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Smartphones Drive Lift in Mobile Search Traffic

Mobile accounted for nearly 40% of paid search clicks, 30% of dollars in Q4 2014

February 26, 2015

Mobile increased its share of paid search clicks by 6 percentage points in North America between Q4 2013 and Q4 2014, from one-third to nearly 40%, according to data released in January 2015 by Merkle | RKG. The gain was due to smartphones, which accounted for more than one-fifth of clicks in Q4 2014, up from 16% during the same period the year prior.

Mobile Share of Paid Search Ad Spending and Clicks in North America, by Device, Q2 2013-Q4 2014 (% of total among Merkle RKG clients)

Meanwhile, after rising 2 percentage points between Q4 2013 and Q1 2014, tablets’ share of paid search clicks held steady at 18%. As a result of this plateau, smartphones passed tablets in portion of paid search clicks in Q2 2014 and widened the gap over the next two quarters.

In terms of spending, mobile grabbed 30% of paid search dollars in Q4 2014. Here, tablets took the large majority of expenditure because of advertisers’ heavily discounted bids on phone traffic compared with desktops and tablets, according to RKG. At the end of last year, the larger-screen mobile devices grabbed 20% of paid search spend—double that of smartphones.

Mobile search is no longer just for browsers—search engine apps offer consumers another way to find information. But December research by Harris Poll for the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that the web was still the area of focus for mobile searchers. Among US smartphone owners, 42% said they preferred to use mobile browsers when searching, vs. just 20% who said the same for mobile apps. Search was also a near-universal activity among this group, as just 6% didn’t use this service on their phones.

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