you need to be serious about it.

How does the new mobile-only layout impact on advertisers?

There have been some years of regular increase in advertising costs on this platform. Certainly, on top of Google AdWords changes in prices, there are verisimilarly more advertisers therefore more competition and tougher fights to be at the top.

The most obvious and direct challenge that arises from the layout change is an increased competition for fewer visible positions meaning an even more ferocious bidding war whose most likely winners, on a general level and if money were the only key factor, are the ones with the largest wallet.

When we combine the new ads positions with other elements that appear before organic results, we understand that SEO strategies are also going to be greatly affected by the new page structure.

Google SERPs Layout before change - AdWords Ads

If the message is that we need to be more serious about advertising on Google and if the number one search engine is now going all mobile, it follows that advertisers need to become more tech-savvy than ever before and more confident with new technologies, mobile first.

Whether you are a large multimillion company or a small organisation, I reckon you would rather spend better than more. So what advertisers should be looking for is a way to get better, more focused results from their investments and resources.

How can advertisers counterattack the challenges of a mobile-based world and advertising platforms?

Here are few tips.

Get the mobile feeling and more

Educating yourself is extremely important, even when you rely on external agencies and consultants for your advertising needs. It is vital to be able to have a two-way, informed dialog with these parties. More so, becoming a bit more tech-savvy will allow you to understand your customers more even just by simply being able to see things from their perspective.

Google offers a variety of tools for learning at any level. In recent years, there have been a few initiatives such as Google Garage where literally anybody could go and learn the basics of advertising. Online you also have several great resources to learn more about any technology, device or platform you may like.

Some professionals prefer to deal directly with consultants that can teach them on a more personalised, bespoke level whether as lessons, customised courses, mentoring or even coaching. Some businesses prefer custom, on-site courses for their personnel which is a valuable solution to ensure the company’s team members are all on the same page.

Whichever works best for you, learning and keeping up-to-date is a good future-proof strategy that can save you money, mistakes and stress.

Don’t waste any more time and go mobile-friendly now

I am still surprised when I encounter non-mobile-friendly websites or poorly made mobile sites. I know some businesses that do not have an online shop as their business model is unsuitable for an e-store and they don’t have the resources to properly handle an e-Commerce. Even then a website easily accessible and usable via mobile devices makes a huge difference within the current market’s reality.

One of my clients did not seem to be particularly excited about having a new, mobile-friendly design for his online store. He had an e-Commerce for years and was satisfied with his business. The new store would be mobile-friendly and allow users to easily complete a purchase on their smartphone, something it was never possible with previous designs. I realised that providing my client with generic words and global trends would be pointless, so I simply got a screenshot from his site’s Google Analytics statistics which, unsurprisingly, showed he had a growing number of mobile users, now over 40%, with desktop users below 55%. That is over four out of ten clients he could not sell to while they were on their mobile devices.

41% mobile users vs 54% desktop users

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site you are most likely loosing valuable leads, sales and profits too and you want to remedy this as soon as possible. It is not just about online shops. Even a corporate website should be available for and usable by prospects while on their smartphones.

Your mobile-friendly site must be also user-friendly. It is extremely frustrating when a user is limited in what he can do. Annoyed users are not the way forward and you should review your website now and then to make necessary adjustments and improvements.

Understanding your audience

If you know your audience you are half-way towards victory.

Whether you are a sole trader, an artist, a mid-size company, a charity or a large corporation you need to know who your ideal users/buyers are today. The market changes and you need to analyse your audience recursively over a period of time, to be sure you are targeting, talking to and engaging with the right people who will subscribe, join your organisation or buy your products and services.

If you have been in business for a while and have a good system in place, you most likely have a good amount of data to gather and analyse; online resources can also help you. Hiring a User Experience consultant can be the right thing to do if you need support with this key process or if you would like someone else to do it for you.

Optimisation is the key

Once you truly understand your audience you can build the best campaign and strategy around it and optimise them both getting better results for less.

Your campaigns can be structured and carefully refined to maximise performance to achieve your goals while satisfying your target audience.

Optimisation is an ongoing activity. No campaign will work forever the way it is, regardless of how well it was created at the start. This is not only due to changes in users’ behaviours or market fluctuations or new competitors; it can also simply depend on changes within the platform or network. In last five years Google has implemented multiple changes within their AdWords system, some quite significant, and the change in its SERPs’ layout will not be the last.

Agencies and professionals can help you with AdWords campaigns optimisation. Several types of solutions and services are available on the online advertising market.

On-site UX to maximise ROI

UX, or User Experience, is an IT branch which you probably heard, or know, about and that came in the spotlight in recent years due to the undeniable benefits for several types of contents, including websites.

Within the UX techniques there is making the advertiser’s goals and the users’ needs converge in a way that delivers improved results or, more specifically, higher ROI.

UX has become increasingly important in any sector from education to e-Commerce, from corporate to governmental websites: literally any type of content, in practically any form, whether virtual, on paper or live, visual or written, can be improved with UX techniques.

User Experience goes beyond the availability of useful features and functionalities in a website or the perfection of everything technical behind a website. A UX Designer will also makes a website’s features, functionalities, contents, etc. usable to its users, as friendly to them as they can be, facilitating the journey towards the desired objective. As an example, if your campaign’s goal is subscriptions from visitors, good on-page UX would involve:

  • making the page your prospect subscribers land to as friendly “for them” (your specific audience) as it can be from both a functional and an aesthetical point of view,
  • ensuring these users will feel they can relate with the page’s content, style and features
  • and gently but clearly directing them towards your desired action (subscription).

Google includes on-site UX within the factors that will determine important AdWords parameters which will either cut your costs or increase your spend. From a perspective of your ROI, with good applied UX you can see a dramatic improvement in your campaigns’ performance and results.


Here is the summary of my top tips for getting the best out of your Google AdWords advertising campaigns in the mobile era:

  • Learn as much as you can
  • Have a good mobile-friendly website
  • Understand your audience and build a sensible strategy around it
  • Optimise to get results at the best price
  • Improve on-site UX to maximise ROI