The Biggest Search Advertisers on the Internet

Ever wondered who are the biggest players in paid search? Our in-house analysts looked at SimilarWeb’s data for the first Quarter of 2013 to find out the biggest sites getting traffic from paid search. For the purpose of this study, we treated the 10 biggest destinations of paid search traffic as ‘the market’ to be able to compare their respective share of voice. Obviously  these big players represent a small fraction of the paid search market but looking at their paid search activity and the keywords they but gives us fascinating insights outlined below (below the graph).


These 10 paid search behemoths have very different strategies and approaches so we looked a bit deeper into each one of them to understand why and how they spend their PPC bucks.

1. we guessed that Amazon and Ebay would be in the list but the amount of traffic gets from paid search was a real surprise. The volume of clicks they receive is more than double of what Amazon received over the same period. They’re clearly using paid search aggressively as an arbitrage tool which has already caused controversy in the industry as some would argue it might breach Google’s policy against arbitrage.

2. Amazon: the online retail giant comes second and in the chart below we have added the paid search traffic going to the 5 biggest amazon domains (US, UK, Japan, Germany and France). Search has always been played a crucial role in Amazon’s digital strategy – SimilarWeb shows how nearly 30% of traffic comes from search.

3. nearly 50% of traffic comes from search and it’s ranked by SimilarWeb as the #1 Travel Website on the internet. Some of their top paid keywords include ‘booking’ and ‘hotel’ – expensive terms which will make them one of Google’s most profitable clients.

4. as people increasingly invest time, effort and budget in building communities on Facebook, paid search is often used as a way to ‘lure’ new fans into brand or company pages. Search accounts for nearly 13% of Facebook’s traffic and although paid search only represents a tiny fraction of that (under 1%), sending users to facebook pages rather than a website is a clever way for brands to build a community with the help of paid search.

5. Ebay: not as big as Amazon on search but Ebay is also a driving force of paid search traffic. However, organic search is their real strength which accounts for 96% of their search traffic. The volume of paid traffic includes and, their 2 biggest sites.

6. Google? Buying from Google? Yes, often Google advertises their new products and services such as Gmail or Webmaster Tools. My guess is that they’re trying to make the most of their huge amounts of remnant traffic.

7. the entertainment company has to put up a fight with all the illegal downloads available for film and TV. Some of their paid keywords include ‘free movies online’ and ‘films online’. Looks like they’re winning the battle, they’re currently the #1 Website for Movies on the internet. But staying on top comes at a price – there are over 35 million Google searches every month for the term ‘netflix’. 89% of the company paid search goes behind the word ‘netflix’ and other branded terms to make sure they always come up first in Google. This is their way to protect their brand in a highly competitive market where companies such as Quickflix currently bid for ‘netflix’ in the Australian market.

8. another big arbitrage player on the list. A company that specializes in the monetization of online search. It isn’t surprising that more than 80% of their traffic comes from search and nearly 20% is paid.

9. another unexpected result. Jobrapido is a global jobs site (3rd biggest on the Internet) with a strong presence in Italy, US, UK, France, India, Brazil and Russia. Nearly 30% of their traffic comes from search and a quarter from this is paid search.

10.  the US retail giant has invested a lot in paid search in 2013 with a focus on technology and telecommunications, bidding on terms such as ‘ipad’, ‘ipad mini’, ‘ipod touch’, ‘straight talk phones’ and ‘ipad 4’. You can see their leading keywords here.

Surprised? Shocked?  Wait until you see our next blog post, where I’ll review the biggest advertisers in social and display ads on the internet.

Let us know what you think in the comment box below and stay in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

About the Author -

Head of Brand & Strategy for SimilarWeb. Obsessed with web measurement, the internet, pop music and great TV. Wannabe cool-hunter.

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