Study Illustrates Problems with Offline Mobile Conversion Tracking

Earlier this week Marin Software released some very interesting aggregated data on mobile search trends. The report sees dramatic growth for mobile paid-search. It projects that smartphones and tablets will combine to generate 25% of all Google’s paid-search clicks and 23% of paid-search spending in the US by the end of this year.

Among the other data the report assembles are click-through (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC) and conversion rates in mobile. It compares them to comparable metrics in desktop paid search. The numbers are averages based on client campaigns.

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Smartphones show higher CTRs and lower CPCs than PC search campaigns. But they also show lower conversion rates and thus higher per-conversion costs than either tablets or PCs. 

The smartphone conversion data appear lower likely because most conversions are happening offline and they're not being accurately tracked. Marin says as much in its recommendations for marketers about offline conversion tracking:

Mobile searches often result in conversions that happen via a call or a physical store. Unfortunately, most marketers lack the ability to glue these clicks together into a unified conversion funnel. Marketers should look to estimate their mobile-influenced revenue through the use of popular mobile ad formats such as click-to-call and store-locator. By combining the typical conversion rate for in-store and phone-based transactions with the average revenue per transaction, marketers can estimate a revenue per click for mobile devices, and adjust their mobile CPCs and budget accordingly.

Whether paid search or display ads, marketers need to track calls and have landing pages where "secondary actions" like store locator or map lookups can be tracked to see whether consumers are acting on the ads. If the tracking isn't set up properly then you're going to see fewer conversions or no conversions and the ROI data will be distorted. 

The conversions are there, they're just not visibile in many cases.