Why you need to ditch responsive design for your Adwords campaign

Most companies think that they have already ‘gone mobile’. In other words, they have a site that looks OK when viewed from a smartphone. These days responsive design is the route most business owners go down when creating their mobile-friendly website. But if they’re spending money on Google Adwords, ‘mobile-friendly’ is probably costing them money…

The most important element of a successful PPC campaign is the landing page. This is the shop window for your business – it is what converts basic traffic into real customers. You’ve paid Google for the click to your website, so you’d better try your hardest to ensure that the click isn’t wasted, and that the visitor takes some form of action on your website. This could be completing an application form, or calling your business.

Recently, Intelligent PPC took one client’s Adwords conversion rate from 5% to over 40%. That’s over 4 out of 10 Adwords clicks completing the landing page application form. There were no incentives involved here, no ‘apply for your chance to win an iPad’ or anything like that. It was a boring financial product. We achieved these remarkable results by focusing on the landing page, and in particular the mobile landing page.

Mobile-friendly and mobile-optimised are two completely different things. A mobile-friendly website is a site that looks ok on smartphones. Elements may resize to fit the screen, and phone numbers may be clickable (click-to-call). I’ve seen countless examples of nice-looking responsively designed websites, and most of them work really well on smartphones. However…

…when you are spending money for every person who clicks your ad and visits your website, a mobile-friendly site is not good enough. It’s not enough that the site looks ok on a smartphone. It needs to be optimised for conversions, and this is where the majority of businesses who use Adwords to drive mobile traffic fall down.

My personal recommendation is to ditch responsive design for smartphones altogether. Either switch off your mobile Adwords bids, or get a fully-optimised mobile version of your website. The best way to do it is to use a simple php redirection script to detect whether your site is being accessed from a smartphone – it then serves the mobile version. Having a separate mobile version of your website gives you a blank canvas. Here are some of the things you can do to optimise your mobile site:

– make form fields ‘fatter’ so that they are easy to press with a finger (fingers lack the accuracy of a mouse/trackpad cursor)

– make submit buttons bigger

– reduce the number and size of images so that the mobile version of your site loads as quickly as possible (people are more impatient when browsing via their smartphone, and may have a slower connection)

– completely rewrite the content so that it is tailored for people who are ‘on the go’

– include HTML5 elements which allow for easier form-filling (e.g. numerical keypad input for numerical fields like ‘phone number’)

– place call to action above the smartphone fold (the ‘fold’ is very different on mobile devices)

– add a unique phone number to track click-to-call performance from smartphones

– streamline the amount of information you give to smartphone visitors, but keep a link to your full site in case people need more information

– make the goal ‘more urgent’ given that people tend to spend less time on your site when on their mobile phone


You can get a mobile-optimised version of your site for around £500 including clic-to-call functionality & redirection script to detect device. It’s well worth the investment.

About The Author

Michael Madew

PPC expert with over 10 years' experience in creating and managing highly profitable PPC campaigns on Google Adwords, Bing Ads and other paid search platforms.


  • Kyle Gallagher

    Reply Reply October 8, 2014

    Do you have any evidence to support this claim? This post is very subjective and actually just an opinion that the idea of responsive sites viewed on a smartphone shouldn’t work better than mobile specific pages but do you really know this?

  • Michael Madew

    Reply Reply October 8, 2014

    Kyle, like every blog article you will ever read it is subjective opinion. It is an opinion formed from 4 years experience of creating mobile websites. We have improved the PPC conversion rate of every website we’ve ever worked on, and a big factor in this success is ditching a responsively designed ‘mobile-friendly’ website for a purpose-built, fully optimised, mobile-specific landing page. I’m not saying that a responsively designed site will never work, just that in my experience I have never seen it perform better than a standalone mobile version. I guess this depends on other factors though, such as who the designer is… :)

    Seriously, the results from the mobile-specific versions we have done are staggeringly good.

    Thank you for your comment.

  • Andy Black

    Reply Reply January 24, 2015

    Amen. Thank goodness someone else sees sense. It’s not just moving things about on the page…

  • Mike

    Reply Reply November 30, 2015

    In the middle of creating a completly new responsive website. You got me thinking…

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