RKG Report: Mobile 20% of Search Traffic, Apple iOS Dominance Shows Vulnerability

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Tablets and Smartphones Driving Most of Advertisers’ Volume Growth

Mobile continues to gain share of paid search
RKG finds Google poised to benefit the most from improvements in mobile CPCs among search engines, as Google generated nearly 27% of its organic searches from mobile devices in Q4.
- Mark Ballard
Senior Research Analyst

RKG | Rimm-Kaufman Group released its latest Digital Marketing Report covering the fourth quarter of 2012 today. The report found mobile traffic share reaching 20% of search overall, with volume split nearly evenly between smartphones and tablets.

Facing stiff holiday competition, iOS devices saw their share of mobile traffic slip slightly from quarter to quarter, but still held a commanding 73% share of mobile paid clicks in Q4. Due to growth of the mobile segment overall, iOS’ share of total paid clicks grew from 12% in Q3 to 14% in Q4.

Over the course of the quarter, the iPad’s share of tablet traffic declined from 88% to just over 84%. Kindle Fire models held a 5% share at the end of Q4, but delivered a 54% lower ROI to advertisers than the iPad. Windows 8 tablets failed to gain much traction, with less than 1% of tablet traffic.

All told, tablet spending increased 189% year-over-year, smartphone spending rose 178%, and desktop spending was up 11% among the RKG client base, which includes over 40 of the top 500 internet retailers. Tablet spending was nearly double that for smartphones due to higher average cost-per-click (CPC).

Within paid search, average cost-per-click for tablets edged up relative to desktop, with the two nearly reaching parity for the quarter. Smartphone CPCs showed similar movement, but remained 48% lower than those for desktop.

RKG finds Google poised to benefit the most from improvements in mobile CPCs among search engines, as Google generated nearly 27% of its organic searches from mobile devices in Q4. Yahoo’s mobile share hit 19%, while Bing was a distant third with just 6%.

Although mobile still proved to be a net drag on year-over-year CPC growth, Google managed to turn around its four quarter streak of CPC declines in Q4 as it faced weaker year ago comps. Google CPCs increased 3% as its ad clicks rose 14%, leading to a 19% increase in spending.

Bing and Yahoo search spending growth was particularly strong at 54%, as clicks rose 39% and CPCs were 11% higher. Bing Ads faced weak 2011 comps that showed negative growth, and it had made strides throughout the year to improve its once restrictive ad serving logic. Bing Ads has gained paid search spend share from Google in each of the last four quarters.

The full RKG report offers nearly 40 charts with additional insights and analysis on paid search, search engine optimization (SEO), social media, comparison shopping engines, multi-channel attribution and more.

Among their published fourth quarter results, RKG found:

  •     Paid search spending rose 23% year over year in Q4 on an 18% increase in traffic and 4% increase in CPC. This was a slight deceleration from Q3 volume growth, while average CPC rebounded from a 5% decline in Q3.
  •     Google Product Listing Ads generated 28% of Google non-brand clicks in Q4. PLA CPCs remained 26% lower than CPCs for competitive text ads.
  •     iOS 6 defaulting to secure search resulted in 10% of organic search traffic being seen as direct by analytics packages. 81% of iOS 6 visits did not pass a referrer.
  •     iPad delivered 7.3% of visits, followed by the iPhone at 6.7% and Android devices at 5.2%.
  •     Facebook remained the dominant source of referral traffic among social domains in Q4, delivering 7.4% of referrals. Pinterest was second with an average share of 3.6%.
  •     CPMs for the Facebook Exchange were less than half those of the average display ad. Revenue Per Click was 25% higher.
  •     Comparison Shopping spending increased 14% Y/Y in Q4, excluding costs associated with Google PLAs.
  •     Amazon Product Ads commanded 25% of CSE spend and were the largest traffic driver among paid engines.
  •     Holiday shoppers had an average of 4.3 marketing touches per order in Q4, up from 3.5 in Q3. At the same time, however, 75% of orders involved touches from just a single channel.

About RKG
RKG is a full-service digital marketing agency that combines superior marketing talent with leading edge technology to create the industry’s most effective data-driven online marketing solutions. Founded in 2003, RKG specializes in working with clients in retail, travel, financial and B2B organizations ranging in size from small startups to Fortune 500 companies. RKG is a privately held company with offices in Charlottesville, VA; Bend, OR; Boston, MA and San Francisco, CA. For more information visit http://www.rimmkaufman.com or follow the company on Twitter @rimmkaufman.

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