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Search advertising is resilient thanks to the ecommerce channel

Traditionally, travel advertisers including online travel agencies are among the biggest search ad spenders on Google. That business tanked last year, but ecommerce-related search advertising outperformed thanks to the supercharged digital retail environment.

We estimate that search ad spending in the US reached $61.69 billion last year, up 10.4% over 2019 but more than $2 billion short of our March 2020 forecast for the year. Despite this, search ad spending will rebound in 2021 and reach levels higher than previously expected—and it will remain on a higher trajectory throughout our forecast period.

General search engines like Google have benefited from the retail-related search trend, but not as much as Amazon has. We estimate that Amazon’s net share of the US search ad market surged from 13.3% in 2019 to 18.6% last year and will continue rising through at least 2023. Meanwhile, we estimate Google lost more than 4 points of net search share last year and will lose almost as much again by 2023.

Amazon isn’t the only retailer capitalizing on trends to gain share of the search ad market. For the first time, we’ve broken out search ad revenues at Walmart, which is also growing its share and will account for 1.1% of net search ad revenues this year.

What’s changed: We’ve reported for a while on how it’s been Amazon, and not a general search competitor, that has most disrupted Google’s hold on the US search ad market, but the pandemic significantly accelerated that trend. In March 2020, we expected Amazon to grow its share of search spending to 15.2% last year, and to reach 18.5% in 2023. We expected Google to maintain almost a 60% share of the market through at least 2022.