Search advertising had a strong third quarter, with Bing outpacing Google and Yahoo in paid search spending growth, according to a pair of search advertising reports.
Two agencies, SearchIgnite and Efficient Frontier, reported sequential increases in their clients' search spending. Ad spending by SearchIgnite clients was down 1 percent from a year ago, but those advertisers spent 10 percent more than they did in Q2 -- a much greater lift than the 2 percent growth the agency reported during the same period for the past two years.
"Given the macro-economic trends, flat growth over a good quarter a year ago is a good sign," said Roger Barnette, president of SearchIgnite.
Among Efficient Frontier's clients, search ad spend was up 5 percent quarter-to-quarter, but down 5 percent from where it was a year ago.
Among both SearchIgnite's clients and Efficient Frontier's clients, ad spend on Bing was on the rise. SearchIgnite said its clients spent 15 percent more on Bing than they did on its predecessor search platform, Microsoft Live Search, in Q3 2008, and 16.1 percent more than they did in Q2 2009 after Bing launched. Ad spending on Yahoo was down 24 percent year-to-year, but up 10 percent from Q2. Spending on Google was up 4 percent year over year, and up 9.1 percent quarter-over-quarter.
Still, Google retained a dominant lead, with 77 percent of all SearchIgnite's search ad spend for the quarter. Yahoo trails with 17 percent of overall spend, and Bing remains at 6 percent, a level it's been at for years among SearchIgnite's clients, Barnette said.
Bing saw the most growth in ad spend during the quarter among Efficient Frontier clients as well, with 5.3 percent of search ad spend going to Bing, up from 4.3 percent in Q2. Bing had a particularly good showing in the Travel and Finance sectors, where it held 6.3 percent and 6.2 percent of market share, respectively. It was not as strong in the retail sector, where it held 4.4 percent of market share during Q3.
There are signs Bing is remaining a profitable place for advertisers to spend their search ad budgets, according to Justin Merickel, VP of marketing at Efficient Frontier. "Bing has shown gains in click share and spend share consistently since its launch in June, and we haven't seen any pull-back," he said. "Advertiser sentiment is very positive for Microsoft. They're worried about Google completely owning search, and want to see a viable competitor."
Among Efficient Frontier's advertisers, Bing's gains came from Google, which lost ground slightly, from a 75.5 percent search spend share in Q2 to a 73.7 percent share in Q3. During the quarter, Efficient Frontier's clients spent 21.0 percent with Yahoo, a modest gain from its 20.2 percent share in Q2.
Bing's growth is likely fueled by both the recent announcement by Yahoo that it would begin using Bing for its organic search results and search ads, as well as the $100 million ad campaign that Microsoft has been running to increase awareness of Bing, Barnette said.
"The increased traffic and awareness makes advertisers more likely to spend the time to test Bing," he said. "But at the end of the day, advertisers will put their money where it's most profitable for them. While their numbers are very positive, they need to have continued, sustained growth over a long period of time to do what Google is doing."
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
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