Top Spenders, Top Keywords in U.K. Paid Search

New research from AdGooroo examines Paid Search spending in the United Kingdom during the first half of this year.

From January to June 2014, advertisers spent a total of £783 million on Desktop/Tablet Paid Search advertising, not counting Mobile Search or Product Listing Ads. The vast majority of the Paid Search advertising expenditure—£742 million—went to U.K. Google AdWords, with an additional £41 million going to the U.K. Yahoo! Bing Network.

The Top U.K. Paid Search Advertisers

UK Top 20 Paid Search Spenders Jan-June 2014_AdGooroo

The above chart ranks the Top 20 advertisers based on Paid Search Spend on U.K. Google and Yahoo! Bing during the first half of the year. As a group, the Top 20 advertisers spent a total of £124 million on the two search engines during the period, representing 16% of the total U.K. Paid Search advertising spend of £783 million in the first half of the year.

More than half of the Top 20 advertisers belong to one of two industry subcategories, Financial Services Comparison Sites or Online Gambling sites. Generally speaking, the former act as lead aggregators for financial service, insurance, telecommunications, utility and travel providers, collecting contact information from consumers seeking quotes and selling that data to various third party providers. There were 5 Financial Services Comparison Sites in the Top 20, including (ranked #1), (#4) (#10), (#12) and (#13).

There were 6 Online Gambling sites in the Top 20 ranking, which are primarily focused on sports betting and casino games, but also offer unusual bets such as whether expecting parents Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge will have twins, triplets or “Quads or more”. The Online Gambling sites in the ranking include (ranked #3), (#6), (#8), (#9), (#17) and (#20).

The 9 remaining  sites in the Top 20 ranking include 3 Retail sites, (ranked #2), (#16) and (#19), Travel site (#5), Insurance provider (#7), Satellite Television provider (#11), Banking/Financial Institution, (#14), and two Telecommunications providers, (#15) and (#18).

Notably, although Tesco may be better known for its supermarket chain, the company’s is the only banking/financial institution in the Top 20, suggesting a concerted effort to gain a foothold with consumers — and a leg up on its competitors — via the Paid Search medium.

The Top Industry Categories by U.K. Paid Search Spend

Interestingly, when compared to total U.K. Google AdWords Desktop/Tablet spend by Industry Category in the first half of 2014, the Online Gambling category is over-represented in the Top 20 Spenders ranking, while the Retail and Travel categories are underrepresented. The chart below, for instance, shows that Financial Services is far and away the highest spending category in Paid Search (£158 million), followed by Shopping & Classifieds, which mainly consists of retailers (£100 million), Travel (£96 million) and then the Adult category, 96% of which (£74 million) is spend by Online Gambling sites.

UK Top Subcategories by Spend Jan-June 2014

Top Keywords

UK Top Keywords by Spend Jan-June 2014_AdGooroo

The above chart ranks the Top 20 Keywords by Spend on U.K. Google AdWords from January to June 2014. Financial Services terms dominate the list, accounting for 11 of the Top 20 Keywords, including 9 insurance-related terms (‘travel insurance’, ‘life insurance’, etc.) and 2 payday loan-related terms (‘payday loans’, ‘wonga’). The top keyword by U.K. spend was ‘car insurance’, for which advertisers spent £7 million in the first half of the year. Notably, insurance keywords saw extremely high competition, averaging 83 advertisers bidding on each term.

The branded term ‘asos’ had the highest average Clickthrough Rate/CTR (18.13%) and the lowest average Cost Per Click/CPC (£0.34). Another branded keyword, ‘netflix’, additionally had a high average CTR (14.30%) and a low average CPC (£0.56). Standing apart from these two branded terms is the generic term ‘analytics’, which garnered a 15.31% average CTR at a much higher average CPC of £6.03.

A close look at the average CPC for the five gambling-related keywords in the list (‘online casino’, ‘casino’, ‘bingo’, ‘online casino games’ and ‘roulette’) helps to shed light on the strong presence of Online Gambling sites in the Top 20 Advertisers by Spend ranking. Namely, gambling-related keywords are extremely expensive, averaging a £36.90 CPC across the five terms and topping out at £52.72 for ‘online casino’.

Lastly, the lone retail product keyword in the Top 20 was ‘samsung galaxy S5’.  Despite media reports that U.K. sales of this highly anticipated smartphone were disappointing, the product’s branded keyword ranked #3 in paid search spend, with £4.7 million in spend during the first half of the year.