Adobe Online Ad Report: Search Spending Up 16 Percent, Mobile Traffic Quadrupled

Search may not be the most exciting area of online advertising right now, but it’s still “the biggest driver of return on investment”, according to a new report from Adobe.

The report has the elaborate title, “Adobe Digital Index: Global Digital Advertising Update” and it covers the first quarter of this year. Compared to the same period last year, Adobe says that search spend increased 16 percent in the United States and 3 percent in the United Kingdom. That growth is coming from an increase in clicks, not an increase in the price that advertisers are paying for those clicks — which, for Google, actually fell 5 percent. (The graph above also suggests that search spending fell compared to the previous quarter, but that may just be seasonal variation.)

Of course, even though regular old search advertising is growing, newer sectors like mobile and social are growing more quickly (at least relative to their current size). Driven by tablets, overall mobile traffic is up four-fold — mobile now makes up 8 percent of U.S. search spending, and 11 percent of UK search spending. In the UK, that’s year-over-year growth of 250 percent. Facebook spending, meanwhile, has grown 93 percent overall, and engagement is up 176 percent.

Looking forward, the report predicts that U.S. search ad spend will grow 10 to 15 percent for the rest of the year, and that tablet and mobile spend will make up 15 to 20 percent of the total pie by the end of 2012.

The report is based on data from Efficient Frontier, the digital marketing company that Adobe recently acquired. It sounds like the report won’t go online until the Tuesday morning — I’ll add a link once it’s live. (Update: You can download the report here.)