Wall Street analysts that I talk to are often concerned that Google faces a huge threat from Facebook in the PPC advertising arena. Facebook advertising has some interesting attributes that distinguish it from Google search. One way I’d characterize Facebook’s advertising platform would be with the three Ts: Tonnage (Facebook can deliver huge reach and frequency), Targeting (Facebook targeting, while less powerful than search, is superior to many other forms of media), and Technology (the fact that tonnage is available via an API-driven marketplace is of interest to sophisticated marketers). Google’s display network delivers against the same three Ts but the targeting is not nearly as personalized at this point in time, lacking things like employer targeting and reliant on contextually- or behaviorally-derived interest categories mapped to keywords.
My take on the Facebook vs. Google war for Internet marketing dollars is that Facebook will likely garner a much larger share of incremental online marketing dollars than it has in the past, so its “share of wallet” will increase significantly over the next two years, but search and display spending in Google will also continue to rise, but at a lower percentage gain than Facebook’s.
Let’s see how the recent Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) report supports that possibility.
According to the SEMPO 2011 State of Search Marketing Report, Facebook is gaining ever-increasing interest from search marketers. A significant percentage of companies responding to the survey, both in North America and internationally, are now using Facebook PPC ads as a marketing vehicle. Nearly half of respondents say they use Facebook for pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns – 47 percent in North America and 45 percent outside the U.S. and Canada. Agencies are even more proactive in launching Facebook campaigns for advertisers, with North American agencies engaged in Facebook-centric marketing 74 percent of the time; 69 percent of those outside the U.S. and Canada say their clients are on Facebook PPC. The SEMPO report is available for free to members and since membership costs $125, are half price of the eConsultancy cost for the report, those who have been considering SEMPO membership may want to act now.
LinkedIn and Twitter are also of high interest to search marketers and online marketers taking the SEMPO survey. Three-quarters (75 percent) of companies use Twitter to promote their companies or brands, yet as we all know, the Twitter paid advertising beta is still being refined, making Twitter more of a PR and outreach vehicle than an advertising platform, at least for the time being. Fifty-two percent of companies use LinkedIn for marketing while 27 percent are buying the PPC Direct Ads clicks from LinkedIn. Clearly, even when there isn’t necessarily targeting and tonnage available simultaneously, there are still good reasons to use an ad platform.
Mobile search advertising and local search advertising both represent significant areas of growth. Many people attribute the growth of these categories to be heavily tied to each other. A previous Microsoft study showed that over 50 percent of search queries on mobile devices have local intent. The SEMPO survey found that 79 percent of respondents regarded the “rise of the mobile Internet” as having the “most significant impact on search marketing,” which, given the fact that tablet and smartphone devices are both considered mobile, makes it easy to see why prevailing wisdom has mobile as a key catalyst. Mobile search queries, according to my personal research, are nearly all incremental to desktop/laptop search, which will generate entirely new revenue streams for the industry.
The survey data indicates that despite these hot new areas, Google doesn’t have to worry. The 2011 State of Search Marketing Report estimates that the North American search marketing industry will grow by 16 percent in 2011 to a value of $19.3 billion, up from $16.6 billion in 2010. These numbers include SEO, social, and PPC search, with PPC search obviously making up the lion’s share. Surprisingly, the 16 percent overall growth estimate may end up being conservative when you look deeper at agency estimates.
Agencies control larger budgets on average than direct advertisers (with the exception of a couple of whale-sized spenders), and agencies are quite optimistic on PPC search spending growth estimates for 2011. When asked how much more their clients will spend on PPC, they answered as follows in the survey:
- Less (total): 9 percent
- About the same: 19 percent
- 10 percent more: 19 percent
- 20 percent more: 23 percent
- 30 percent more: 15 percent
- 40 percent more: 7 percent
- Over 40 percent: 10 percent
Why this adds to 102 percent, I didn’t get a chance to ask, but the takeaway is that a significant percentage of respondents have 20 percent or greater as their estimate. If this holds true, we could see an acceleration of growth beyond the SEMPO estimate of 16 percent.
I believe the biggest variables that might significantly and dramatically shift actual spending are macroeconomic growth variables and the consumer sentiment numbers, such as consumer confidence. If consumers slow down their searching, the inventory won’t be there, even if marketers would be willing to buy the clicks.
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