Google generates billions of dollars in revenue every quarter, and big brands are known to be some of the most prolific spenders.

But just how much are specific brands spending? That's not information that Google has publicly disclosed before, but AdAge claims to have obtained a document detailing just how much major brands spent in June.

According to the document, which Google has not yet confirmed or denied the authenticity of, AT&T Mobile spent a whopping $8.08m on AdWords in June. Other big spenders included University of Phoenix-operator Apollo Group ($6.67m), Expedia ($5.85m) Amazon ($5.85m) and eBay ($4.25m).

One of the fastest rising spenders in June was a company battling perhaps the greatest PR crisis in memory: BP. The oil giant went from spending five-figures per month on AdWords to over $3.5m in June, highlighting the fact that when you need to get a message out and a message out fast, the internet and search engines are at the top of the list.

Certainly, it's interesting to see just how much Google's best customers are spending on AdWords, but perhaps more interesting are the amounts being spent by brands that aren't pouring so much in.

Recognizable names such as BMW and Walt Disney, for instance, spent less than $500,000 on Google ads in June. And they're the rule, not the exception. According to AdAge's document, only 47 of the brands listed spent over $1m in June whereas 357 spent somewhere between $100,000 and $500,000.

Assuming the document AdAge has obtained is authentic and the numbers are accurate, Google investors, analysts and pundits have new insight into the company's health. A couple of key takeaways:

  • While Google, as a company, is highly-dependent on a single revenue stream (AdWords), its customer base, even at the high-end, is arguably quite diversified. As AdAge notes, the top ten advertisers in its document "collectively accounted for just 5% of Google's U.S. revenue during the month."
  • Google still likely has the opportunity to see increased spend from major brands. The sub-$500,000 per month spend seen with major brands like BMW and Walt Disney is a drop in the bucket for these companies, and it's hard to imagine a future in which some of these budgets won't grow substantially, especially as consumers in the key demographics these brands target are increasingly found online.
Patricio Robles

Published 6 September, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (17)

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John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

It continually stuns me how much companies pay on Adwords and these figures are jaw dropping. Surely there is much better ROI from SEO and email marketing? And if PPC, spend as much as possible with Yahoo!

almost 8 years ago


Ford Direct

Wow great insight, I think that BMW however is miss represneted in my experience with Ford the Manufacturer pushes the Dealers themselves to pay for adwords advertising as its more specific to what the customer wants to buy, ie they have already chosen "Ford" or in this case "BMW" so that means the manufacturer only has to use adwords to draw in from other manufactureres or more general searches like "best new cars" when the customer is further away from a decision.

almost 8 years ago


SEO Consultant UK

I would love to have that kind of spend for all types of my customers marketing Online. What sort of ROI does AT&Ts Adwords bring I wonder...?

almost 8 years ago



Frankly, I'm staggered by the emphasis placed upon and credence given to Google AdWords. When you consider that your AdWords' success relies entirely on your skill in coaxing or wooing browsers to click on your Ad, it's a high risk strategy. You still pay, even if the browser doesn't actually place any order. Personally, I will not click on an AdWord because I know that the Advertiser has "bought" their way into my view and they have an unfair advantage over other advertisers who may have a far superior product/service but lack the marketing budget to promote it everywhere, like a rash.

almost 8 years ago

Grant Whiteside

Grant Whiteside, Technical Director at Ambergreen Internet Marketing

It's almost irrelevant if the spend figures are accurate or not Google have tried everything in their powers to ensure that the last and final clicks before conversion happen as a result of a paid search advert. Ad extensions have really worked well for them, it has convinced many advertisers that they cannot afford not to ditch Googles' paid search options.The alternatives are obviously the smaller and more profitable distribution channels of Yahoo and Bing but they struggle to provide the numbers necessary to reach most big businesses objectives.

With recent algorithm changes that have favoured the main brand, leaving resellers and affiliates no option to gaining visibility except through the use of paid search, Google have done a great job in controlling the market to their own advantage.

The BP spend is interesting. It is apparent they have used PPC as a form of quick fix reputation management whilst they were busy trying to fix the one of the biggest environmental disasters in the history of mankind. Will they get a measurable ROI out of their multi million dollar spend? this is yet to be proven, however, Google cant be complaining at the profit they make out of others misery. Perhaps BP could have taken on the conversations through social media channels rather than throwing a few million dollars into the Google ad network.It would be a tougher route to take, but cheaper and probably more effective in the long run; lets face it, the MD was always going to get the sack anyway.

So there are no surprises regarding Googles top spenders. Each brand mentioned hasn't really taken advantage of their inbound marketing opportunities. None of them have effectively dominated their search space using SEO, local search, product feeds, news feeds ect, they all have huge room for improvement. The sooner they work out that media buyers are still new comers to organic search and social media, the sooner they can generate larger dividends to their share holders.As it stands, they can still get a Christmas card from Google every year.... What a bonus!

almost 8 years ago


Neale Gilhooley

Hi Elle

As a reader of e-consultancy articles you are not necessarily the usual customer, you are far more aware of who paid for your attention. An awful lot of regular people are not as aware.  Most web users know that the top 2 results are sponsored (paid for) but are often completely unaware that the other right-hand side links are also paid for. 

I agree with your sentiments but it’s a business and if Google PPC AdWords delivers hot prospects and I only pay when they match my search terms then for many businesses the cost of customer acquisition is cheap. And that means sufficient ROI to keep doing it.  It is not about the best service but getting in front of the customer in an environment where pay 2 on Google means oblivion.

almost 8 years ago


pay per click forum

Are those global ad spends or US local ad spends? As for BP, they could have easily achieved their abysmal SERMA strategy via social media rather than wasting so much on adwords.

almost 8 years ago

alex avery

alex avery, Inbound Marketing Consultant at Alex Avery Inc

I'm going to go against the grain with the comments thus far and say: I am not at all surprised by the spend figures. If anything, I'm surprised there aren't more $1M/month spenders.

Frankly, people who suggest that Adwords spend is a waste, and that alternative spending SEO or Social Media is recommended have never run a large scale commercial online marketing campaign. Adwords and Search PPC works. It's controllable in ways that SEO and Social are not and it converts far better than most SEO and Social traffic. Social Media traffic - in my commercial experience - converts badly. Contrary to hyperbole, social media inbound traffic generate low 'goal' conversion and spends less time onsite compared to almost any other source of traffic.

Don't believe the hype. Search PPC works. It will continue to grow. It's not like SEO or Social so don;t waste too much time comparing. Done right, Search PPC is worth its weight in gold.

almost 8 years ago



Haha, BP! It may be a serious issue to the company as well as to the marine life and humans affected by the incident, but I can't help laughing.

almost 8 years ago



those are some huge numbers,

I would be interested to see what groupon is spending; I tend to see them everywhere these days.

almost 8 years ago


Jitendra Arora

This proves that spenders who are more ROI driven generate the majority of spends online with Google which makes sense. What BP did is pretty smart as they wanted to get a quick message across and they got to do so with a fraction of what they would likely spend offline.

almost 8 years ago


Lisa@ Find Mortgage Deals

And what interesting is

7% of spenders account for three fifths of spend
a quarter of spenders account for more than four fifths of spend

over 7 years ago



Google have done a great job in controlling the market to their own advantage.

over 7 years ago


Eddie Wright

No great surprises abotu BMW really. They are a brand that can trade off reputation and regular media reviews to sell their cars. Its the franchised dealers that need to appeal to the mass market, not the manufacturers themselves in my opinion.

over 7 years ago


SEO India

Oh my God, i never thought that Google can earn billions of dollar by adwords. Ya big brands invest alot on adwords. I enjoyed the articles because this is thre first time when i got to know about the earnings of Google throught adwords.

about 7 years ago


Diseño web Zaragoza

I wonder how many different adds they have published to reach that ammount in revenue!

almost 7 years ago


Scott Ginsberg, Content at Metric Digital

Hey Patricio! Great article.

You've raised a critical issue about digital marketing here. Wanted to offer my $0.02...

In our experience working with ecommerce companies, the key is avoid wasting significant Adwords expenditure. One way to do so is with efficient structure.

Before you actually start running Adwords campaigns, it’s essential to consider any and all factors that your company can exploit and build from within the market to differentiate.

A few foundational questions worth asking are:

*What are your three undeniable goals?

*What are your best selling product lines?

*How does seasonality affect their performance?

*What is your past history of SEM performance?

*How has the competitive landscape shifted since your company launched?

*How much budget do you have to compete with other businesses in your vertical?

We wrote a long post about this called "The ROI of Structure," and it may be useful for ya:

Good luck to ya!

3 months ago

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