Sorry Google, Tablets & PCs Are NOT The Same

I wanted to call this piece “In Which I Destroy the Pervasive Narrative Google Pushes That Tablets and PCs Are Exactly The Same In Every Way” but that title was just way too long for Twitter!

Let’s get right to it, shall we?

During Google’s recent events and appearances, they seemed to be hard selling their favorite fantasy that tablets and PCs are, for all intents and purposes, exactly the same, even interchangeable. How else can you explain their continued insistence at keeping these two platforms fused in their platform? At SMX Advanced, they even went so far as to say that tablets convert better than PCs. That brought on the predictable outcry from PPC pros of, “Really? For what types of accounts, cause NONE of mine show this.”

Larry Kim was gracious enough to dig into the massive data at his fingertips through Wordstream and reported back that overall, for their accounts they see about 15% where tablets outperform PCs. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but that leaves 85% of the time when tablets perform at best equally or at worst, worse than PCs when it comes to conversions. Ask a PPC pro and they will likely tell you that in the accounts that they manage, 15% better performance is even laughable.

Then, today I got to thinking about the Reader View that Firefox is pushing hard right now. The reader view is essentially like a print view, really, just the piece you want to read, all extraneous stuff stripped away. I like it, especially when I am reading something on my phone or my tablet. On my computer, eh, I don’t use it nearly as much, unless it is a really long piece that is split into some annoying number of pages.

So here is my unscientific analysis of the differences in people’s behavior on tablets versus PCs. My data set? Myself and my family members. Small sample? You bet. But I will guarantee that we are extremely representative of how a whole lot of people behave.

How We Use PCs 

We use them primarily for work or work related tasks, like following Twitter streams, getting news that impacts our industries and getting things done. Or, we use them for shopping. We are on the computers most often during “normal” work hours, though occasionally in the early morning or evening as well. When we are on the computer in non-work hours, we are usually working or shopping. I do the majority of shopping on my Mac and place the majority of internet orders from the computer rather than another device (of which a phone and tablet sit on my desk while I am at my computer).

We read articles and do not go out of our way to limit ad exposure (beyond the scenario I described above with using the reader for long pieces). We leave tabs open with things to come back to and projects we are working on.

How We Use Tablets

We do not do much work on tablets besides email. We read and consume content, both for work and for fun. We play games. We look at Facebook and Twitter. Our toddler plays games and watches videos. We look at shopping sites, but rarely complete transactions from the tablet.

There are two reasons for the lack of transactions, in my opinion, one is that tablet use happens in bursts, while computer use is in more sustained blocks of time. And secondly, and most importantly to all you e-comm PPCers out there – so many sites have inferior user experience for tablets. It’s caught in that no man’s land between a computer and a mobile device. Stuff that works on your computer is often wonky or worse, nonfunctional on a tablet and it is not as well done as better mobile experiences are (though MANY of those leave a lot to be desired as well).

How We Use Our Smartphones

We almost always have our phones near our bodies. We use them as actual phones. We send and receive text messages. We check our emails. We use it to read something or look at Facebook or check in with Twitter when our little one is hogging the tablet. We use it to solve immediate problems, such as, where is the nearest Starbucks? Is there a traffic problem ahead? Who is that guy in this movie? When is Father’s Day this year? You get the idea.

We don’t do much browsing type of shopping on our phones. When I want to peruse Zappos, it is tablet or computer all the way. When I need to order household stuff from, almost always computer. I might purchase a video through Amazon Prime on my phone if the tablet is not handy or is otherwise in use. Overriding theme? Immediate answers to questions or problems, transactions only under very limited circumstances.

So What Does All This Mean To Advertisers?

I’m going to put this in all caps, so apologies for the shouting. PEOPLE USE THEIR DIFFERENT DEVICES IN VERY DIFFERENT WAYS.  Stop trying to tell us we don’t. Stop trying to tell us as PPC managers this isn’t true. Just stop it.

I saw a funny message on a church sign today too which applies here “Ignoring the truth does not change the facts” – are you listening Google? If you are so sure you’re right about tablets equalling if not outperforming PCs, then release more than just a single case study here or there to show you have massive data to back up that assertion. You know what, if there are industries or segments or demographics or niches where tablets really and truly do outperform PCs, your advertisers would LOVE to know about that. It could help us help clients have better strategies, which in the end generally leads to more money being spent in AdWords, not less.

I think one of the most important things we can do for our clients is to help them understand what I just described above and then help them to create experiences for their customers and potential customers that match their likely goals and intent on different devices. I hope that one day we will get tablets as their own category again in Google products, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

What about you? Do your device habits match up with what I’ve described here? How do you compensate for these differences in user mindsets and behaviors?

As always, please feel free to sound off in comments or hit me up on Twitter (@NeptuneMoon).



  1. WORD, sista. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’d love to see details from Google on what verticals perform well in tablet. I haven’t found too many if any.

  2. Your sections on “How we use…” are entirely speculative. Would love to see some statistics/data/studies/surveys to back those assertions up.

    Also, do you have a link to Google saying that tablets convert at a higher rate than PC? Would love to see that. Thanks!

  3. Sorry, I meant to say “seem speculative.” 🙂

    Please check out page 12 of this report:

    This study shows tablet conversions not so far behind. Of course, another study might show something entirely different.

    • Neptune Moon says:

      I did say that my data was completely unscientifically generated. I was making a point based on how my family uses tablets versus other devices as well as others I know personally and extrapolating.

      I’m sure there is data to support all conclusions, as there is for just about any topic!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


  1. […] Sorry Google, Tablets & PCs Are NOT the Same Thing: This article takes a look at how we use each type of the many devices we have access to on a day to day basis to make the argument for why we should have control over each of them individually in our PPC accounts. […]

Speak Your Mind