IndustryHere’s How Badly Google Is Killing Its Digital Media Competitors (for Now)

Here's How Badly Google Is Killing Its Digital Media Competitors (for Now)

Google isn't just dominating search, but digital advertising across the board.

A recent analysis of revenue and financial performance between Internet giants by Frédéric Filloux at MondayNote shows that Google isn’t just dominating search, but digital advertising across the board. Of course, you probably already knew that Google generates a massive amount of ad revenue each year – more than $61 billion last year, in fact.

What’s surprising, though, is the extent to which Google is totally kicking butt vs. the competition in its monetization of users.

Filloux compared across a number of metrics the advertising prowess of:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • The New York Times
  • The Guardian
  • BuzzFeed

These companies are all competing for consumer eyes on their content; let’s see how they stacked up against the big social advertisers and search Goliath Google.

Who’s Winning in Online Membership and Audience?

The greater the depth of member information available, the better the platform’s ability to target their members with ads.

Here, Google has actually fallen behind Facebook, with $1.2 billion members to Facebook’s $1.4 billion. We all know they tried their best with Google+ but – well, it was kind of a flop. Facebook’s ability to build a massive membership of people who share just about everything with abandon has propelled their ads business to more than $12 billion a year in revenue.


The other two digital advertisers, LinkedIn and Twitter, trail far behind with $347 million and $288 million members, respectively, but they’re still trouncing the legacy publishers and BuzzFeed.

Even with its lower membership count, Google still beats out Facebook in audience, with 238 million unique views each month to Facebook’s 207 million. Again, these two are in a league of their own, with LinkedIn and Twitter competing in the 91 million to 96 million range for unique views.

As much as social networks try to steal content discovery away from search, Google is still getting the views.

Google Crushes the Competition in Digital Revenue

Facebook users (U.S.) now spend an average of 39 minutes every day on the site, yet Facebook is getting its butt kicked by Google in monetizing its membership.


Here, you can see that Google’s total revenue per member is a whopping six times higher than Facebook’s.

No one else is even in its ballpark. Twitter has a lot of work to do here, with only $5 in annual revenue per member and the smallest membership size of this bunch.

Just How Much More Valuable Is the Google Audience?

On monetization of its entire audience, Google slays the competition again. Here, you see just how much better search and social is monetized, compared to the publishers:


The publishers are absolutely getting killed; BuzzFeed is bringing in just $1.30 per monthly UV, while The Guardian sits at $3 and NYTimes is twice that at $6.

Check out Twitter, though, with $15 per monthly UV and LinkedIn at $23. They’re monetizing their audience better than publishers, but not even close to Facebook, at $60 per monthly UV.

The search giant is raking in almost five times that, with $277 in revenue per monthly UV. Google is beating Twitter by almost 18 times per audience member!


Well, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being the tendency for people who use search engines to have higher commercial intent. Sure, there are a lot of information searches every day on Google, but people turn to search when they want something.

Google also tracks users like a madman and its network includes the Google Display Network, YouTube, Search Ads, Mobile Ads, DoubleClick, and more. Pretty much anywhere a person goes online (except Facebook), Google can reach them. Checking your email? Google has ads for that. Browsing e-commerce sites? Google has ads for that. Whether you’re searching for a local business on your phone, watching cat videos on YouTube, or falling down a rabbit hole of interlinked articles about hamsters, Google is going to get in front of you with ads it feels are relevant to what you’re doing in that moment – and what you’ve done previously.

Search Marketing Still the Digital Advertising Weapon of Choice

The Guardian and The New York Times have done well to survive, but the social ads giants are far more effective at monetizing their users and visitors.

LinkedIn has grown a lot in the last two years and is experimenting with features like its blogging platform (which I love) to keep people on-site and engaged longer. But it’s still not nearly as effective at monetizing its users and its ads aren’t great. They’re expensive, there’s no conversion tracking, and the reporting tools are really primitive considering what’s available elsewhere. It’s no surprise then that only 20 percent of LinkedIn’s 2014 revenue came from its ads business – it makes way more on talent solutions and premium subscriptions.

Twitter has put a great deal of work into its ads, but it’s really lagging in monetizing its audience. The impact for advertisers, of course, is that we want to go where we’ll get the most bang for our buck. Twitter doesn’t seem to be that place, for the majority of advertisers.

Google’s Biggest Threat May Be Its Own Success

Facebook has made huge strides over the last 18 months in improving its ad products, with enhanced formats, a more native feel with in-stream ads, and way more granular targeting options than Google offers. Microsoft’s Atlas was a huge acquisition and will drive remarketing ads off of Facebook. Its partnerships with offline retail data brokers like Acxiom are enabling it to offer targeting based on offline commercial behavior, as well.

There have been a lot of gripes about Facebook Ads over the years, but the fact is, they’re far less expensive than AdWords. They don’t have to convert as well; even if your Facebook Ads conversion rates are one-third what you get on Google, if you’re only paying one-fifth the cost-per-click, you’re still ahead of the game.

However, until Facebook Atlas delivers on getting ads outside its own ecosystem, you’re only ever going to be able to reach Facebook users with Facebook ads. Considering how Facebook has kept its cost per click down, Google should be really worried when this happens.

Google has more pressing concerns, though. It has been super successful at monetizing desktop search, but it’s harder to do on mobile. There are fewer ad spots, it’s harder to measure ROI, and apps tend to steal away sessions from mobile search. The competition is fierce, but Google’s biggest threats just may come from within.

That’s the thing about being on top – you have nowhere to go but down.


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