Guess Who Google’s Biggest Advertiser Is

This chart of Google’s top 10 search advertisers in Q4 2010, from MediaPost via John Battelle, is pretty interesting. 

google top advertisers

[credit provider=”Federated Media”]

Here’s a few things that are noteworthy about the chart:

  • Amazon is #1 and on track to spend $200 million per year! These days Amazon and Google are mostly rivals in areas like mobile and media sales, but at the end of the day Amazon is an e-commerce site and search ads are the single best way to generate e-commerce sales. It’s still striking that Amazon would have to spend so much in ads: it has such a great brand and product that we’d think their site and natural search rankings would be enough. But it’s likely it has to do it to pre-empt and bid up smaller competitors who could drive traffic and revenue from the biggest e-commerce keywords. For some perspective, Amazon had $1.1 billion in profits last year. So the company could boost profits by almost 20% if it could get by without Google ads. No wonder it’s trying to get serious about online advertising.
  • Some of the biggest verticals are finance and e-commerce, which isn’t very surprising. These are markets that are competitive, where search ads perform very well to “harvest demand” and, in the case of financial services, where the lifetime value of a new customer is high, so it’s worth buying ads. If a new Geico customer brings in say $100 in profits over several years it’s worth spending $10 on Google to get her to sign up. (As commenter Greg Satell points out, these are Q4, i.e. holiday quarter, numbers, so e-commerce spending is probably inflated.)
  • Within e-commerce, travel is also big. It’s the same logic as financials: online travel is very lucrative, with high average purchase prices, so keywords are bid up to a high level. No surprise that Expedia is a huge advertiser.
  • Telecom is really huge, which did surprise us a little. AT&T is a huge brand advertiser in the US, but it’s somewhat surprising that it’s buying so many keywords, which is about harvesting demand, not generating it. Sprint is there, but where’s Verizon? Evidence for the FCC that the phone market is competitive?
  • Last but not least: it’s incredible how diversified Google’s revenue stream is. Search brings in $23 billion in revenue, and yet the top advertiser spends $200 million, or less than 1%. Google isn’t dependent on any one big customer, which is a huge strategic advantage.

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