Universal Search is to blame for Google's less-than-stellar click growth numbers--and for fewer clicks on paid and organic links across all the engines, actually, according to Aaron Goldman.
Goldman piggybacks on a Top Rank Online Marketing recap of an SES NY session in which comScore (of all companies) released this nugget of insight on search behavior: "Overall when reviewing universal search results, the study found less clicks from the consumer because the information they were searching for is now appearing directly on the results page such as maps, stock quotes and weather." Fewer clicks on organic links also means fewer clicks on ads, and as the giant continues to add video, images and other forms of media to the SERP, we can expect the trend to continue.
"In my opinion, the best way for Google and others to combat this is to create advanced PPC listings, incorporating images and some of the same functionality of the fancy new natural results," Goldman says, which seems to be the path that they are all headed down. For example, Google has slowly but surely been testing video ads and other non-text formats in the sponsored listings, while Yahoo's expanded search "do-it-yourself" plug-in will likely be ported to its paid and organic listings at some point.