Have you been wondering why Google’s make such a big push into display and social over the last few months? Well The Wall Street Journal has a theory: Google’s revenue growth is down 25% this year and marketers are getting more bang for their buck in search. Meaning that Google has to look to other revenue streams if it wants to continue the impressive growth its experienced over the past decade.

Old media advertising has for years seen its budget poached by digital advertising. And now the stable growth of the search market may be threatened by the increased adoption of social media by brands.

I wrote yesterday that one in five web surfers is now comfortable with status updates online. And it looks as though marketers who use real-time services are finding that their social media efforts are helping boost search. Meaning they have to spend fewer dollars paying for search terms. 

The Wall Street Journal cites two campaigns by Volkswagen and Xerox that saw increased brand searches after launching social media efforts, and thinks more marketers will be shrinking their search budgets after reading new research
from the search division of GroupM Search and comScore. The study found that consumers exposed to social media campaigns are
likelier to search and click on brands’ paid search advertising.

According to Chris Copeland, GroupM Search CEO:

“The study further validates our view that
media discovery — specifically. a brand’s owned and earned media — is
as important to success as the paid media we handle every day.
Generating upper-funnel awareness and influencing consideration through
social media can produce better down-the-funnel performance with paid
media, such as paid search.”

Google currently controls over 70% of the $10.5 billion search market in the U.S. But advertisers are getting choosier about where they put their search dollars because so many companies are bidding on search terms now.

Given the choice between bidding up terms in search and making a (relatively) cheap push in social media, it makes sense that brands would forgo search for social. Put will it pay off down the line?

Unlike other digital markets (like video and mobile), that are still new and expected to explode in the next few years, search is stabilizing, with a 6% to 7% growth path expected by eMarketer most years through 2014. And while Google is still going strong, the company’s revenue growth declined from 56% in 2007 to 31% in 2008.

Backing off of generic key words in favor of targeted social media could be a good move for some brands. Will enough brands use social media to promote and increase marketing effectiveness to take a chunk out of the paid search market in 2010? It’s too early to tell, but it will be interesting to watch over the next few months.