Search Budgets, Clicks On Google PLAs Rise

Social marketing began to take a bigger share of budgets at traditional search engine marketing firms in Q1 2012. Referral traffic from Pinterest to Web sites varied depending on the brand and company, according to an RKG digital marketing report.

On average, Pinterest referral traffic share took 0.5%; Facebook provided 5.2% of referral visits in Q1; and Twitter, 0.4% among Rimm-Kaufman Group clients. In terms of all site visits, however, the three social sites combined for less than 1% of tracked visits, per the data.

As for SEM, the decline of Google cost per clicks continues to be the major topic for most. But Mark Ballard, senior research analyst at RKG, sees Google's Product Listing Ads format as another important metric. 

Clicks on Google PLAs rose more than five times in the quarter compared with Q1 2011, accounting for 11% on Google, according to the RKG's report. PLA cost per clicks came in 18% below standard text ads in Q1. Overall, CPCs on Google fell 9% compared with Q1 2011, Ballard said. 

Mobile took 12% of organic search visits in Q1 and 13% of paid-search clicks. Google holds a 91% share of mobile paid-search clicks. Tablet share of paid search nearly quadrupled from year to year, as the iPad alone accounts for nearly 7% of all clicks. The Kindle Fire now holds 4% of tablet click share to the iPad’s 88%.

RKG's findings also dispute reports that Bing and Yahoo continue to make a comeback. The company sees the duo struggling to make gains. Bing and Yahoo paid-search spend grew 7% overall, but ad clicks declined 4%.

Volume from non-brand terms looked weak, but traffic quality in terms of revenue per click rose sharply.

Paid-search spend grew 30% in the year-over-year rate in Q1 2012 -- up 31% sequentially -- across RKG clients. Ad clicks rose 36% sequentially. Marketers spent 35% more on paid search overall, driven by a 36% increase in spend on non-brand traffic terms.

While Google generated 84% of the ad clicks, its share of organic search traffic rose to 76%. Bing and Yahoo took 10.4% and 10.8% share, respectively.

Technology and consumer electronics companies supported by search marketing agency Covario spent 22% more in Q1 compared with the year-ago quarter and 1% higher sequentially, according to the company's Global Paid Search Spend Analysis report.

The study's author, Charles Gaylord, research analyst at Covario, attributed the decline in keyword prices for the second straight quarter -- down 3% sequentially to search engine algorithm changes. He believes it will stabilize in the second half of 2012.

Gaylord said trends are pretty much in line with Covario's expectations that global tech brands will spend between 18% and 22% more in 2012. This includes 18% to 20% growth in the Americas, 15% to 18% in parts of Europe and more than 40% in Asia-Pacific.

The Covario report suggests the Yahoo-Bing Alliance may benefit from the implementation of "broad match," and showed 2% quarter-on-quarter growth. However, Yahoo-Bing is still down 20% year-over-year, and currently holds 13% market share, among electronics manufacturers. Baidu, which commands the majority of market share in China, a hot bed for manufacturing in this sector, grew 4% quarter-on-quarter and 142% year-on-year. Baidu accounts for 9% of all paid search spending globally.

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