PPC Campaigns – Missing Bid Adjustments For Tablet Devices

Posted on 24/02/2015 by Jonathan Ellins

iPad-Air-tablet-deviceBid adjustments are vital towards achieving better results for pay-per-click advertising. Unfortunately there is always one adjustment that’s missing; separate bid adjustments for tablet devices.

Why PPC Bid Adjustments Matter

To get the highest levels of paid advertising returns it’s a great idea to use bid adjustments to lower maximum cost-per-clicks on lower performing areas and raise maximum cost-per-clicks on higher performing areas.  This places the ads in more prominent places when conversion levels are higher and saves budget when conversions are less likely to happen, an overall rise in average performance.

The three most important paid advertising bid adjustments are:

  • Location – Different regions will behave differently on a website, a high-end luxury brand could raise their bids within more affluent areas for example as they would be more likely to make a luxury purchase.  Distance could play a part in local advertising also, a theme park would easily attract visitors from 30 miles away, but would be less likely to attract people 100 miles away for example, so bids could be lowered at further distances.
  • Time – Days of the month, days of the week and hours of the day combine to make a complex pattern of visitor behaviour online. It’s not important when big levels of traffic use the website, it’s important how well they convert for bid adjustments. For example eCommerce sites typically see a rise in conversion rates after pay-day, they usually have a poor conversion rate on weekends and orders are more likely to be placed during lunchtime and around 5pm.  Different types of websites will see wildly different conversion rate patterns depending on their visitor demographics and what they offer.
  • Devices – The experience of websites differs greatly between desktop/laptop computers and smartphone devices due to the different screen sizes and the different ways to navigate. Not only are there huge differences in looks and interactions between a mobile and desktop website, mobile users could be on the move, or in a rush for information. Desktop users on the other hand are rooted to one location, possibly with browsing restrictions if they are in an office or school environment. Mobile users are more likely to just research into a topic quickly before pursuing it in-depth at home on a desktop or laptop device meaning that they will convert at a lower rate. There are many, many reasons why conversion rates can be very different for desktop and mobile users and typically most websites see a lower direct conversion rate from mobile devices for a combination of these reasons.


Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns

Google-AdWords-Enhanced-CampaignsBefore Google AdWords introduced enhanced campaigns, you had to use different campaigns for different devices and locations unless you wanted to bid on them all at the same level.

To manage separate bids for desktop, mobile and tablet devices you would need three campaigns running in parallel, one for each device type. If an AdWords user also wanted different bid levels for different locations then this multiplied the number of campaigns required for the three device types, a big headache for account managers.

When enhanced campaigns were launched you only needed one campaign that contained bid adjustments for all the different locations, devices and times of the week. This saved a lot of management time and also kept statistics together in one place, allowing for more informed decisions.  Instead of users having at least three campaigns to cater for desktop, mobile and tablet users, they now just needed one. Having different bids for different devices and different locations simply required one campaign, using bid adjustments to tweak each attribute separately.


Bid Adjustments for Tablet Devices

Unfortunately when enhanced campaigns were launched, the ability to bid separately on tablet devices was lost, tablet devices were now lumped together with desktop devices:

Only bid adjustments can be made for mobile devices in Google AdWords
Only bid adjustments can be made for mobile devices in Google AdWords

Whatever bid level you set for desktop users will also be used by default for tablet users, there is no way around this.  You can set mobile bid adjustment to -100% which will turn off mobile advertising altogether, but frustratingly you cannot adjust bids for tablet devices separately from desktop devices.


When our MD Susan Hallam visited Google’s European HQ in Dublin she asked on my behalf why there is no specific bid adjustment setting for tablet devices and got this answer:

…The reason tablet is combined with desktop on bid adjustment is because, according to Google’s research, intention on desktop is the same as on tablet. There is no benefit in splitting the two. Intention on mobile is greatly different, and typically a local behavioural search.


Whilst this seems like a satisfactory answer, it doesn’t address the key differences between desktop and tablet users and the differences in how they interact with websites:

  • Tablet users have the ability to use their devices away from the home or work environment much like laptop users, who are classified under the “desktop” device users.  Unlike laptops, tablet devices are much easier to use on open WiFi spots such as public transport, coffee houses and restaurants. Some tablets can even connect to the mobile data network meaning that they can go online in any location if they have a good enough mobile phone signal.
  • The speed, size and convenience of tablet devices make them popular with people to use whilst watching TV or relaxing in bed. At these times, more casual browsing may be done with a lot of possible distractions on the tablet device and in real life.
  • Lastly, tablet devices use touch screen navigation which can cause issues if a website isn’t optimised for usability on tablet devices. Typing with tablet devices is much more of a chore than typing with a dedicated keyboard, also it’s much easier to accidentally click on something whilst interacting with a web page.


Bing Ads also support enhanced campaigns and they also recently lumped tablet devices and desktop devices together as well generating some angry comments online.  Bing Ads do allow you reduce tablet bids but only by up to 20%; they will make the user interface clearer for this in March 2015.


I have always seen a lower conversion rate for tablet devices than desktop devices. To find your own statistics to prove this difference you can simply login to Google AdWords and follow these steps:

  1. Visit the “Campaigns” tab at the top of the page
  2. Select a campaign you wish to see statistics for, or press “All online campaigns” in the top left corner
  3. Click “Segment” and then choose “Device”
  4. Expand the “Total – all campaigns” tab at the very bottom of the results page
  5. Compare the conversion rates for “Computers” vs. “Mobile devices” vs. “Tablets”
Finding the device segment report in Google AdWords


Checking the results of the device segment in Google AdWords
Checking the results of the device segment in Google AdWords

The example above is from a real website, you can see that the average cost-per-click amounts is very nearly the same for computers and tablets, but the click conversion rate is very different; 4.22% for computers and 3.42% for tablets, a difference of 19%.


You may need to select a bigger date range if there isn’t enough data to give accurate results, found in the top right corner of AdWords. I would advise not going too far back in time as you may go to a time frame before tablet devices were recorded or back to a time where the website was designed or structured differently.

If you have goals or eCommerce data stored in Google Analytics then you can compare Desktop vs. Mobile vs. Tablet statistics using this blog post.  In Google Analytics you can see different device statistics from any source and/or medium of online traffic, paid or not.



Separate bid adjustments are clearly needed for tablet devices within Google AdWords and Bing Ads. Currently desktop bids need to be lowered to average out the lower returns from tablet devices so budget is being forcefully wasted.

Hopefully Google AdWords will allow more control over tablet devices in the near future, Bing Ads have improvements planned for March 2015 but unfortunately tablet bids can only be reduced by up to 20%, a semi-win for advertisers.

Tablets account for a huge percentage in advertising revenue for search engines so it’s unlikely that they will ever give the option to turn ads off or even down for tablet users unless the issue is known and contested. Please spread the news that tablets aren’t the same as desktop computers and advertisers should have more control over their advertising costs.

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PPC Campaigns – Missing Bid Adjustments For Tablet Devices

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