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Search Marketing 2020

Pandemic Promises Short-Term Pain but Long-Term Gain

About This Report
Search ad spending in the US will rise by 5.9% this year, significantly below trend, in the face of the massive disruption to consumer lifestyles. But the pandemic is setting search up for a bigger future.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Search reflects consumers’ needs and wants—and after massive disruption earlier this year, even more of those needs are being fulfilled through digital channels. As the retail economy transforms into one more reliant on ecommerce, search is poised to grow bigger than we expected.

How much will US marketers spend on search advertising in 2020?

The pandemic is a drag on search ad growth this year, but advertisers will still increase their paid search investments in the US by 5.9% to nearly $60 billion. About two in five digital marketing dollars will go to search ads as ecommerce retailers and others seek to drive conversions in a tough economy.

How has the pandemic and macroeconomic disruption affected consumer search behavior and, in turn, search marketing?

Disrupted lives mean a disruption in consumer search trends, since search is a signal of people’s intent and needs. In spring, search turned drastically less commercial as consumers scrambled for information. But it quickly turned into a way for consumers to fulfill new and increased needs with services like curbside pickup and home delivery.

How does ecommerce channel advertising fit into the larger picture of search?

Most, but not all, advertising that occurs on ecommerce properties is search, which we define as advertising where the primary targeting is based on a user query. We estimate that 72.2% of ecommerce channel ad spending this year falls into this category, and Amazon’s ad business is dominated by it.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report includes our latest forecast of search ad spending, our first-ever estimates of ecommerce channel ad spending, and discussion of major trends in search marketing this year.

KEY STAT: Search ad spending in the US will rise by 5.9% this year, significantly below trend, in the face of the massive disruption to consumer lifestyles. But the pandemic is setting search up for a bigger future.

Here’s what’s in the full report


Exportable files for easy reading, analysis and sharing.


Reliable data in simple displays for presentations and quick decision making.

6expert perspectives

Insights from industry and company leaders.

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Search Ad Spending in the US
  3. Search and the Ecommerce Channel
  1. Search Marketing Trends
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. Insider Intelligence Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Interviewed for This Report

Jai Amin
Vice President, Paid Search
Interviewed September 28, 2020
Mark Ballard
Vice President, Research
Interviewed August 13, 2020
Cate Dunn
Enterprise Client Partner
Interviewed October 1, 2020
Pat Hayden
Group Vice President, Acquisition Media
Interviewed October 2, 2020
Franz Jordan
Interviewed September 25, 2020
Ben Roodman
Senior Director, Partner Development, North America
Interviewed October 12, 2020


Nicole Perrin


Daniel Carnahan
Eric Haggstrom
Forecasting Analyst
Andrew Lipsman
Principal Analyst
Lauren Ruhlen
Yoram Wurmser
Principal Analyst
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