Sponsored Link Impressions Up 16 Percent

Sponsored link impressions on Google and Yahoo grew 16 percent in the past six months, according to data released by Nielsen//NetRatings.

Google still serves a larger number of impressions, though Yahoo is growing more quickly. In January, Google delivered 41.1 billion sponsored links while Yahoo served 23.2 billion. Google grew 14 percent over the six-month period but Yahoo’s growth topped it at 21 percent. The figures account for sponsored links on Google, Yahoo and sites under both companies’ search and contextual advertising networks. During the period, Yahoo began beta testing its Yahoo Publisher Network to expand its distribution of sponsored links.

“The difference in market share between Google and Yahoo, my instinct is that the reason that Yahoo is moving more quickly is because it’s growing off a smaller base,” Nielsen//NetRatings chief analyst Ken Cassar told ClickZ News.

Impressions served by Google and Yahoo together grew from 55.4 billion impressions in August of 2005 to 64.3 billion impressions in January.

“In my mind, the overriding story is that the sponsored links business is growing pretty nicely,” said Cassar.

MSN plans to enter the sponsored links space in the next few months. The amount of market share AdCenter will grab, and the growth of market, remains to be seen.

“MSN’s sites have significant reach and advertisers will not ignore that. Whether or not they steal share remains to be seen,” Cassar said. “As formidable as MSN is, Yahoo and Google have both done a very good job maintaining their stronghold of the market.”

Search queries went up by 55 percent in this past year. The growth in search means more potential to serve sponsored listings on search results pages.

Yahoo Search Marketing began restricting text used in sponsored links in January, the end of the tracking period. It is still early to determine the affect shorter text has on impressions.

“When companies like Yahoo and Google make changes to the advertiser rules, advertisers are going to roll with it,” said Cassar. “For the most part, if Yahoo and Google are insisting, it’s likely that it’s driven by what they think consumers want.”

EBay is the most prevalent sponsored link advertiser on both Google and Yahoo. In January, the auction site received 984 million impressions on Google and 537 million on Yahoo. eBay’s Shopping.com site holds the second rank on both search engines.

Below the top two spots, Google advertisers Local.com (Interchange Corporation), Target, and Expedia.com (InterActiveCorp) held ranks three through five. Yahoo’s next three advertisers are University of Phoenix (Apollo Group), LendingTree.com (InterActiveCorp) and Target.

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