Paid search traffic took a major hit in the past year in all of the major categories tracked except for education, and is down 26% over the same period in 2008, according to a recent analysis by Hitwise, MarketingVOX writes.
The decline is apparent when examining the origin of registered search engine traffic over the past year. In the four-week period ending in April 2008, nearly 10% (9.84%) of registered search engine traffic came from paid clicks. But in the four weeks preceding May 9, 2009, this figure declined by 26%, to 7.25%.
The trend is noticeable across all categories – with the sole exception of education, Hitwise said. Paid search results to education sites increased from 1.39% to 1.45%.
Paid clicks to major retail sites and travel agencies were down 20% and 25% respectively.
Brand names , such as Orbitz and Wal-mart, saw significant declines in their share of paid clicks, while searches for Home Depot registered a huge decline in paid clicks: Just 0.83% of searches went to a paid listing in the last four weeks, compared with 39% a year ago.
These declines can be partly explained by the current economic climate, which is driving companies to slash spending on search marketing. Google’s latest quarterly earnings report noted a slight increase in paid clicks across all of its AdSense partners (3%) in the last quarter of 2008, but did not give detailed statistics about paid search traffic.
Reduced search spend could also mean that some large companies, seeing that they are already are the #1 search term for their respective brands, are pulling back spending, Hitwise said. Additionally, many retailers have been shifting their budgets away from search-engine marketing and toward email and social media marketing.
Smaller companies that were formerly overshadowed by the competition may use the downturn to break into new markets and expand their spend on search marketing.
In related news, starting May 1, Amazon stopped paying referral fees to Associates that use pay-per-click programs on search engines to send traffic to amazon.com, amazon.ca or endless.com.