Commentary

Google Slows Click Growth, Impressions Decline

One hospitality brand described behavioral changes based on more consumers using their mobile phone to search for goods and services. The brand marketer said phone calls continue to rise -- not just from clicks on ads, but a variety of Google and Bing services that give consumers the ability to click on a phone number and call the business. This reflects statistics in a Q1 2015 report released by Merkle RKG.

Phones and tablets produced 42% of paid-search clicks and 32% of ad spend in Q1. Clicks from paid search rose 42% YoY, but tablet click growth slowed to 9% YoY. Those clicks are not just coming from paid search. Mobile devices now account for 45% of total organic traffic, and the majority of that traffic comes from phones, per Merkle RKG.

Organic search produced 33% of sites visits on average in Q1, and organic search visits rose 14% overall, driven by a 54% YoY increase on mobile devices.

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Here are some of the highlights in Merkle RKG's Q1 2015 report:

Marketers spent 13% more in Q1 2015 on Google for paid-search advertising, compared with the year-ago quarter. Merkle MKG attributed the uptick to accelerating annual cost-per-click growth, which hit 13%. Marketers also spent 36% more on Bing Ads in Q1 2015 compared with the year-ago quarter, driven by a 38% increase in paid clicks. Yahoo's deal with Firefox to become the default search provider helped spur that jump. Bing Ads CPCs fell 2% YoY. 

The cost per click (CPC) for non-brand Google traffic rose 15% YoY in Q1 2015. Clicks fell 1%, with overall conversion rates improving 9%."Weak year-ago mobile comps boosted YoY click growth in Q3 2014, masking a sharp deceleration in desktop ad impression growth that began near that time," per the report. Non-brand ad impressions continue to decline YoY, as changes in Google's algorithm pushes traffic to higher-priced ads in higher ad positions by showing fewer ads for any given search.

Bing Ads non-brand click growth accelerated from 41% Y/Y in Q4 to 58% Y/Y in Q1 as Yahoo’s Firefox deal brought new users to the platform and Product Ads continued to bolster click gains for retailers. With a 6% YoY decline in non-brand CPCs, Bing Ads non-brand spending growth was 49%.

For retailers, combined Google PLA and Bing Product Ad click growth slowed from 51% YoY in Q4 2014 to 25% Y/Y in Q1 2015. Google Product Listing Ad (PLA) click growth slowed to 19%, but PLAs continued to produce an increasing share of retail paid-search clicks. For retailers, 35% of total Google paid-search clicks were produced by PLAs in Q1, and 59% of non-brand clicks.

Bing Product Ad traffic volume rose 467% year-on-year (YoY), but the company started from a much smaller base. Brands generated 9% of total Bing Ads clicks from the format and 17% of non-brand clicks.

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