Twenty-three percent of total clicks originated from smartphones and tablets in 4Q 2012, an 89% year-over-year (YoY) increase, according to the latest quarterly State of Paid Search report from The Search Agency, a global online marketing firm.

“With ongoing advancements and multiple lower priced tablet options being introduced into the market, it’s no surprise traffic on these devices continues to increase,” said Keith Wilson, vice president of agency products for The Search Agency. “But, while our advertisers’ spend on mobile and tablets is increasing, it’s not at the expense of desktop. In fact, data shows that desktop searches remained level over the last two quarters, underscoring the trend that search is steadily growing overall.

“The holidays brought on big numbers in mobile retail searches but we saw click volume decrease overall – possibly because of uncertainty from the presidential election and the natural disasters that affected the Northeast,” he added.

Other key report findings include:

  • Tablets see record searches; surpasses mobile ad spend: The introduction of a number of new tablet models and record sales growth spurred on huge growth in both tablet use and advertiser spend. Tablet click share in Q4 more than doubled YoY and jumped 16 percent from Q3, and smartphones and tablets combined drove 23 percent of total clicks in Q4 2012, an 89 percent increase YoY. The last quarter of 2012 marked the first time in which share of spend on tablets exceeded spend on smartphones (8.5 versus 7.1 percent of total spend).
  • Google and Yahoo!-Bing Network continue to see growth; Google leads in mobile: Search engine advertising continues to show healthy growth as impressions in Q4 2012 grew 11 percent YoY and total clicks grew 4 percent. Total clicks on Google increased 4 percent YoY and cost per click (CPC) rose 7 percent from $0.55 to $0.59. Bing also showed a 4 percent growth in click traffic, with a 15 percent increase in average CPC YoY. Bing’s mobile impression share and click share increased, but is still substantially less than Google’s impression and click share overall. Google continued to see more paid clicks coming from mobile devices with 25.9 percent of its total clicks coming from tablets and smartphones in Q4, compared to 12.6 percent for Bing.
  • Product Listings accounted for more than 14 percent of spend on Google: Product Listing Ads (PLAs) continued their strong growth in Q4 2012, accounting for 14 percent of retailers’ total spend on Google in Q4, a 236 percent increase from the previous quarter. Specifically, retailers spent more than 9 percent of their PLA budget on tablets and smartphones, an 80 percent increase from Q3.
  • Retail surged on mobile during the holidays, but click volume declined YoY: In the retail sector, mobile click share increased from 14.3 percent in Q4 2011 to 26.1 percent in Q4 2012. Retail volume was the driving factor for Q4 growth in comparison to Q3 2012, with a 20 percent increase in click traffic. However, YoY click volume declined 6 percent.