Google to see first U.S. revenue decline, including paid search, says forecaster

Google is predicted to see a 7% drop in paid-search revenue, driven primarily by a loss of travel ad spending.

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Google’s net U.S. ad revenue will decline this year by 5.3% according to eMarketer’s newly revised digital ad forecast. That’s a big change from its earlier and more bullish ad forecasts (global, search), which envisioned nearly 13% growth for Google.

Facebook and Amazon will grow. Yet Facebook and Amazon ad revenues will continue to grow, according to the revised forecast, but “at severely depressed rates” compared to earlier estimates. However, eMarketer doesn’t factor in the potential revenue impact of a growing Facebook ad boycott, which is still small but could have an impact if it gains momentum.

Below are the revised eMarketer U.S. revenue projections for full-year 2020:

  • Google: $39.58 billion (5.3% decline)
  • Facebook: $31.43 billion (4.9% growth)
  • Amazon: $12.75 billion (23.5% growth)

The new numbers also signal changes in digital-ad market share among the three companies:

  • Google: 29.4% (31.6% in 2019)
  • Facebook: 23.4% (22.7% in 2019)
  • Amazon: 9.5% (7.8% in 2019)

Loss of travel spending. Google’s revenue decline is attributed primarily to the loss of significant travel ad spending in paid search. Travel ad spending was off roughly 90% in March according to MediaRadar. Accordingly, Google’s net search ad revenue will drop by 7.2% and its share of paid-search advertising in the U.S. will go from 61.3% to 58.5%, with Amazon capturing additional paid-search share from Google.

Overall, eMarketer still says that U.S. digital ad revenues will grow this year 1.7% to $134.7 billion, “the smallest gain in a decade.” According to the IAB, in 2019 paid search captured 43.9% of total U.S. digital ad revenue, reaching $54.7 billion, up about 13% over 2018.

Why we care. The totality of evidence argues that for the foreseeable future digital ad-revenue growth will be slow to non-existent. But internet advertising is still healthier than other media sectors. And even if the eMarketer projection is accurate, Google is unlikely to suffer much.

The company will continue to see growth in display and YouTube advertising. And it’s still likely to be regarded as one of the few “safe bets” in technology. More concerning is the increasing concentration of digital revenue in a very small group of companies, illustrated by the eMarketer report and others.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.

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