A little over a year ago, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said that the mobile Internet was “the next major growth wave for Google”. His prediction at the time was that mobile advertising revenue would surpass the revenue seen from “traditional” ads. Several months after Schmidt made these predictions, I first installed the incredible WPtouch theme for this blog, bringing a far better user experience for mobile users (in fact, the site looks better on my iPhone than in a normal browser, working on that…). At that time, I agreed with Schmidt that the mobile web was the future; so surely advertising revenues would follow.

One of the more recent additions to the WPtouch theme has been the ability to show special “mobile” ads to visitors. Since I like trying out new technologies and this came around the time I had to pay my yearly hosting fees, I figured I’d give it a try. Today, I’d like to share some results. These are my AdSense for Mobile Content stats for the past three months (click for full size):

AdSense for Mobile Content

Notice the 0.00% CTR? That’s the “Click Through Ratio”, indicating how many users clicked on these ads. Exactly zero users out of nearly 2000 ads shown to mobile users. Since most Google ads are pay-per-click, Google doesn’t make any money by showing these. The eCPM value shows the average “value” of 1000 pageviews; in this case, every 1000 ads shown generate €0.07 for me, and probably around two or three times that amount for Google. This is most likely from pay-per-view ads; for these, the advertiser pays Google based on the number of times the ad is shown instead of per click.

So I think it’s pretty safe to assume mobile advertising is not exactly working out the way Google had planned. I’m sure that putting ads all over my pages would have resulted in one or two clicks; but even if it would have, mobile users are less “valuable” than those who browse the web from a normal computer. I think there are some obvious reasons for this:

  • Mobile internet usage is mostly a short activity; checking a couple of websites while waiting instead of specifically looking for something. Because mobile users are less likely to be searching with a specific objective in mind, they are also less likely to click on advertisements for a product.
  • The current generation of mobile users are more likely to be “professional internet users”; people who are accessing the internet all day are more likely to know the difference between “real” information and an ad.
  • Because of the smaller screens on most mobile devices, there is less screen real estate to display ads. This makes it harder for advertisers to capture the attention of their target audience.

All in all I think Google might have a problem converting their advertising successes to the mobile market. And that’s not the only area in which they are facing problems; it has taken them very long to find a reasonable balance between annoying users and generating revenue from YouTube video’s, and other “Web 2.0” technologies are not exactly working out as planned either. Their FeedBurner acquisition is a good example of one of Google’s Web 2.0 properties that is not bringing in the revenue they were expecting either:

FeedBurner ads

I doubt it has anything to do with the specific contents of this blog; click-through rates for “normal” ads are around 0.60% for the same period. Am I the only one seeing these kinds of click-through ratios on mobile and feed ads, or do you have different experiences? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!