Biddable Blog To Split or Not to Split. The Great Ads Device Targeting Debate

To Split or Not to Split. The Great Ads Device Targeting Debate

Whilst it is well known that usage by device via Google Ads campaigns can differ greatly, the decision to separate campaigns by desktop, tablet and mobile remains a hotly contested topic amongst PPC professionals. Affecting metrics such as average order value and conversion rate, it really is an area where great gains (and losses) can be made.

The continuing rise of the smartphone is clear to see, with latest estimates suggesting that consumers spend 3 hours 13 minutes a day on this device. Combined with Google’s “mobile first” mantra which adds further fuel to this fire, it places device optimisation firmly at the centre of any effective Adwords strategy.

Below, the Biddable Media team outline the case for and against device segmentation and answer why experimentation should always be judge and jury when it comes to the ‘split or not to split’ verdict.


1. Tighter bid control

Arguably, one of the major benefits to device segmentation is tighter bid control.

Most businesses observe a typical pattern of desktop usage peaking at midday, increased mobile traffic at commuter hours with tablet usage remaining steady away until evenings, as illustrated by the below graphic:

When it comes to days of the week, desktop appears to be a clear working day winner that is soon trumped at weekend by both tablet and mobile.

In accordance with the changes in time of day and day of week usage, behaviour on each device is often dramatically different and appears especially marked in the case of mobile – as consumers research and consider purchases on this device before converting via a different device or channel. This often results in a high cost per conversion on mobile.

By segmenting your campaigns by device, you can effectively control spend on mobile, desktop and tablet on a granular level and create ad schedules to maximise Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). For example, if your mobile clicks are particularly high at lunch time and produce a negative spend, a mobile ad schedule based on time of day can help to mitigate the cost of clicks.

The tight bid control of segmented campaigns simply cannot be matched in a multi-device campaign, even when bid adjustments are applied. In a multi-device campaign, any bid modifier becomes outdated when you change a keyword or ad group bid. Ideally, you should adjust your bid modifier with each bid change.

2. Targeted shopping feeds

Device segmentation can be particularly useful in the case of shopping campaigns as it allows you to control which products are shown to which device audiences and at what bid amount.

Whilst you could use ad group set ups, separating shopping campaigns by device is often easier to manage in the long term and affords you a greater degree of control. For example, mobile users typically convert at a lower average order value meaning that you could create keenly targeted product feeds to match device behaviour and most importantly, spend.

3. Be specific – ads and search queries

Segmentation allows for specificity. Examine device behaviour to maximise return on your ad copy and ignite your keyword discovery!

Short and snappy calls to action may well fair better on mobile as searchers research on the move. Get straight to the point and add “buy from mobile” or “book with one click” to your call outs and don’t neglect the vital location extension to clearly signal to those on the move where your physical store is.

Similarly, mobile search queries may reveal significant behavioural trends such as voice search, allowing you to add to your keyword selection. Long-tail keywords that begin with terms such as “show me” and “where can I buy” could prove invaluable additions to your mobile keyword arsenal. With recent estimates suggesting that 50% of all searches will be voice driven by 2020, the question is not if you should your adapt your keyword selection but when?

4. Single Keywords AdGroups (SKAG)

Single keyword ad groups are prime for device segmentation for 2 reasons.

Firstly, the granularity of a SKAG, especially when combined with a tiered bidding strategy, allows you to control bidding for a particular keyword to an insanely tight level.

Secondly, as single keyword ad groups typically attract a higher click through rate owing to the close correlation between search query and ad copy, even a small uplift in performance achieved via device targeting could lead to significant conversion benefits. It’s like single keyword ad groups and device targeting had a baby and called it profit.

5. It’s flexible to your business needs

Splitting by device does not necessarily mean that you must create mobile, desktop and tablet campaigns. Rather, you have the flexibility to segment via the devices that matter most to you (and your profits).

For some companies where there is a clear performance difference between desktop and mobile, segmenting by these two devices is sufficient to achieve a revenue increase. The extra work to segment by tablet can be superfluous and ultimately unnecessary. At Biddable Media, we recently implemented mobile specific campaigns for a client in the sports industry and were able to generate a 20.53% increase in revenue compared to the previous period.


Thinking the extra effort in device segmentation is worth it? Here are some drawbacks to consider, as every business, industry and campaign objectives are different.

1. Data Shrinkage

Splitting your campaign by device can lead to data shrinkage as clicks, conversions and spend become filtered by device and actionable insights become harder to see.

For some, this loss of statistical significance is enough to put an end to any thoughts of segmentation.

2. It’s time consuming

Yes, splitting your campaigns by device will treble your campaign structure and treble your campaign management. There is no getting away from this and you will now have three different sets of metrics to analyse, three different lots of search queries to examine and three different campaigns to optimise.

3. Buyer cycles vary

Creating ad schedules based on device behaviour is not an easy win. Customer journeys are far from linear with multiple touch occurring both on and offline. Whilst adjusting mobile bids to avoid a lunchtime click fest may immediately benefit your return, you risk losing touches with prospects during the consideration and preference phases of the sales funnel.

4. It’s just not worth it

In some instances, device segmentation simply isn’t worth the extra work. Every account, campaign and sector performs differently and unless device targeting delivers a revenue benefit to your business then arguably you shouldn’t invest the extra time and effort.

When you consider that campaigns can also be split by audiences and location, does this mean that you must split your campaigns by all three metrics? This would in effect, create nine different campaigns from a singular base campaign and could lead to an incredibly convoluted account structure. Adwords may allow 10,000 campaigns per account but this in no way means that you must reach this “magic number”. For some, less really will be a case of more.


In response to the question, “To split or not to split?” the Biddable Media answer is to experiment.

Experiment with your top performing Google Ads campaigns and/or shopping campaigns. The reasoning behind this is simple: you gain greater control over your product selection and by focusing on your star performers, even a small percentage uplift in device conversions could equate to a significant revenue increase. Be consistent with your testing and allow at least 6 weeks to gain actionable insights.

Consider also that device targeting requires a holistic approach – simply splitting your campaigns without examining factors such as your landing page experience and load time by device is setting yourself up for failure. You may have the most tightly structured Adwords campaign there has ever been but you will not achieve optimum results if the end user experience is poor. Test, and test again your site across devices and never neglect the checkout process. At the end of the day, ads are geared towards one purpose: getting visitors to site and getting conversions. Make sure that you don’t fall down at this last (and crucial) hurdle.

Device segmentation may not work on every campaign and for every sector, but a failure to experiment is a failure to embrace all the tools at your disposal. Whether you split or stick with your multi-device campaigns, one thing remains clear: as more people now own a phone than a toothbrush, optimising traffic by device is not only sensible, it is an essential part of any Adwords strategy that is overlooked at your (sales) peril.

For further advice on how you can manage your device performance, contact Biddable Media.