Not enough attention is given to the growth of search in markets other than the U.S. or the U.K., which means that marketers are less aware of the phenomenal opportunities open to them in global markets. International search is seeing strong growth.
Google's announcement of a 7 percent increase in profits for the third quarter of 2009 was pretty good, but some analysis is warranted to dig in and find out what those figures really tell us.
Let's start by looking at the annualized figures split out into U.S., U.K., and international.
The chart shows that not much has actually changed since the last announcement. It looks pretty much the same as one of my previous column, "Use International Search Marketing -- Just Like Google!"
The levels of growth are much lower than they were just a year ago, when many search marketers thought it would go on forever.
The annualized growth rate of Google in the U.S. increased by 0.18 percent, which is OK but not quite a "recession is over" kind of statement. In the U.K., the improvement was better (2.2 percent), but that isn't an improvement in growth -- that's a decline in the rate of reduction. Even international didn't produce a stellar improvement at just 1.3 percent, although that's on top of the 12.6 percent growth we reported last time.
A closer look, however, reveals more interesting findings.
The picture is somewhat more complex. There should be no seasonal effects in these figures because we're comparing the same quarter this year with the same quarter last year. We can't say, however, that currency hasn't played a particular role.
Relatively speaking, the U.K. saw good improvement from where it was, though still not even standing still in terms of growth (i.e., spend is still going a little backwards). In the U.S., after a pretty flat second quarter, things picked up again -- though the rate of growth was still actually behind quarter one. International had a lower than average second quarter two (so unlikely to be much currency effect in there), but quarter three has produced strong growth at a rate of 16.2 percent, or more than 5.5 times the rate of growth in the U.S. at the same time.
It would be useful for those of us who work in the international field to have more of a breakdown than this provided by Google. Of course, it's unlikely that they'll do that because it could give information to regional competitors, enabling them to compete more effectively on their local turf.
This international growth is most likely to come from markets that have returned to growth, in many cases earlier than expected, such as France, Germany, and Australia. The volume of search advertising could also be growing in Russia and China, but local engines Yandex and Baidu have been performing relatively well, making that less of a prospect. More likely, Google is growing in markets you wouldn't necessarily expect where they have lower levels of local competition and where the activity of search is still growing.
One thing is clear. Search is a good mirror to the economy -- and the opportunities for search marketers globally are still very attractive indeed.