January 23, 2013, 9:27 AM

Paid search clicks on mobile devices grow 89%

Smartphones and tablets drew 23% of paid clicks in Q4 2012, The Search Agency says.

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In the last quarter of 2012, smartphones and tablets accounted for 23% of all paid search clicks, an 89% year-over-year increase from Q4 2011, according to online marketing company The Search Agency. Q4 also marked the first time that spending for paid search advertising on tablets surpassed that for smartphones, with 8.5% of total spending going to tablets versus 7.1% to smartphones, the marketing firm says. Meanwhile, it says spending for paid search on desktop computers over the last two quarters remained flat.

The Search Agency’s most recent “State of Paid Search” report uses data aggregated from its clients in various industries worldwide, including retail. The agency declined to specify the number of clients included in the report.

Compared to other industries, retailers’ share of mobile paid search ad clicks rose from 14.3% in Q4 2011 to 26.1% in Q4 2012, the report says. However, though the agency finds that the amount of total mobile retail searches increased in the holiday season, by contrast the overall volume of paid search clicks in Q4 declined, the agency says. That could possibly be because of natural disasters that hampered the Northeast at the beginning of the season along with uncertainty related to the presidential election, says Keith Wilson, vice president of agency products at The Search Agency.

The report also shows that mobile clicks on Google Inc.’s search engine account for a greater percentage of total clicks than on Microsoft’s Yahoo-Bing search network—25.9% of all paid search clicks on Google in Q4 2012 came from mobile devices versus 12.6% on Yahoo-Bing. Also on Google, retailers spent more than 9% of their total Product Listing Ad budgets on mobile ads, an 80% increase from Q3 to Q4 2012, the agency says. Product Listing Ads are a new ad format Google introduced last fall that show up on search results pages. As a percentage of retailers’ total paid search advertising on Google, including online ads, 14% went to Product Listing Ads for mobile devices in Q4, up 236% from Q3, the report says.

Other marketing agencies, including the Rimm-Kauffman Group, report similar findings regarding mobile paid search in the fourth quarter of 2012, including that 20% of paid search clicks came from mobile devices and that retailers spent 15% of their pay-per-click budgets on mobile ads.

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