Although it's still growing, Google's paid search growth continues to slow down. The company’s paid search ad spending rose 12 percent year over year, down from 24 percent a year earlier, according to the second quarter Merkle|RKG Digital Marketing Report.
With advertisers continuing to face higher average cost-per-click (CPC) -- the cost was, on average, 40 percent higher -- Google click traffic growth also dipped 1 percent. Low YouTube CPCs are contributing to the downfall -- without the viral video site, Google-specific CPCs actually rose 13 percent compared to the same quarter last year.
What about Google’s competition? Bing Ads growth slowed from last quarter but still looks better year over year, increasing 27 percent. However, Bing ad CPCs only climbed 2 percent. Facebook, though, was a big winner with ad spend and CPCs rising. Advertisers spent 69 percent more on Facebook ads year over year and CPC is up 30 percent year-over-year.
Competing for Market Share
Since Bing Ads replaced Google as the default search engine on AOL, Google took a tiny hit. But that loss on top of Mozilla’s move to kill Google's default status has added up to a dip of a few percentage points in the last couple of years.
Google may soon take another hit as Apple’s Safari browser and iOS devices may also remove Google as the default search engine. Apple’s ecosystem produced 35 percent of search ad clicks in the second quarter of 2015.
Meanwhile, Gemini, Yahoo’s new search platform, now accounts for 15 percent of total Bing and Yahoo paid search clicks across all devices among advertisers who have adopted the program. All told, Gemini traffic share jumped 2.2 points from April to May.
Why Google Is Slipping
We caught up with Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, to get his thoughts on the report, and specifically Google’s slippage. He told us the real reason the company’s search business is slowing in terms of percentage gains: the business is mature or very close to mature.
“It’s still a huge cash cow. It has also been impacted by mobile disruption -- there are now more mobile search queries than desktop queries,” Sterling said. “This has been going on for some time. There is also increased competition -- more channels -- from a range of sources, including Facebook, for general ad dollars.”
Overall paid search spending grew 14 percent year over year, versus 17 percent in the first quarter, according to the Digital Marketing Report. Clicks were up 3 percent while CPCs were up 11 percent percent. Phones and tablets produced 41 percent of paid search clicks and commanded 31 percent of spending. Tablet click growth has slowed to just 1 percent year over year, while phone clicks increased 35 percent.
“Overall there's a larger search pie and Google is the dominant mobile search engine,” Sterling said. “The company is seeing mobile search growth but the mobile market is different than the PC search market and harder to monetize.”