TODAY’S AGENDA 5 Reasons Why Search Advertisers Need to Consider Responsive Web Design for their Site

5 Reasons Why Search Advertisers Need to Consider Responsive Web Design for their Site

July 20, 2015 10:54 am Published by

With smartphone and tablet use in the UK continuing to rise, it is increasingly important for advertisers to consider the options available to display their websites on a wider range of devices.

Responsive design is one such option which “uses flexible layouts, adaptable images and cascading style sheet media queries to build web pages that detect the visitor’s screen size and change the layout accordingly” (source: The sites that make content both accessible and consistent will be the ones that succeed. Below are 5 reasons why Responsive Design must be a priority for advertisers in the near future.

1. Growth in the Use of “Mobile” Devices The use of mobile devices has grown year on year and shows no sign of slowing down. Coupled with this, the sales and use of PC and desktop computers is on a steady decline. 68% smartphone penetration in the UK 40% tablet penetration in the UK 55% of smartphone users search on their phone everyday (source: Google Consumer Barometer). With such high penetration rates of mobile devices, we are seeing a considerable shift in search behaviour. Search volume statistics show desktop searches to be decreasing and tablet and mobile searches increasing. Whilst search statistics will vary depending on the vertical, generally they will look as they do in figure

2. It is crucial for advertisers to acknowledge the change in search behaviour. Especially since the different categories of device are starting to homogenise, meaning it is crucially important to optimise your site for mobile. Improved Site Engagement Mobile devices are often the first “proactive” point of interaction for users, particularly in cases where they have been subject to other media, such as a TV advert. Indeed, 14% of users surveyed used their smartphone during their last purchase. It could therefore be argued that mobile content needs to be the most engaging. At the very least, mobile sites must be consistent with what can be consumed on more “traditional” devices for a more congruous user experience. Some of our clients at agenda21 have experienced conversion rates doubling after introducing a responsive design site. Mobile devices do, however, ultimately yield lower conversion rates. There is no universally accepted answer for why this is the case, but we can speculate that trust issues and early adoption of mobile searching are at play. Furthermore, mobile sites can offer limited functionality, often focusing too heavily on a conversion point meaning additional information can be tricky to find. Despite this, conversion rates for mobile devices should increase in the near future as users become more used to the layout and functionality.

3. Mobile Search Space is Still Cheaper By using responsive design to ensure optimal experience for users, there is an opportunity to capitalise on cheaper CPCs. The controversial migration to enhanced campaigns last year, forcing search advertisers to advertise in the tablet and mobile space, without any control over tablet investment and only a bid modifier for mobile, caused issues for advertisers, specifically with mobile conversion rates. Despite Google’s best efforts, advertisers are still reluctant to invest in mobile search activity with the same vigour as desktop and tablet, meaning a cheaper environment across many verticals. The cheaper traffic can actually offset poorer conversion rates to bring about a more efficient return.

4. Data Consolidation Responsive design means using only one site. Therefore only one site needs to be tagged. This means data no longer needs to be stitched together in order to get an overall picture. Data can then be segmented to view site stats for the different devices, making analytics and optimisation more straightforward.

5. Responsive Design vs App As a paid search practitioner, despite the inroads that are being made in to in-app tracking, I would always suggest that having a consistent site experience across all devices is more important. 66% of smartphone users surveyed expect sites to work as well on their mobile as on their desktop. A good, optimised site provides the initial engagement, whereas an app’s purpose is largely focused on user retention through offering a richer experience. An app is very rarely going to provide you with brand new customer engagement. Rather than a choice of the two, ideally an organisation should prioritise which is the right move for them to maintain and increase resonance across different devices. In conclusion, advertisers must make planning around responsive design a priority, not only to reflect changes in search behaviour, but to deepen engagement for their customers, and tap into the relatively cheap search environment that currently exists. Consumers are using more and more devices which means sites must adapt to provide consistent content to their audiences no matter what device they are using.


Originally published in ‘The Big Search Handbook’ by the IAB UK, the full document can be downloaded by IAB members here

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//by Jenna Aarons