Google Dominates Search, Struggles in Display Targeting Against Facebook

As Google and Facebook jockey to become the frontrunner in display ad targeting, results from the Adobe Digital Index (ADI) third-quarter report released Wednesday show the two in a tight race for dominance. Google display advertising click-through rates rose 25% year-over-year. Facebook's CTRs rose 35% YoY, and cost per click fell by 2%.

It seems that finding the perfect targeting combination continues to become a struggle for Google. Data from the ADI third-quarter report suggests Customer Match shows Google under pressure to better leverage targeting data that improves performance.

As part of ADI's Q3 2015 analysis, it looked at consumer activity on branded sites from third-quarter 2014-third-quarter 2015. It analyzed more than 900 billion digital ad impressions from search and social platforms such as Google, Facebook, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu and Yandex, as well as more than 23 billion referred social visits from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

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Google's search advertising business seems to be a little bit more in control, according to Joe Martin, senior analyst at Adobe Digital Index. Marketers in North America spent the most in search marketing during the quarter. All regions are rising, but North America sees the most uptick, he says.

Martin attributes North America's growth to the relative strength of the U.S. economy. "We’re seeing a lot of global economic downturns in Asia, Europe, and even the U.S.," he says. "Advertising dollars are shifting to North America from other regions."

Bing outpaces Google in paid-search spend across all regions for the acceptation of North America. Marketers spent 17% more with Bing globally vs. Google with 11%. Google still dominate in search optimization efficiency with CTRs up 16% YoY vs. Bing’s 7%

Google also still holds the majority of global market share at 71%. Bing follows with 21%, and Yahoo and others hold 8%.

Smartphone paid-search CPC growth came in flat for the quarter YoY, while CTR show signs of recovery. Smartphone CPCs were 30% less compared with desktop CPCs in Q3, but smartphone CTR is balancing out YoY, up 9%.

An interesting note, smartphone referral traffic continues to shift to social. Smartphone traffic from social networks rose 100% YoY, while desktop and tablet traffic from smartphones only rose 12% and 9%, respectively.  

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