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Tablets Surpass Smartphones in Paid Search Ad Spend, but Not CTR

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Advertisers invested more in paid search ads served via tablet devices than via smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to the Global Online Advertising Trends quarterly report, a study of key trends in paid search, mobile, and social advertising by Marin Software.

Desktops and laptop still accounted for the biggest share of paid search spend on the Marin platform in the fourth quarter, 83% on average, down 3 points from 86% three months earlier.

But device targeting gained more momentum during the quarter, with tablets and smartphones together accounting for 17% of paid search spending:

  • Tablets accounted for 8% of spend, up from 7% in 3Q12. (Prior to the fourth quarter of 2012, investment in tablet advertising lagged ad spend smartphone ads).
  • Smartphones accounted for 8% of total spend, up from 7% three months earlier.

Overall, smartphone and tablet devices accounted for a 22% share of paid search clicks in 4Q12, and computers accounted for 78%.


Below, additional findings from Marin Software for the fourth quarter of 2012.

Across the three types of devices (computers, tablets, and smartphones), click-through rates (CTR) and cost-per-click (CPC) rates varied in the fourth quarter:

  • Average CPC for ads served via computers was highest in the quarter, $0.77, followed by tablets at $0.67 and smartphones at $0.49.
  • Average CTR was highest for smartphones in 4Q12 (4.34%); tablets generated an average CTR of 2.85%, edging out computers at 2.21%.

Google accounted for 80% of paid search spend in 4Q12, and 78% of all paid clicks during the same period.

Ads served via Google recorded a 24% year-over-year (YOY) increase in click volume, a 14% lift in CPC, and a 10% decrease in CTR in the fourth quarter:

Ads served via Yahoo and Bing registered a 25% jump in click volumes (YOY), accompanied by a 22% increase in CPC and a 13% increase in CTR in the fourth quarter:

Retailers continued the trend of early investments in online advertising during the holiday season.

The five days between Thanksgiving (Nov. 22) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 26) accounted for 8% of ad spend in final quarter of 2012, Marin found.

About the report: Findings are based on data from Marin Software's online ad management platform and are drawn from a sample of large-scale advertisers and agencies that collectively spend more than $4 billion annually on biddable media, for the quarter ended in December 2012. The full report discusses key trends in online advertising across the US, UK, and Eurozone, as well as Australia.


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Lenna Garibian is a MarketingProfs research writer and a marketing consultant in the tech industry, where she develops engaging content that builds thought leadership and revenue opportunities for clients. She's held marketing and research positions at eRPortal Software, GAP Inc., Stanford University, and the IMF. Reach Lenna via Twitter @LennaAnahid and LinkedIn.

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  • by Sasha Zinevych Fri Jan 18, 2013 via web

    Great article and statistics! Personally I use both computer and a tablet to do some shopping as each option has its pros and cons. Tablets are mobile while the functionality that you may need working with your credit card/payment is the advantage of your PC or laptop.

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