Another year comes to a close and with it, we get a full pallet of data for paid search to cut through.  According to the Merkle | RKG Digital Marketing Report total search spend is up 21% in Q4.  In this post we are going to cut through some of the key data points relating to paid search and provide some guidance as to what this means for advertisers in 2015.

Google Text Ads

Google text ad growth declines from 27% in Q3 to 19% in Q4.  This is still sizeable growth in the space as the dominant force in paid search continues to mature.  Overall, more users are becoming accustomed to clicking on the sponsored ads at the top of the SERP and advertisers are taking notice, resulting in some aggressive bidding strategies that are driving the average CPC’s higher.  If you are currently advertising, you have probably noticed a lift in clicks and spend Y/Y.  If you’re not currently advertising on Google, now is the time.  The market share is huge and there is plenty of room still for new players with competitive offerings and prices in the space.

Bing Text Ads

Bing saw an increase in search spend of 31% and a 27% increase in clicks Y/Y.  This is great news for Bing, who has been doing a great job of being a few steps behind Google.  Click volume has increased 27% and average CPC’s rose only 3% – quite different compared to Google.  A big part of this push was Bing’s deal in Q2 2014 to provide mobile search ads to eBay.  For new and existing advertisers, Bing is a great network to get involved in.  CPC’s tend to be lower and, while your market share is going to be notably less than Google, there is a lot of great opportunity to capture leads and sales that your competitors might also be missing out on.

Comparison Shopping Engines

Combined, Google PLA’s and Bing Product Ads saw a 45% increase in spend Y/Y Q4 and a 51% increase in click volume. For retailers, the Product Ad space on Google, Bing, Amazon and eBay is largely becoming the best place to advertise and drive non-branded traffic.  For example, Google PLA’s have a CTR that is 130% better than non-branded text ads.  Overall, PLA’s accounted for 56% of non-branded clicks in Q4.  If you are a retailer who needs to expand, product ads on are where you need to be.

Phones & Tablets

As paid search has expanded, so has the spectrum of devices users use to conduct their searches. In Q4, mobile devices produced 39% of all paid search clicks, up from 33% the previous year.  This puts them at about 29% of ad spend.  Compared to desktop, which only grew 3% Y/Y, mobile & tablet devices are exploding right now.  Savvy advertisers are aware that mobile conversion rates are not nearly what they are on desktop, which is why mobile CPC’s do not come near desktop CPC’s.  Notwithstanding, a huge portion of new users can be captured through mobile devices. Just do not forget to set a mobile bid adjustment on your campaigns!