Mark Mahaney of Citigroup held his excellent quarterly search trends call with a few search moguls.
The bottom line?
All good for Google (GOOG). Some good for Bing. All bad for Yahoo (YHOO).
Q4 Search Trends Call — We hosted a call on Q4 Search Trends with 4 leading Search Engine Marketing (SEM) firms, incl: 1) David Kidder, CEO of Clickable; 2) Dema Zlotin, SVP of Strategic Services at Covario; 3) Michael Kahn, SVP Marketing, Performics; and 4) Roger Barnette, CEO of SearchIgnite. Combined, these SEMs represent approximately $800MM in annual search spend.
Q4 Search Trends Improving — Q4 Search spend appears to be improving, ranging from up mid-to-high single digits to up 30% Q/Q. Clickable, which focuses on the SMB market, stated that client Search spend was tracking up 30% in Q4 vs. the average of Q2/Q3, with the Retail vertical up 30%, Travel up 20%, and Autos up 10%. Covario stated that client Search spend was tracking up 20% in Q4 vs. Q3, driven primarily by volume, with much of the strength coming in late November. Performics had data through October and noted that same store Retail Search spend was up 23% in Oct. vs. Sep., but Non-Retail (Autos, Fin Services, Travel, Education) spend declined 4% M/M. SearchIgnite had a more cautious outlook for Q4, expecting same store spend to be up mid-to-high single digits Q/Q.
Preliminary 2010 Outlook — When asked about ’10, SEMs were generally optimistic. Marketers took a month-to-month approach in 2009, but were coming back with quarterly, and in some cases, annual budgets for 2010. Covario expects 2010 spend to be up in the low-single digit range. SearchIgnite and Performics were also cautiously optimistic, expecting growth in the low-to-high single digit range. SEMs agreed that Q1 will be the easiest comp quarter.
Bing Gaining Momentum — All SEMs noted that Bing was gaining material traction, especially due to the Cashback affiliate program, with spend on Bing up in the 45%+ range Q/Q (tho’ off a much smaller base). Performics noted that Bing was outpacing YHOO and GOOG on many metrics for its Retail clients. Finally, some of the SEMs noted that YHOO was not participating in Q4 growth, and that Bing was probably taking share from YHOO (tho’ it’s a bit early to tell).
Social Media…The Next Big Thing? — When asked about any new, emerging trends, many pointed to Social Media as a strong interest area for clients. Performics noted that in highly targeted Social buys, it is seeing metrics that are comparable to or even better than Search. Many noted that Brand Marketers are using Social Media to extend their brand, but the SEMs have not seen Search dollars switch materially to Social Media. Facebook appears to be a key beneficiary of this Social Media trend.