In Q3 2016, Merkle saw advertiser spending growth for Google search ad spend slowing in the face of strengthening year-ago performance comparisons, but remaining healthy at a 20% year-over-year growth rate. Merkle’s analysis shows that Google’s expansion of local search ads on Google Maps, along with its addition of a fourth, top-of-page ad unit on mobile search results, have helped Google avoid a larger slowdown in search spending growth.
Google ad spend
Google also continues to benefit from the strong performance of Google Shopping and the Product Listing Ad (PLA) format. Google PLA clicks grew nearly six times faster than text ad clicks in the third quarter, a result that has been driven by the expansion of PLAs on mobile and to Google search partners such as Yahoo and Google’s own image search property.
Advertisers are seeing less success with one of Google’s highest visibility initiatives in 2016: Expanded Text Ads. Having officially launched in July, the new text ad format has not consistently improved average click-through rates for the most prominent and largest traffic producing Google ads. Instead, the benefits have been confined to ads appearing at the bottom of Google results pages.
Led by Facebook, which saw advertiser spending increase 63% year-over-year across Merkle’s data sample, total display advertising spend growth continued to outpace other channels, seeing a 46% jump compared to a year earlier. Facebook growth was resilient even with the looming sunset of Facebook Exchange (FBX), as advertisers are moving the bulk of their FBX investment to other Facebook ad targeting methods.
Other notable highlights from Merkle’s Q3 2016 Digital Marketing Report include:
Google ad spend – Paid Search up 20%
- Google search ad spending grew 20% Y/Y in Q3 2016, down from 22% growth a quarter earlier. Click volume grew 28%, while CPCs fell 6%.
- Google Shopping (PLA) spending grew 36% Y/Y on a 59% increase in clicks. Google text ad spending rose 9% on 11% higher clicks.
- Bing Ads and Yahoo Gemini combined search ad spending fell 14% Y/Y in Q3 2016, compared to a 17% decline in Q2. Bing Product Ad spending declined 12%, while Gemini’s share of click volume across both platforms remained flat at 17%.
- Total paid search phone spending increased 134% Y/Y, while both tablet and desktop spending fell 4%. Phones and tablets combined to generate 62% of Google search ad clicks, a five percentage point increase from Q2.
Organic Search visits fell 5%
- Total organic search visits fell 5% Y/Y in Q3 2016, an improvement from a 7% decline in Q2. Phone organic search visits increased 9% Y/Y, the first quarterly increase in 2016, while desktop visits fell 7%.
- Google organic search visits fell 1% Y/Y as the search engine’s efforts to increase the monetization of its mobile search results continues to depress organic volume. Yahoo organic visits fell 21% Y/Y, while Bing visits fell 2%.
- Mobile devices produced 48% of organic search visits, up from 46% in Q2, but well below the 57% of paid search clicks that took place on mobile devices.
- Facebook produced 61% of all site visits generated on social media sites in Q3 2016, which combined to produce 4% of mobile site visits.
Comparison Shopping Engines
The eBay Commerce Network’s share of total comparison shopping engine (CSE) spending continued to climb, reaching 65% in Q3 2016. Niche CSEs account for 6% of spending, while eBay’s main rival in this space, Connexity, has seen its share fall to 29%.
Mobile devices produced just 16% of CSE clicks in Q3 2016, similar to the rate observed in Q2, but well below the over 60% rate for Google Shopping.
Display spending up by 46%
- Total display and paid social advertising spending rose 46% Y/Y in Q3 2016, with Facebook leading the way with a 63% Y/Y increase. Facebook CPCs continued to decline Y/Y, however, the average CPM rose 38%.
- The Google Display Network (GDN) accounted for 8% of advertisers’ total Google advertising investment, a small decline from a year earlier.
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