July 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

Two search marketing vendors provide conflicting views of Q2 data

Efficient Frontier says its client retailers’ search marketing spend went up 9% in Q2 compared with Q1, but was 6% less than in Q2 in 2008. SearchIgnite says its multichannel retailer clients spent 36% more in Q2 than a year ago.

Two search marketing firms have produced reports on search data, drawing on data from their retailer clients. The two reports give conflicting view of search spending by retailers in the second quarter.

Efficient Frontier says its client retailers’ search marketing spend went up 9% in the second quarter compared with the first quarter, but was 6% less than during Q2 in 2008. SearchIgnite, drawing on data from its clients, says multichannel retailers spent 36% more in Q2 than a year ago.

Efficient Frontier says ad prices moved up with the increased demand for ad space. Consumer views of retailers’ search ads zoomed up in the second quarter, far faster than clicks on those ads, suggesting budget-conscious consumers are comparison shopping, says Efficient Frontier in a report released yesterday.

Retailers’ search marketing spend went up 9% in the second quarter compared with the first quarter, but was still 6% less than during the same quarter in 2008, before the recession fully took hold, according to the “U.S. Search Engine Performance Report” for Q2 2009 from Efficient Frontier. Efficient Frontier notes that seasonality could contribute to the spending increase from Q1 to Q2 of this year, as the first quarter typically is slow for retailers and spending often picks up in the second quarter with promotions around holidays like Memorial Day.

The report also showed retailers’ cost per click went up 5% in Q2 compared with the first quarter, but was still 16% below the year-ago level.

The number of times retailers’ ads were viewed shot up nearly 40% quarter over quarter, suggesting a surge in bargain hunting. Click-through rates fell 26%.

Looking at search marketing spend as a whole-including such industries as travel, financial and automotive as well as retail-Efficient Frontier found that overall spending was down 21% year over year, a slight improvement over the 23% drop in the first quarter of 2009. Midsized companies increased spend the most, while small companies were most likely to pull back and larger advertisers held spending relatively steady, Efficient Frontier says.

SearchIgnite reports a 6.5% overall decline in U.S. search spend by its clients, as industries such as finance and travel did not increase their spending in line with the increase by retailers. Google accounted for 77% of search spend, while Yahoo’s 17% share represented a 26% decline from a year earlier, SearchIgnite says.

Microsoft’s launch of its Bing search engine June 3 did not produce any lift in search spending, as Microsoft garnered 5.7% of search spend in Q2, SearchIgnite says. The firm notes that advertisers may spend more on Bing in Q3 if consumer interest in the new search engine increases.

In one sign of consumer interest, Efficient Frontier says Bing produced a 5% lift in click share in June over the prior month, the report says. Bing’s biggest gains in click share were in the travel and finance sectors; its results in retail were flat, Efficient Frontier says.

Search spending responds quickly to changes in the economy because advertisers can quickly adjust their budgets to market conditions, notes David Karnstedt, president and CEO of Efficient Frontier.

“The second quarter report indicates that the search marketing sector may have bottomed out as spending stabilized, which is good news for the industry,” Karnstedt says. “Additionally, with the launch of Bing and its early signs of promise, the battle between search titans is once again heating up.”

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