Search Spending Turned Back Up In March

Late last month, an informal survey of several search marketers suggested that search-ad spending might be on the way up again, after dropping for at least two consecutive months. Now a much more comprehensive set of numbers is in, and, it, too, points to an upturn.

First the bad news: Search engine spending dropped 13 percent during the first quarter, compared to a year ago, marking the second quarter in a row that the figure has fallen, according to search-engine marketing firm Efficient Frontier. Spending dipped three percentage points over last quarter. No search engine was immune to the cutbacks. The average cost per click was also down overall by 19 percent year over year.

But Efficient Frontier, which looked at 785 million clicks on search and content ads over the last year, says that search spending was up six percent in March, compared to February.

How Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) fared, after the jump

For the quarter, Google maintained its overwhelming lead, with 77.1 percent of the market, down slightly from a year ago. Live Search’s share dipped to 3.5 percent from 4.5 percent a year ago, while Yahoo’s share increased to 19.4 percent from 18.4 percent. Another report, from adGooroo, also showed some signs of strength for Yahoo, noting a 10 percent increase in the ranks of Yahoo’s first-page advertisers, which it suggested meant that “Yahoo may have finally hit its stride.” adGooroo also said that Yahoo’s share of advertisers jumped 6 percentage points to 25.9 percent in March, from 19.4 percent in December. Microsoft’s dropped to 12.4 percent from 16.4 percent, while Google’s share stayed flat.

How all of this impacts the Google’s quarterly financial results remains to be seen. Google reports its earnings on Thursday, followed by Microsoft and Yahoo the week after. What’s clear though is that any advertiser looking to actually run search ads should be able to get more return on their spending, since the number of searches is certainly not down.

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