Targeting Only Mobile Devices with AdWords Enhanced Campaigns

Google’s new enhanced AdWords campaigns aim to simplify and improve PPC advertising in a multi-device marketplace. Given this goal, you might think that targeting specific devices with your campaigns would be easier than ever… or at least not harder than it was before.

You might be surprised.

In the old format, I had 20-some campaigns targeting specific cities and showing ads only on mobile devices, using the click-to-call telephone extension. This was working great for me.

In the new format, you can no longer tell Google to show your ad on a mobile phone and nothing else, your only option is to spend a greater or lesser percentage of your budget on mobile (note: you can’t tell it to spend less on desktops or tablets either, that would be too easy).

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(less than perfect, better than nothing)

This workaround will vary in effectiveness, depending on the market you’re targeting.

Basically you need to use max CPC and mobile bid adjustment to make your bid only viable on mobile devices.

You can only adjust your mobile bid by up to +300%, so you want to set your campaign’s max CPC to a low enough bid that it won’t get many (or any) clicks,  but high enough that, if multiplied my 3, it reaches your desired max CPC for your mobile ads.

Let’s say you want to spend up to $20 on a click from a mobile device (and of course you don’t want any clicks from desktops). You’d set your campaign’s max CPC to $5. With any luck this will be too small of a bid to get any real action on desktops/tablets.

Now when you adjust your mobile bid to +300%, it will bid up to $20 for a click on mobile devices only.


Like I said, not perfect… but better than nothing.

Maybe bid adjustment for desktops and tablets is right around the corner and Google is just trying to keep us on our toes. But hopefully in the meantime this workaround does the trick.


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27 thoughts on “Targeting Only Mobile Devices with AdWords Enhanced Campaigns

  1. Thanks for your article. This is SO frustrating! Every one of our conversions in a recently-launched campaign has come from mobile (it’s for a mobile app, go figure), and yet we can’t exclude desktop and tablet spend from the mix. Argh…

    1. Hopefully the workaround does the trick for you. My result were decent.. I think I’ve paid for 1 or 2 desktop clicks per campaign since implementing it, but they were cheap and ultimately inconsequential. I’d be curious to hear how it works for you!

      Regardless, it is super frustrating and I really hope desktop/tablet bid adjustment shows up soon.

  2. I had heard and I haven’t personally tested it, but if the destination URL is set to a mobile address (, Google will only display it mobile. Not necessarily by design but as a side effect of the Google Quality Score algorithm. May be worth testing.

    1. Hmm, that’s interesting. Unfortunately everything we build is responsive, so we can’t really take advantage of that. Good to know though!

      We actually just spoke with an AdWords rep the other day and she pointed out that you can specify “Target Mobile Devices” when creating an ad. I haven’t tested that yet either, but I think I’ll use my little workaround, and then tick that box as well – for good measure.

    2. I’ve tested it… unfortunately my mobile address ads are still showing on desktops sometimes. The only workaround I’ve found is to have one all-targeted ad in with my mobile-preference ads so that Google gives preference to mobile for the mobile ads and the “all” ad for the desktop ad… so I have a little control at least. Not ideal, but workable.

  3. Keep in mind that it is *PLUS* 300%. A CPC bid of $5 with a mobile bid adjustment of +300% will give you max bids on mobile devices of $20, not $15 ($5 plus $5 x 300% = $20). Basically, take the desired mobile bid and divide it by 4 to get the CPC bid amount with a +300% mobile adjustment.

    1. I didn’t. Pretty much all the sites I work with are either responsive or don’t have a mobile version. I’d be curious to hear about anyone’s results though!

  4. Hi Nick,

    You can create an adgroup targeting just mobile devices. But i think it’s still broad you can not target different operating systems as we were used to do previously.

    Just create the adgroup add keywords and while creating ads click on the check box that says Mobile. And an adgroup with all mobile preferd ads will only run on mobile devices :)

    Checkout this picture :


    1. Hey Talha,

      I had seen this suggestion somewhere too. Seems like a viable solution although I haven’t tested how well Google obeys your preference to serve a given ad on mobile. Have you seen it in action? Does it completely avoid serving these ads on desktop?

      1. Unfortunately it doesn’t. If you set all of your ads to “mobile”, it will then serve your mobile ads to desktop.

        “It’s important to note that if your ad group contains only
        mobile-optimized text ads (which we don’t recommend), those ads may
        appear on desktop or laptop computers as well as tablets.”

        I’ve been using a combination of these workarounds for mobile – bidding up on mobile and putting several mobile-preference ads and one all-preference ad in campaigns. So far it’s working okay… at least I can tailor the landing page to the ads that do display on desktops.

  5. I was hoping Adwords would get easier and more sophisticated. I see new layers of complexity and confusion. Adwords includes several areas where you think you can make mobile bid adjust at a campaign level, but you get “Please select a different campaign bidding option to use this bid adjustment” – Also, I want to adjust my bid for tablet devices. In my market, tablet devices have the lowest conversion rate, but Adwords has taken away our ability to make device specific bids / adjustments.

    IMHO I think these changes benefit the Adwords platform not the end user or advertiser, but I’ll be patient to see if the Adwords team makes some tweaks so advertisers can have more control.

    I understand the mantra is “we are in a multi-device world”, but let advertisers have full control over which devices they want to target and bid on.

  6. i did speak to Google Adwords on the phone and i asked about mobile only campaigns, they did say it will be coming back but time frame god knows

  7. When altering my settings as you suggest above does it alter the Default Max. CPC column for Ad Groups to auto:0.01? This is because that’s what it shows for my ad groups.

    1. What’s the benefit of creating another ad targeting just to mobile? Is it just the benefit of crafting an ad with a better cta for mobile?

      Or that if you don’t create a mobile ad, there won’t be any mobile traffic in your campaign?

      1. Yes and no. It really matters what your goal is trying to accomplish. For myself – lead gen. So basically just have the ads device targeted and be sure to have the call extenions device targeted as well.

        Be sure to adjust your CPC since 300% is quite expensive. :)

        And no you can get mobile traffic if your ad is just device prefrence desktop. You would have to bid adjust to -100% to take off mobile. It’s a shame Google won’t just let you do mobile only, like Bing. But we all know that would be bad for them.

  8. When using this approach, lowering the CPC for Computer only ads will certainly affect the Quality Score. Will this lower QC for Computer ads affect the QC and performance of the Mobile ads?

    1. Here’s what I did. I cloned my campaign and sety the bids for mobile with an increment of 300%. Then I’ve put a code in place that would detect the screen resolution (mobile phones have a screen res lower then desktop and tablets). If the screen res was too high I would redirect to a “regular” landing page, if it was low, I would keep the visitor.

      This way I was abble to get a campaign running only on phones. :)

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