Growth in mobile device traffic has continued unabated since we last published our data on this topic in January. While still a small percentage of our clients' paid search advertising clicks, mobile traffic share grew 48% from Q4 '09 to Q1 '10. In Q1, we identified 2.1% of clicks as coming from mobile devices compared to 1.4% in Q4. In March of 2010, mobile's share had risen to 2.4%.
We are again looking at click traffic from mobile devices that would trigger standard PPC ads from browsers capable of displaying full web pages. This is an important distinction to make. There is plenty of mobile traffic to pages using the WAP standard or to built-in or downloaded apps that we do not see in this data. Also, looking at ad clicks rather than impressions likely depresses mobile's overall traffic share while elevating the mobile share of devices that have more capable browsers and engaged user bases.
Share of Mobile PPC Traffic for Select Devices:
At the device level, the subtitle to our last post would fit just as well this time around: iPhone dominant, Android rising. From Q4 '09 to Q1 '10, iPhone traffic rose 40%, although its share of mobile traffic fell from 74% to 69%. Meanwhile, Android traffic rose 166% from Q4 to Q1 and its share jumped from 9% to 16%.
Looking at a monthly breakdown, Android's growth is even more impressive. From October 2009 to March 2010, Android share more than tripled from 6.3% to a little under 20%.
While a lot of recent press has been devoted to the woes of Palm and its webOS powered phones, their share of mobile traffic has held up better in recent months than that of RIM's Blackberry devices which fell from 3.9% to 3.2% from Q4 to Q1. WebOS saw its share cut from 1.6% to 1.5%. Blackberry traffic had a bit of a resurgence in March though, coming in at 3.6%.
Recently Admob put out a detailed set of mobile metrics (PDF) and it is interesting to see where our numbers differ. Most notably, Admob shows Android nearly overtaking the iPhone in mobile share during February, putting Android at 42% vs iPhone's 44%. Like RKG, they are limited by their purview (in their case, ad impressions on mobile websites and applications) and it would be interesting to see how Admob's figures looked if they focused on ad click traffic on the full web.
While Android clearly still has a lot of momentum in this race, a potential 4G iPhone in the next few months could easily shift things back in Apple's favor, particularly if the iPhone finds its way to Verizon in the near future. Later this year, devices with Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 OS could shake things up, but after a number of delays it may be too little too late to catch the new big two.
For paid search advertisers, the growth in mobile makes it increasingly important to track this traffic accurately and to set bids based on its own value. We have found conversion rates tend to be much lower on mobile devices and this can have a meaningful impact on ROI targets if not handled properly. If there is a statistically significant difference in performance, it also makes sense to parse traffic at the device level. Currently, Google provides this option for the iPhone, Android and WebOS devices.