Commentary

What The Numbers Tell Us (And Don't Tell Us) About Search Marketing Campaigns In Q3

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WebVisible released interesting statistics Thursday in its State of the Small Online Advertising report that suggests small businesses are ready to experiment with new media and have begun to better understand search marketing. The average small business search advertiser spent $2,373 in Q3 2010, up 6.4%, sequentially, and 43% compared with the year-ago quarter.

It would make sense that the industry saw higher spend rates in the third quarter of 2010, especially compared with the dismal economic conditions in 2009, as companies prepared for the holiday season. Nonetheless, it's interesting that the keyword counts rose 41% in Q3 2010, compared with the prior year, to an average of 78 root keywords per advertiser.

Spending on Bing increased 37% Q3 2010, sequentially, resulting in a gain of 3.7 percentage points of share. Yahoo and Google lost 1.3 and 5.8 percentage points, respectively. Since Q3 2009, Google lost 8 percentage points of share, while Yahoo gained 2 points, Bing gained 4 points, and Ask gained 2.4 points.

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The merger of Yahoo and Bing search, scheduled for completion in October 2010, should capture more than 40% of small business advertiser spend through WebVisible in Q4 2010 and beyond, according to the report.

The average keyword price rose on Google 4%; Yahoo, 14%; and Bing, 19% in the third quarter 2010, with the CPC for Yahoo only 13% less than Google's. Overall year on year CPCs rose: Google, 9%; Yahoo, 22%; and Bing, 10%. This convergence of CPCs during the past year is similar to the convergence of click-through rates for the quarter.

Bing's CTR declined 27% sequentially to match Google's CTR, which dropped 4%. Yahoo's CTR rose 28%, sequentially, and now remains 22% less than Google and Bing. The report suggests Bing's declining CTR in 2010 could be a result of its growing market share and increased competition, as additional advertisers begin placing bids and campaigns in adCenter platform prior to the official roll out.

Together the movement of click through rates and cost per click pricing suggest the Yahoo-Bing merger will result in a more homogenous search marketplace, with essentially two engines with similar pricing and CTR to choose from to reach collectively more than 90% of the search audience at any given time, according to the report.

Ask, the report suggests, remains a viable alternative for advertisers seeking additional volume, as its CPCs are typically 80% less than CPCs on the three major engines.

Not surprising, but rather interesting, video successfully augmented online campaigns. In Q3 2010, 29% of WebVisible's advertisers had video on their landing pages or Web sites, up from 13% a year ago. Video views made up 6% of actions conducted on landing pages in Q3. Advertisers featuring video spent 10% less than all advertisers in the quarter, at an average of $2,163 per video.

While advertisers spent more, did they get better results? Let me know how your company did.

The fifth WebVisible quarterly State of Small Business Advertising Report examines trends among the company's U.S. advertisers from Q3 2009 through Q3 2010, and represents more than $55 million in U.S. small business advertiser spending from more than 12,000 individual advertisers in that period. This report also includes an analysis data from more than 10,000 advertisers in the U.K. in Q2 and Q3 2010.

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