Why Google AdWords needs a bid modifier customised for tablet PCs

When it comes to optimising our AdWords campaigns, Google provides us with a number of different ways to modify campaign structure, enhance text ads, and adjust bid management. For instance, we can choose to work with so-called “bid modifiers”, which enable us to set percental bid adjustments for certain criteria: such as campaign device, geographic location, and ad schedule.

With regard to Google Shopping in particular, we will need to ask ourselves: how do we set those bid modifiers in order to convert with mobile devices? Currently, AdWords only offers a bid modifier for smartphones, while desktop and tablet PCs are still combined into one category. However, while tablets and desktop PCs (notebooks in particular) are quite similar in terms of their touch operation, Office apps, and even sales figures, tablets are also just as operable, mobile, and flexible as smartphones.

In my opinion, tablets need their own device category and bid modifier. By looking more closely into the performance of smartphones, computers, and tablet PCs, I’ve achieved results that also support my argument. 

Significant differences between devices’ conversion rates

In order to answer the question of an extra bid modifier for tablets, I looked at the AdWords accounts of a British-American mail order company in the fashion industry. For my investigation, I distinguished between Google Shopping and standard text ads, excluding search advertising networks and brand campaigns. Comparing click-through-rates and conversion rates, I obtained the following data:

Data analysis devices

After taking a look at the performance of tablets compared to that of other devices of the same channel, you’ll quickly realise why it would make sense to distinguish between the different devices.

Comparison Difference CTR Difference CR
Tablet vs. desktop (Search) 46 % for tablets 35 % for desktop
Tablet vs. smartphone (Search) 7 % for smartphones 41 % for tablets
Tablet vs. desktop (Shopping) 3 % for tablets 38 % for desktop
Tablet vs. smartphone (Shopping) 27 % for smartphones 37 % for tablets

In the context of standard text ads, the conversion rate of tablet users is 41% higher than that of smartphone users. Compared to computers, however, tablets convert at a lower rate (-35%).

Google Shopping has conversion rates similar to those of standard text ads. Shopping ads converted better by 38% on desktop PCs than on tablets, while at 37%, tablet PCs are still ahead of smartphones. On top of that, in the context of Google Shopping, click-through-rates vary significantly between smartphones and tablets (27%).

AdWords needs an additional bid modifier for tablet PCs

The results of this analysis provide us with insight about the performance levels of smartphones, computers, and tablet PCs. Both in the context of standard text ads and Google Shopping ads, we can observe considerable differences in the devices’ conversion rates, which most likely relate to their respective use and usability. Because of their size, smartphones are often only used for searching and surfing the Internet, while users generally use desktop PCs for online purchases. Tablets are something of a mix of the two, which is also reflected in the data of my analysis.

Ultimately, the results outlined above quite clearly show: combining desktop and tablet PCs into one category will not satisfy advertisers’ demands. What we need is an additional AdWords bid modifier for tablets.


Björn Büchler

I started to work for crealytics in the role of a data analyst in 2013, after I worked in the field of macroeconomic research. In my everyday work I use R in conjunction with RStudio on Linux. My passion are econometrics (9and yes, in my opinion it includes statistics!), "data diggin' ", IT and Baseball.

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  • Anna

    Thanks for the insights. I recently have seen for a B2B advertiser that tablet conversion rate is 50% below desktop. So a tablet bid modifier makes sense.

    But I think that Google does not want to make the system too complicated and accepts a certain inefficiency?

    • Björn Büchler

      Hi Anna, from the viewpoint of an ppc manager the system wouldn’t become too complicated, regarding the usability. I’d suppose, that a bid modifier for tablets becomces more interesting for Google to implement, when shopping has reached some kind of market share that is outperforming search. But who knows when this will happen…

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