Google Loses Ground to Bing with Small Biz Search Advertisers

New data from WebVisible indicate that small businesses are diversifying their paid search campaigns to include sites not named Google. The local interactive advertising firm’s report found that 60.4 percent of search spending went to Google last quarter, while Yahoo reaped 26.2 percent, Bing garnered 10.5 percent, and Ask.com pulled in 2.4 percent.

Google lost 5 percent share compared to Q3 last year, according to the study that surveyed around 25,000 companies with less than 200 employees during the last four fiscal quarters. Kevin Ryan, CMO for the Irvine, CA-based WebVisible, said the most-interesting finding was how Microsoft’s aggressive promotions for its new kid on the block, Bing, have paid off, gaining market share from Google.

“No one expected this to happen when they came into the game just six months ago,” he explained. “I’m sure people are wondering if Bing’s success will last beyond its huge media buy. Once Bing stops spending that kind of money to get in front of local advertisers, [small businesses] may forget about [the search site]. That is, unless it is as effective as it claims to be.”

While click-through rates were up year-over-year for all the engines, Yahoo charted the biggest improvement with a 123 percent CTR increase. Bing’s CTRs lifted by 76 percent, while Google experienced a 52 percent hike. Google’s cost-per-click average was 14 percent higher compared to Q3 last year and was 30 percent more expensive than Yahoo and Bing for the most-recent quarter.

Small Businesses Increase Spend by 91 Percent

Generally, small businesses are buying more keywords and dramatically increasing their paid search budgets when compared to last year, according to WebVisible. First off, the average small business purchased 55 keyword phrases in Q3, which is up 30 percent from Q3 2008’s median number of 43. That statistic represents the high-water mark for the four quarters that WebVisible has been tracking small businesses keyword buys.

Meanwhile, businesses dedicated an average of $1,658 to search ads, 91 percent more than Q3 2008. And business-to-consumer professional services appear to be the busiest in terms of collecting local sales leads via SEM. Attorneys and dentists made up the top two advertiser categories, with 7.7 percent and 5 percent of total small advertisers, respectively. Each of the two categories invested far more than average, spending $2,560 and $2,005 respectively in Q3.

Air conditioning services and physicians/surgeons were the only other categories that accounted for more than 2 percent of search advertisers. Overall, the research suggests that the small business search advertisers are a varied bunch. The top 20 categories accounted for only 36 percent of total dollars spent.

Thirty-two percent of search clicks resulted in a “lead conversion,” meaning the viewer either clicked through to a landing page on the advertiser’s Web site, printed a landing page, watched a video, printed out directions, entered an e-mail address, inquired via e-mail, or completed an online form. Clicks to the Web site were far and away the biggest lead conversion type, coming in almost twice as high as the next three categories: printed landing pages, submitted e-mail inquiries, and printed driving directions.

For small businesses utilizing a call tracking number, 4.5 percent of the clicks resulted in a call, a 3.6 percent lift from 2008. No material differences occurred among advertisers in terms of CTR or proportion of lead conversions. However, WebVisible said that cost-per-clicks and keyword counts tended to increase with rising spend levels.

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