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8 min read

Cross-Device Considerations for PPC Managers

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Mobile is taking digital marketing by storm – we need to adapt if we want to survive. Erin Sagin, Google’s Global SMB Solutions Go To Market Lead, has highlighted how mobile search volume has overtaken desktop, where creating a strong mobile PPC strategy can be essential for driving leads and conversions. But what happens if you have a strong mobile strategy, and your data is saying mobile traffic is expensive with few conversions?

Don’t panic! Businesses need to understand the role of mobile in a users’ journey to secure a lead or goal. Although it may look like mobile is costing you big money for small returns it may be that mobile is simply acting as the first (vital) touch point for your audience. Now is not the time to dismiss low mobile conversion rates and punish mobile with harsh bid adjustments, it’s the time to explore how a cross-device strategy can lead to more conversions in comparison to a solo approach.

Cross-device attribution modelling (trust me, it’s more awesome than it sounds!)

We’re used to planning the customer’s journey through various marketing funnels, but how do devices feature in this? Let’s take a look at the model below (note the projected device importance to the right) and see where devices can work together to create conversions:


Whilst you still have the same ad visibility on mobile (two 30 character headings, an 80 character description, plus all your normal links and extensions), there are some important features of mobile to consider.

Mobile is often used for quick queries where users may not be interested in a long research experience. A quick explore of some preliminary possibilities or a speedy search for an answer may be all the user is after. Google now displays up to three ads on any SERP, and on a mobile screen this often requires a full scroll to get past. This makes mobile ads part of some prime search real estate that you need to target. Being part of the ‘explore’ starting stage opens you up to a much larger section of the market, and will help build brand awareness that may be crucial for later brand recognition. Whilst the ‘explore’ stage can occur on desktop, the ease of searching quickly, remotely and conveniently on a mobile device makes these searches far more likely to occur on mobile.

Let’s look at an example: someone’s starting to get prepared for their upcoming prom night. Everyone’s talking about what they’re going to wear but our user has few ideas. This may spark their initial search to explore, e.g. ‘prom dress trends’. This will spark a multitude of results, but your user just wants a quick look before they get to school that morning. They have a quick explore in the car to pass the time, and then bigger things crowd their day.

This is the perfect opportunity to get your brand in front of your future customer. They don’t have the time or the inclination right now to boot up the desktop, but they are interested to explore what’s on offer. If you’re not on their mobile, you’ve missed a golden opportunity to let them immediately explore your brand at their convenience.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, this has not resulted in a conversion. HOWEVER, this will have increased brand awareness, which can be vital for the next stage of the funnel: consideration.


After having a quick explore on mobile, a user may decide to pursue their search interest a little deeper – whether that’s to find more information, compare brands and prices, or explore related opportunities. This means they may transfer from mobile to desktop. A larger screen can often make the consideration process quicker and more efficient. Users can click across tabs, see many more large images at once and will have often decided to spend time on this activity (it’s less likely that a user will search like this when they are preoccupied), so quick convenience at a moment’s notice is less important.

Furthermore, by using an N-Gram analysis, we can see the journey of search intent along with your customer’s journey to buy from your brand. Short searches on mobile can often spark longer-tail queries on desktop, where you need to be visible at both stages, on both devices.

Going back to our prom night example, our user has decided from their initial ‘explore’ that they’d like a ‘halter neck green dress’. If your brand is amongst your competitors on desktop, but you were the only one that appeared on mobile, you are bound to stand out as the friendly face amongst a sea of unknown, potentially time-wasting possibilities.

It’s also important to bear in mind that your user may still have your website open on their mobile when they go back to their internet app, giving them a second dose of exposure to your brand, where the user may then decide to consider your products in more detail in a moment where they have more time to concentrate on your selections.


From a spark on mobile, to a longer search on desktop, to finally a desktop conversion. This is a frequent journey for many users. It’s essential to remember the importance of mobile in creating that initial awareness that helps to make you so much more appealing on desktop.

You’re so much less likely to be in the running if they’ve not come across you on their initial or more in-depth searches.

At the final stage of our prom night example, our user has decided to buy their dress from your brand. They’re delighted, and you get your conversion! By exploring briefly on mobile, considering their choices across mobile and desktop, to finally purchasing on desktop, our devices have worked together to secure the conversion.

How to survive?

When looking at your bid adjustments, try not to be too quick to make aggressive changes. Monitor the situation to see how mobile impacts other metrics. The difficulty with this grey area is not knowing what directly impacts conversion increases, however, we can track the user journey across devices.

This can be done through Google Analytics or AdWords. Since we’re looking at mobile ads, I’m gonna use AdWords to show you how to check where your leads are being pulled from when devices work together.

Firstly, to see how your conversions are a result of users’ experiences with multiple devices, select the ‘Tools’ tab in AdWords. Then click the ‘Cross-Device Activity’ drop-down menu on the left- hand side and select ‘Devices’.

Below shows the sort of table that will come up (provided your ads are visible across devices). Here we can see what was used to interact with an ad (e.g. click on it), and on what device that click contributed to a conversion. Here we can see that mobile created the most ad interactions, but is only attributed as responsible for 26% of conversions. This clearly shows how mobile can be a crucial step along an eventual desktop conversion, where 57% of all desktop conversions only occurred after an interaction on mobile.

If we then look at ‘Assisting Devices’, at first glance mobile again may seem to underperform in comparison to desktop. When looking at the ‘Last Click Conversions’, desktop appears to be responsible for over 30% more conversions than mobile. However, if we look at ‘Click-Assisted Conversions’, we can see mobile was involved in 14% more ad interactions (clicks) along user conversion journeys compared to desktop. This demonstrates that mobile is likely to contribute to users’ journeys in the vital beginning stages of the conversion funnel – when they are just exploring and considering – which ultimately leads to conversions.

Finally, to see the full impact of mobile, we can track the cross-device journey of the user by clicking on ‘Device Path’. Here it is clear to see the where users have seen and interacted with your ad before converting. This can include when a user has interacted, gone away and interacted again on the same device or a different one. In the example below, Mobile > Desktop is responsible for more than double the number of conversions in comparison to Mobile > Mobile and Desktop > Desktop.

This shows us the importance of users seeing and interacting with ads on mobile and then choosing to convert on desktop. If we were to aggressively adjust mobile bids based on ‘Last Click Conversions’ alone, we would potentially miss out on a large volume of conversions on desktop driven by mobile.

So, to sum up:

> Don’t dismiss mobile: it’s valuable across the whole conversion funnel (but especially in the initial stages when users are exploring and considering).

> Don’t give all the credit to the last-click: conversions are often a joint effort, that can frequently start on mobile.

> Make sure you’re using smart tracking: don’t get lazy with what metrics you base your decisions on – you could be missing vital data that could be producing success in other areas.

Finally, remember the real person on the other side of the screen. Make sure your ads are convenient for them to find, and that you’re there every step of the way, no matter what device they want to use. To win the best conversion rates, your devices are at their best when working as a team.


This guide was written by Bethany Angella, a digital marketing analyst at Impression and English graduate from the University of Nottingham. Check out her website at