Digiday+ Research deep dive: Google dominates in both marketing spend and confidence on the buy side

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It’s safe to say that pretty much everyone on the buy side is spending on Google and that they’re confident that advertising on Google actually works. At least, that’s what a Digiday+ Research survey of 138 agency and brand professionals found.

But while agencies have displayed a very steady rate of spending and marketing confidence in Google, brands’ spending and confidence have been a bit more up and down.

Digiday’s survey found that Google comes in just behind Meta siblings Facebook and Instagram when it comes to agencies’ marketing spend. Ninety-two percent of agency pros said their clients spend at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on Google.

A notable difference between agency spending on Google versus Meta’s platforms is that a significant portion of agencies who spend on Google spend a lot: Nearly half (46%) said a large or very large portion of their clients’ marketing budgets goes toward the search giant. In fact, whereas Google came in behind Facebook and Instagram for overall marketing spend among agencies, it is the top marketing channel among agencies whose clients spend big.

The numbers are even bigger for brands. Google is the top channel for marketing spend among brands overall, and among brands that spend a lot.

Digiday’s survey found that 97% of brand pros said they spend at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on Google. And 60% said they spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets there.

Digiday’s survey found that three-quarters of agency pros said their clients spend a moderate to very large portion of their marketing budgets on Google, with nearly half (46%) saying their clients spend a large or very large portion of their marketing budgets there.

Those who said their clients spend a large portion of their marketing budgets on Google accounted for the largest category, with nearly a third of agency pros (31%) saying this.

Agencyy clients’ spend on Google has changed very little over the last year. While other marketing platforms have seen fluctuations in marketing spend over time, this steady marketing spend on Google says a lot about the consistent nature of the search giant as a marketing channel.

Digiday’s survey found that brands’ spending on Google is a lot less stable. For example, the percentage of brand pros who said they spend a very large portion of their marketing budgets was 20% a year ago. Then, that number dropped to only 7% six months ago before rebounding to nearly a quarter (24%) in Q1 of this year.

The large and moderate spending categories have seen similar fluctuation: In Q1 2022, 33% of brand pros told Digiday they spent a large portion of their marketing budgets on Google, which shot up to more than half (52%) in Q3 2022. In Q1 2023, slightly more than a third (36%) said they spend a large amount on Google. Meanwhile, the percentage of brand pros who said they spend a moderate portion of their marketing budgets on Google has varied from 23% a year ago, down to 17% six months ago, and back up to 27% now.

Interestingly, Digiday’s survey also found that brands who spend marketing dollars on Google tend to spend big. Not one respondent said in Q1 of this year that they spend a very small portion of their marketing budget on Google, while only 9% said they spend a small portion there and only 3% said they spend nothing.

Digiday’s survey found that agency clients are spending big on marketing on Google because agencies have the confidence in the search giant to back that spending up. Two-thirds of agency pros said they are confident or very confident in Google’s ability to drive marketing success for their clients — a number that has remained steady over the last 18 months.

In fact, agency pros who are confident or very confident in Google have made up anywhere from two-thirds to just short of three-quarters of respondents to Digiday’s surveys since Q3 2021.

And when we factor in all the agency pros who have told Digiday over the last year and a half that they have any amount of confidence in Google, the numbers are sky-high: Q1 of this year represented the low so far, with 95% of agencies saying they’re at least slightly confident in Google’s ability to drive marketing success for their clients, down from the high of a whopping 99% in Q3 2021.

When it comes to brands, Digiday’s survey found that while the confidence in Google’s ability to drive marketing success is there, there’s a lot more variation in that confidence compared with their agency counterparts.

According to Digiday’s survey, brands are 100% confident in Google — in other words, zero respondents said they’re not confident at all in Google as of Q1 of this year. But the degree to which brands are confident in Google has seen some ups and downs over the last 18 months.

For instance, the percentage of brand pros who said they’re confident that Google drives marketing success fell from 55% six months ago to 33% at the beginning of this year. In fact, that percentage had been trending upward every six months since Q3 2021 until it dropped significantly in Q1 2023. That’s a big shift.

On the other hand, the percentage of brand pros who told Digiday they’re very confident that Google drives marketing success jumped from 14% six months ago to 36% at the beginning of this year. And that percentage had been trending downward every six months since Q3 2021 until it shot up in Q1 2023. That’s also a big shift, and in a much different direction.

The percentage of brand pros who said they’re somewhat confident in Google also saw a big change in the last six months — from 31% of respondents in Q3 2022 to 21% in Q1 2023. And the slightly confident category also saw a noteworthy shift — from zero respondents in Q3 2022 to 9% in Q1 2023.

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