Are Desktop Ads Still Relevant in a Mobile World?

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You know all that stuff you’ve been reading about mobile advertising over the past year? It’s not wrong. Yes, mobile phone market penetration is expected to rise to nearly 70% by 2017, according to an eMarketer report. And yes, 4.5 billion people are expected to own a smartphone by the end of this year. And yes, people on mobile devices are more likely to visit a retailer’s site than those who browse on desktops.

It would appear that the online advertising world is trending squarely toward mobile. This must mean that users are abandoning desktops in favor of mobile, stowing their old PC towers in dusty basements, right?

Not so. 60% of U.S. adults use at least two devices per day, while almost 25% use three per day. And while it’s still growing, mobile devices accounted only for 30% of web traffic in 2013—and only 15% of online orders. Meanwhile, desktop devices (which include laptops, notebooks, and netbooks) continue to improve, much in the same way mobile devices are. And as long as the hardware remains useful for today’s Web user, so will desktop search advertising.

Desktop: The Indomitable Searchman
Even today, the PC remains the most popular home computing device. Over the years, desktop sales have risen and fallen, yet they still comprise the majority of traffic. In fact, total search query volume coming out of desktop devices is still rising, according to a comScore report.


Jan ’07 to Mar ’13 Total Search Query Volume

In addition, PC hardware continues to represent the computing industry’s best technology, and people will continue to invest in and use them. Cutting edge desktop hardware today decidedly outpaces next-gen gaming consoles as well as tablets and smartphones. Plus, “desktop” devices continue to get smaller, becoming more similar to mobile devices in size and portability (while still outperforming them).

Desktops Users Don’t Dillydally
As mentioned earlier, the majority of U.S. adults use more than one device regularly, often switching between a desktop, smartphone, and tablet over the course of a single day. But as of July 2013, 40% of users were still exclusively using desktop devices, with only 6% exclusively using mobile.

And that hefty 40% represents a very unique market, as PCs are going “high end.” That means those who invest in today’s most advanced desktops are generally tech enthusiasts. So if your brand’s in the tech space—which is increasingly likely these days—desktop search represents a unique opportunity to target these potential customers by serving them highly relevant display ads.

Finally, desktop search ads give advertisers more bang for their buck. Conversion rates on desktop devices in 2013 were 5x higher than that of mobile devices, and nearly twice as high as that of tablets. People shopping on mobile devices are typically “on the go” and may be earlier on in the conversion path, likely still in the research phase, according to a report by ShopVisible, an e-commerce software provider.

Web traffic isn’t a zero-sum game. People are using mobile more and more, but they’re also using desktop more. As consumers’ lives become more intricately tied to the web, it’s becoming clear that no device should be ignored—especially the indomitable ones.

Since 2001, has offered competitive online advertiser and publisher solutions to companies around the globe. Our mission is to help advertisers achieve their best ROI with quality, cost-effective ad units, as well as provide our publishers with monetization tools that yield the most revenue.

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