How Much Google Traffic Comes From Mobile Devices – A Quick Study

Most studies I’ve read regarding mobile seem to focus on statistics that may lead to conclusions that overstate the importance of mobile. I wanted to put together a study that would show the actual traffic from mobile devices to a local website in an industry that was traditionally driven by yellow page advertising. My goal is to create a resource that a small business owner making the transition from yellow pages advertising could use to put mobile search in perspective. A change to Google Adwords platform helped.

Back in February, Google added a feature that allows you to segment Adwords traffic by “device.”
It’s an option on the segment drop down menu… here’s a screenshot:

I decided to study this to determine how important mobile was to my clients. I wanted to find the answer to 2 questions:

  1. What percentage of traffic came from mobile?
  2. Does the percentage of traffic from Mobile vary in different parts of the country?
  3. All of the companies in the study are of the same type, garage door companies, which provides an almost unique opportunity to study mobile patterns across different parts of the country without having to factor in for the type of company.

    Here is a map that shows the traffic from Adwords on a smart phone as a percentage of all Adwords traffic to each of 7 garage door companies from around the Country.

    Mobile Traffic By City For Garage Door Companies

    This data was taken from February 16, 2010 – April 16, 2010. Impressions, rather than clicks were used, to eliminate click thru rate as a variable. I felt like this made a better comparison and each of these businesses had at least 3,000 impressions during this time interval.

    San Jose 3.27%
    Chicago 2.63%
    Denver 2.38%
    Pittsburgh 2.13%
    Nashville 1.84%
    Akron 1.43%
    Westchester 1.10%

    Conclusions And Areas For Further Study

    • Not a big surprise that San Jose, which falls in Silicon Valley is number 1
    • The small data set follows the general pattern that people in bigger cities (more population) are going to use mobile devices a higher percentage of the time
    • Westchester County NY surprised me. This is a high income area which I would thought would lead to higher mobile usage. Interestingly, Westchester County is the oldest population in this set. Could be that age trumps income when it comes to selecting a small business on a mobile handset.
    • For different types of businesses Mobile is going to be more or less important but overall it’s likely to be less than 5% of overall traffic. Again, this is a small study but Adwords and Google Analytics both provide easy segmentation of mobile traffic. Look in your analytics or call your PPC provider to see what percentage of your traffic is mobile.
    • Tip: Ask your PPC provider what your average position is when segmented for Mobile. I shoot for top 3 in computer devices and top 2 in Mobile (Google shows 2 ads on top on Mobil devices)
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10 Responses to How Much Google Traffic Comes From Mobile Devices – A Quick Study

  1. SPK says:

    I like what you’ve come up with here.

    I wonder how the impact of the way adwords are displayed on a mobile device vs. a computer screen impacts the results?

    For example, when I am using my mobile phone to search I am *generally* searching for a local company and will be using google’s mobile app on my iphone to do so.

    In addition searching for “garage door easton pa” on google’s app produces 4 adword ads (1 at the top), while the same search on in my browser produces 11 adword ads, 3 at the top and the rest to the right.

    I wonder if a better way to understand this data is to use the weblogs to see what platform the user is on when they visit.

    Mobile is where it’s at. Look at where Apple is with their last quarter. They sold more iPhones last quarter than any other quarter. The iPhone isn’t getting old. The iPad (also a mobile device) has sold an est. 500,000.

  2. SPK – To your first question, We typically get a higher CTR on Mobile devices but not always. Obviously the CTR will be highly correlated with avg position.

    If you did the same search without Easton PA you’d find very local results for Ads and Maps. Big Brother (Google) knows where you are :)

  3. Pingback: Mobile Marketing No Longer Means Slapping Your Ad on a Bus

  4. earlpearl says:

    That is a great and helpful study, Tim. Keep up the good work. Very informative!!

  5. Chris says:

    This is good info. to know, good to know

  6. Stever says:

    I’ve been, till now, avoiding mobile devices in PPC campaigns. Google gives you the option to set your ads to only display on desktop and laptop computers. Unless your PPC landing pages are VERY mobile friendly that paid traffic can be worthless when the visitor arrives on a giant web pages scaled down to iPhone size.

    But I am now building mobile specific landing pages and creating separate campaigns just to target the mobile traffic.

    I too am shooting for top 2 ad placement for mobile, but click through rates appear to be much lower (in my small data set). No real results on conversion rates just yet.

    I wonder if iPhone/Android users in larger metro’s are more web savvy and avoid clicking on ads?

  7. This is good information and the study is sorely needed. Thanks for posting this. Quite helpful.

  8. Mobile is only going to get bigger. As more smartphones come online, mobile web is only going to explode in the coming years. Good report. Thanks.

  9. Very interesting. I’ve been approached by a couple of companies recently and yes they were very focused on getting me to pay extra to make sure my website was compatible for mobile users. I know that more and more customers view sites from their phones, but apparently the push isn’t quite as big as the salesmen paint it to be. Thanks for the information, very thought provoking.