Posted by Ryan Hornacek, Analyst, Strategy & Analytics

Mobile paid search continued to gain on desktop search for our aggregate group of clients in May.  Mobile impression and click share reached new highs, while smartphone and tablet CPCs remained below desktop.  As a result of these efficiencies, our clients dedicated more paid search budget to mobile in May—18.4% of total budget—than in April. 


In May, mobile impression share of all paid search impressions (desktop + mobile) rose again to 20.9%.  This breaks April’s all-time record and continues the trend—mobile impression share is up every month in 2012.  May’s record was driven by significant growth in smartphone impressions over April.  Tablet impression share grew by a smaller margin.  As a result, tablet share shrunk slightly to make up a third (33.3%) of all mobile impressions:

*Google only, content and search partners excluded


Stemming from all-time highs in mobile impressions and click-through rates (CTRs), mobile click share grew significantly in May.  Mobile paid search clicks were 28.2% of all search clicks (desktop + mobile) vs. 14.2% in May 2011.  Tablets now make up 35.2% of mobile clicks.  Tablet CTRs are still the highest of any device, however, helping to overcome slower impression growth with increasing clicks.

Mobile paid search click volume is up three times year-over-year.  This foreshadows a huge holiday for mobile clicks.  Mobile click volume peaked in December 2011; thus—with mobile click volume currently up three times year-over-year—we expect holiday 2012 to shatter click records from holiday 2011.  This bodes well for Google, which continues to dominate in mobile search share:

*Google only, content and search partners excluded


The percent of dollars our advertisers spent on mobile and tablet campaigns corrected from the downward movement seen in April.  In May, 18.4% of our advertisers’ paid search spend was on mobile.  This is up from 7.2% in May 2011.  Increased spend has resulted in greater efficiencies for our clients, as they’re seeing more impressions and clicks for their investments:

*Google only, content and search partners excluded

Cost-Per-Click (CPCs)

The mobile-to-desktop CPC pattern continued its trend this month, with the gap between desktop and mobile CPCs widening further.  Tablet CPCs are 80% of desktop CPCs, and smartphones are 45% of desktop CPCs.  Smartphone and tablet CPCs continue to trend lower than desktop, potentially because:

  1. Better targeting opportunities on mobile—especially for local searches—which increases relevancy, thus improving quality scores; and
  2. Less competition

Mobile is still a very efficient buying opportunity.  However, we expect mobile CPCs to rise due to more competition as major shopping periods approach—starting with back-to-school and moving into holiday 2012:

*Google only, content and search partners excluded

Click-Through Rates (CTRs)

Mobile CTRs continue to increase, despite flat to decreasing CTRs in desktop search.  The aggregate mobile CTR is now 8%, with tablet devices specifically hitting 8.5%.  As a result, the gap in CTRs between desktop and mobile/tablet has continued to widen.  This is due to:

  1. Advertisers’ abilities to serve more relevant ads to mobile, location-based searchers
  2. Mobile ad extensions on smartphones, which enable advertisers to dominate the smaller search engine results page (SERP) with sitelinks, click-to-call, click-to-download, location extensions, maps and coupons.

*Google only, content and search partners excluded

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