At RKG we are experimenting with using Google's Enhanced CPC option because it attempts to better optimize paid search bids by utilizing factors that advertisers aren't given the option to control fully themselves. Among the signals Google takes into account with ECPC is the type of browser being used and we felt it was a good opportunity to review our own data on the subject to estimate the potential impact of making bidding adjustments based on browser usage.
Looking at a sample of our retail clients we aggregated results for the most common desktop web browsers in use and came up with normalized results for sales per ad click (average set at $1.00) as well as the overall traffic share for each version:
We can immediately see there is a real opportunity for advertisers to segment their spend by browser version or, more realistically, let Google try to do it for us. For every dollar being spent to draw in an Internet Explorer 6 user, we would be willing to spend $2.20 for a Safari 5 user as we would expect them to spend over twice as much following each ad click.
Why do Safari Users Convert Better?
Demographics likely explain much of the difference as Mac users are more likely to belong to high income households. We also find that, in general, users of up-to-date browser versions tend to convert better and Safari 5 is Apple's newest version. Users of the newest full release of Internet Explorer (IE8), also demonstrate much higher SPC than IE6 users, while Firefox 3.6 users convert better than Firefox 3.5 users.
Using an older browser may be an indicator of the consumer's comfort level with technology or even their internet connection speed (browser file sizes generally range from 15-25 MB). Someone using the browser that came pre-loaded on their 3 year old machine may be savvy enough to price compare online, but they may still prefer to purchase in-store at higher rates than average.
What Impact Might We Expect from Google Enhanced CPC Utilizing Browser Information?
Although there are huge differences in sales per click across the browsers above, the most popular browsers are naturally huddled towards the average, diminishing some of the segmentation potential. Applying a simple model for the expected change in traffic given change in CPC, we would expect to be able to increase revenue by around 4-6% at the same efficiency by taking into account browser version in PPC bidding.
That's a bit idealized though. It should be noted though that Google's ECPC option will only alter a bid by up to 30% and, in some cases, such as for Safari 5 users, we would want that percentage to be higher in order to fully account for the differential in traffic value. It's also unclear how deeply Google is looking at this information. We hear that they do consider the browser release version, as opposed to just browser type, but we can't say how fine those distinctions are. Lastly, ECPC looks at a number of other signals and browser is not completely independent from those other variables.
Ultimately, we're happy to see Google working to help advertisers improve traffic segmentation, even if it's out of our hands more than we prefer. For well established PPC programs, one time projects that have the potential to generate revenue gains of even just 5% or so can be difficult to come by, so we would encourage experimentation with ECPC and we hope you'll see even better results than that.