The shift from desktop to mobile won't hurt Google even a bit

By James Robinson , written on March 15, 2014

From The News Desk

New research this week from eMarketer predicted a $1.4 billion drop in spending on desktop search advertising this year. The Google impact was latched on to quickly, with even the New York Times pontificating about what risk this posed the search giant.

But what few people figured is that money flowing between desktop and mobile is all money that is ending up in the Google bank account anyway.

Reading to the end of the report, the conclusions made about the eMarketer research are misguided. Going off the numbers, the surge towards mobile is going to make the search advertising market even more lucrative. While our desktop computer use has stagnated, we spend two more hours a day now on mobile devices than we did two years ago. And on mobile, search is inherently a Google-branded experience.

These new numbers put desktop search at a $13.6 billion business by the end of 2014, but facing steep double-digit annual declines, falling by as much as a third in 2018. Drawing these numbers out, the search advertising industry is set to be worth just $5.6 billion by the close of 2018, down 60 percent down on its 2014 value.

By contrast, mobile search will bound up the money tree at a quick clip: $9 billion at the end of this year, to $12.9 billion in 2015, $17.25 billion in 2016, $21.6 billion in 2017 and $26.4 billion in 2018.

Putting the two markets together, these numbers value search advertising at $32 billion in 2018, 45 percent up on what it is now. If Google’s current market share in search on desktop (67 percent) and mobile (95 percent) were to hold steady over the next five years, Google should see close to a 60 percent increase in revenue from search.

The exponential mobile growth that eMarketer forecasts alongside the wane in desktop use is a no-brainer. But what the report doesn’t calculate is that Google has had the better part of two decades working on search now and comparatively, it is just getting started on mobile. It has mobile search almost all to itself and its ad offering is only going to get more lucrative in time as Google’s Enhanced Campaigns and Product Listing Ads get more sophisticated.

By 2018, Google’s search advertising is going to be a more sophisticated service operating in a much bigger search advertising industry, which it already dominates. In 2014, Google is search and search is expanding. This isn’t what weakness looks like.

[gif adapted by Brad Jonas for Pando]