March 2011 could be the first month when Google gets more than 10% of all paid search impressions from mobile, according to a new analysis by Performics, the search engine marketing unit of Publicis Groupe.
Mobile paid search increased steadily during 2010, ending the year at 8.4% of impressions before climbing to 9.4% in January, according to Performics SEM campaign data. Mobile impressions grew 238% year-over-year compared to 13% for PCs. That increase comes in part from growing smartphone use and the spread of Google's Android platform.
IDC reported that smartphone units sales topped PC sales for the first time in the fourth quarter (100.9 million smartphones vs. 92.1 million PCs sold worldwide).
During its fourth-quarter conference call, Google indicated that mobile search volume increased four-fold in the last year. To capitalize on growing mobile activity, the company has added features like call-only to mobile search ads, where the only clickable link is to a phone number. It also extended formats from the PC, like Sitelinks, the other links shown in some search results below a site's main page address.
When it comes to paid search clicks, Performics said mobile accounted for 9.2% of all clicks in December, a peak for 2010, before decreasing a bit to 8.9% in January. But the firm expects mobile will also drive more than 10% of Google search clicks as well as impressions next month.
Mobile cost-per-click rates in December declined for a seventh straight month, falling to 43.2% the cost of computer CPCs. "While mobile CPCs have finally increased in January, they still remain favorably lower than computer CPCs," stated a Performics blog post. The click-through rate on mobile was slightly higher than on the PC in the fourth quarter but returned to even out again in January.