SEM Trends: Skai’s Senior Director of Marketing Research, Chris ‘Coz’ Costello, dives deeper into the Q3 2018 paid search data from our latest Quarterly Trend Report and demonstrates how using the right visualization can illuminate the insights.
In our most recent Quarterly Trend Report of Q3 2018, we found, among other things, that total paid search spending increased 10% year-over-year, and that average cost-per-click (CPC) dropped by 5% compared to the previous quarter and 15% compared to the previous year. We also looked specifically at how mobile and shopping search campaigns grew and touched on the impact of those trends on things like CPC and click-through rate (CTR).
But even just thinking about mobile vs desktop and keyword vs shopping campaigns gives us four different SEM combinations that may be important, and there are other segments that we want to consider as well. How can we gauge the growth and the impact of each of these paid search “channels” with regards to the overall trends that we run through every quarter?
As someone whose job it is to bring data to life with insights, I’ve learned over time that using the right charts and graphs is key to clearly communicating the data story. One way that we can summarize several key data points in a single visualization is with a bubble chart.
SEM Trends: Q3 2018 Search Data
The example below looks at Q3 2018 across all of Skai’s search advertisers. In our analysis:
- the x-axis is the average cost-per-click of the segment
- the y-axis is the average click-through rate
- the size of the bubble is the total amount of ad spend
One thing to note is that the segments are not mutually exclusive. For example, the “Smartphone Keyword” segment is part of the “Mobile (all)” segment.
Some things we can see in this chart are the size of mobile search and the difference in CPC and CTR between desktop keywords and smartphone keywords. But this is just a snapshot of one point in time. What if I told you that there was a way to see how these relationships changed over the five quarters in our analysis? We can create a snapshot for each quarter and created an animated graphic that runs from Q3 of last year to the same quarter this year.
SEM Trends: Key Search Segments
So, what more does this tell us? First, it shows how the TOTAL search bubble grew from last year to this year, reflecting an increase in total search spending of that amount.
Second, you can see a sort of “gravitational pull” of some segments on both each other and the overall bubble. For example, the growth of smartphone shopping ads pulls the overall shopping bubble, the overall mobile bubble, and the total bubble closer, representing downward trends in CPCs for all of those larger segments.
You can also see that smartphone keywords have steadily increased click-through rates over the past year, while the overall size of that segment has remained largely constant. Desktop keywords have kept a roughly similar share as well, and are increasingly overlapping with Local search ads.
Finally, you can see nearly all of the bubble shift to the right from Q3 to Q4 last year, which gives us a sense of what to expect from search campaigns as we head into the holiday season.
SEM Trends: Using the Right Charts is Key
Digital advertising gives us a lot of data, and that can mean lots of different things to look at and to consider for analysis. By using these bubble charts, we can summarize a lot of what’s happening in the channel in a more easily digestible format. Stay tuned to see what a similar view does for the social channel!