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How search is shifting in 5 charts

Though the ad industry has had a notoriously difficult year, search advertising is well positioned to grow in the years to come. On the consumer side, however, search behaviors are shifting, which could spell danger for those who don’t innovate.

Here are five charts on how search is changing in 2022 and beyond:

1. Search’s share grows

After a huge spike in 2021, US search ad spending growth slowed down a bit this year, though it will remain in the double digits through 2023. Marketers will continue to allocate more of their budgets on paid search through 2026, when it will account for 30.0% of total media ad spending.

As a lower-funnel, high-ROI tactic, we think search will continue to be a marketer favorite, even amid economic uncertainty.

2. Google’s got the top spot for the moment

When it comes to search, Google is king. This year, its ad revenues will total over $137 billion, representing a whopping 56.1% of total search ad spending.

Unfortunately, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. In the third quarter, Google’s advertising business grew only 2.5% year over year, compared to last year’s 43% growth.

One of the reasons for the downturn is Google’s struggle to modernize its search capabilities.

“Google is going to have to think about what its point of differentiation will be,” said our analyst Max Willens on a recent “Behind the Numbers” podcast. “I don’t think there’s worry about Gen Z and millennials cutting Google out of their lives, it’s more thinking about what role it can play going forward.”

3. But Amazon’s on the come up

While Google still reigns, Amazon is coming for its crown. We predict that the ecommerce giant will rake in $24.40 billion in ad revenues next year, growing its share of total ad spending to nearly 25%.

As the company’s ad business becomes more profitable, it’s a reasonable guess that Amazon will keep the investments coming to narrow the gap.

4. Search behaviors are changing

Amazon has an edge over Google in one way: Almost two-thirds of US consumers begin their online shopping search on the retailer’s platform. This is compared to 49% who start their shopping journey on a search engine.

Social media platforms are getting into the search mix, too. YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok were all cited as places where consumers start their shopping search.

5. But are people ready for the next new thing?

One of the ways Google has attempted to enhance its search offerings is by making its feed more visual.

In an August 2022 survey, only 8% of US adults reported they currently use visual search retail shopping technology, while 41% said they were either somewhat or very interested in the technology.

Is Google putting the cart before the horse? Or is this a kind of “if you build it, they will come” situation?

The bottom line: Spend on search is here to stay, but the ways people use it are changing. While the game still belongs to Google and Amazon, they need to keep their eye on the ball so they don’t strike out with consumers and marketers alike.

This was originally featured in the eMarketer Daily newsletter. For more marketing insights, statistics, and trends, subscribe here.