Mobile Search Spend Share to Reach 83% by 2018

Just before Christmas, research from eMarketer predicted that by 2018, mobile will account for 76.7 percent of search spend. But the market research firm has since come up with an even more staggering number for mobile’s share by 2018: 83 percent.

The December prediction was lower than one from June, as a result of major companies having unpredictably high ad revenues. Not even Facebook saw its great end to 2014 coming, which resulted in other marketers moving their advertising dollars from paid search to mobile display ads for that quarter. So eMarketer‘s most recent predicted figure jumping back up so much in just two months fits in with the industry’s overall rapid shift toward mobile.

Back in 2012, desktop accounted for 87 percent of marketers’ search budgets, while only $2.24 billion (12.9 percent) went toward mobile. These figures include contextual text links, paid inclusion, paid listings, and SEO, while mobile accounts for advertising on search engines, search applications, and carrier portals for both smartphones and tablets.

Mobile’s spend share has since increased at a steady rate, climbing 12 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2014. This year, another expected 13 percent increase will bring the total amount marketers will spend on mobile search up to $12.97 billion.

As mobile has grown, desktop search spend has decreased just as quickly. In two short years, desktop spend has dropped $1.5 billion, losing 27 percent of the spend share. For 2015, eMarketer predicted desktop search will be $12.3 billion. With 47.4 percent of the share, desktop will be less than mobile for the first time.


“It’s not surprising. I also don’t think the trend is surprising to big players like Google, either,” says Cathy Boyle, a senior mobile analyst at eMarketer. “The writing’s been on the wall for a while now as consumers are getting more and more comfortable doing everything with their mobile devices.”

Boyle sees mobile continuing to grow beyond that, but is unable to venture a guess as to how much.

“There’s still a lot of desktop use in office spaces so it’s hard to predict where the ceiling is,” she says.

Also back in June, eMarketer looked at the mobile search ad revenues for different companies. The research firm found that while Google will still have the overwhelming majority of the search share, the search giant’s growth is tapering. In December, the research firm revisited these numbers and while it still expects that Google’s share will be just more than 61 percent by 2016, Yelp and YP will have slightly bigger pieces of the pie than previously reported.


What’s mostly responsible for Google’s decline is the “other” category. Other’s share declined 5 percentage points from June to December, though that’s because Yahoo is no longer lumped in that category.

The main threat to Google seems to be apps. Boyle explains that’s because people tend to search in verticals – looking at both Kayak and TripAdvisor for travel deals, say – on desktop, whereas on mobile devices, those searches typically happen in-app.

“[Search is] just a lot more niche within an app, which has very specific targeted searching,” she says. “It’s a parallel behavior, just executed in a different way.”

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