The reality is that although social networks are newer, and tend to get greater coverage in the tech press, new data suggests that the value of search is not only staying strong, but is actually growing faster than ever. In this post, we’ll explore various data sources, and examine the current state of search.
Data released by the IAB (the Internet Advertising Bureau) showed promising numbers for search marketing. Firstly, the IAB reports that search is the largest category of Internet marketing, accounting for 49% of all digital marketing spending for the first half of 2011.
While search clearly occupies the largest amount of spend (followed by Display at 37%), search’s growth rate has also seen improvements. Year-over-year, Search grew about 27%. Compared to 2010’s growth of 11.8%, search has actually more than doubled its growth rate.
Compare this growth to that of the entire sector, which grew 23%, and we can see that not only is search keeping up with the industry, but is actually outpacing it. As a result, search’s overall share-of-spend grew from 47% in 2010, to this year’s 49%.
Core Search vs. Vertical Search
While core search engines like Google and Bing attract billions of searches, vertical search engines, for topics like flights, restaurants, and other high volume interests, often compete with search engines in valuable niches.
Industry projections on this competition have been mixed. Some analysis expected vertical search engines to draw users away from core search, by having highly topical features and content that core search engines could not compete with.
However, new data from comScore shows the opposite trend. The chart below illustrates this shift. While in previous years we saw vertical search actually grow faster than core search, in 2011 we can see that the vertical search market is actually down by about 6%, compared to core search growing about 17%.
Analysts speculate that users are actually abandoning vertical search engines in favor of core search. Why the shift? It is likely due to the increasing sophistication of core search engines.
Over the years, search engines have evolved from keyword-driven, basic results, to rich blended results, driven by highly sophisticated ranking factors. In other words, core search engines are simply getting better, and this improvement is reducing the need for vertical search websites.
This trend is easily observable in many of Google’s developments and acquisitions. Last year, Google acquired ITA software, a flight information software company. Clearly, this is move towards improving the flight-search vertical, one of the most valuable categories of search.
Local also plays a huge role in vertical search. Last month we covered Google’s acquisition of Zagat, and over the past years we’ve seen Google make many aggressive moves to improve their local search offerings. With local being such a critical vertical, Google’s heavy push to expand on local is no doubt capturing traffic that may have previously gone to any number of local search and IYP websites.
Search and Social
Another common question is whether the increased use of social networks such as Facebook will impact the overall volume of searches. To explore this issue, we’ve sampled some of our own data at Where 2 Get It.
The chart above shows search traffic (in orange), against traffic from Facebook.com (in blue). We can see that both search and social show healthy growth over time. Clearly, Facebook traffic is growing faster – expanding by over 300% in this example. However, this growth did not come at the expense of search, which grew 20%.
While this is simply an example, it shows a trend that we observe across many of our clients and web properties. In other words, Search vs Social is not a zero-sum game. As more people spend more time on the web, both search and social grow.
The reality is that there are not a fixed number of web users, each with a set amount of time for the Internet. Web usage is exploding, and marketers need to realize that the growth of one platform does not diminish another. When it comes to issues like search vs. social, or vertical vs. core, it isn’t about either/or, but both.