Search Engine Marketing Spend Stabilizing

    October 13, 2009

The Search Engine Marketing (SEM) industry continues to stabilize in the third quarter of 2009 and included some positive sings for the fourth quarter, according to a new report from Efficient Frontier.

"The third quarter results and a look beyond provide some encouraging signs for the Search Marketing industry as well as the overall economy," said David Karnstedt, President and CEO, Efficient Frontier.

"While certain sectors, such as travel, have continued to lag, other categories such as retail have picked up as we head into the fourth quarter, which is a critical time for online marketers."

SEM spend was up 5 percent compared to the previous quarter while year-over-year saw a 5 percent decline. Year-over-year (YoY) declines were driven by continued Cost Per Click (CPC) weakness with Google’s search CPC dipping for the fourth straight quarter. Return on investment (ROI) remained stable as marketers continue to focus on efficiency.

U.S. Spend and ROI

While continuing to hold a dominant 70 percent plus share position, Google lost ground in terms of Spend Share both on QoQ basis a YoY basis by losing 1.78 percent and 0.83 percent respectively.

U.S. Spend Share

Yahoo’s Paid Click Share was up slightly QoQ, but it lost both Spend and Click Share YoY. Yahoo’ s Spend Share was down 0.07 percent and Click Share was down 2.43 percent YoY.

In contrast, Bing continued to grow since its launch in June. QoQ Bing saw gains in Paid Clicks and Spend Share by 0.68 percent and 1.02 percent, respectively. Bing numbers shows category growth across travel, finance, autos and retails with the most significant gains in travel and finance.

The travel sector saw a 14 percent loss QoQ and 39 percent loss YoY. While the QoQ loss is partly due to the seasonal nature of the travel industry, the YoY loss points to continued weakness in this space.

The finance category has stabilized with positive growth in consumer demand, with a 1 percent decrease QoQ and a 7 percent increase YoY.

Retail is the clear key going in the fourth quarter and the report forecast search will outperform the general holiday season spend.

The company expects strong consumer activity to continue and aggressive advertiser competition to follow as marketers look to capture interest and more importantly, sales. The net result of better conversions, improving ROI, and higher CPCs, will likely be seasonally strong spend increases for the retail sector in Q4 2009.