Has the faltering economy finally caught up with Google and their lucrative AdWords platform?

Perhaps in the short-term, according to Merriman Curhan Ford analyst Richard Fetyko. Yesterday, Fetyko issued a release via Barrons stating, “Based on our checks, the decline in consumer and business purchasing is having a dampening effect on search-engine marIs the Party Over for Google?keting (SEM) — keyword prices are down 5%-30% from the third-quarter of 2008, traffic to ecommerce sites is also down year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter, and click-through-rates on ad listings are declining as well. SEM is expected to be among the last places to see cuts, and we are there now. Advertisers are adjusting their keyword buys to protect their margins and returns on investment, which are under pressure as sales-conversion rates and average order value dropped, based on our checks. Google’s paid-click volume is also under pressure. Since consumers and businesses have reined in their spending, they are searching for fewer commercial items and are clicking on fewer ads (click-through rates dropped), which translates into slower growth in paid-clicks volume (key revenue driver). Weakness has also spread overseas. Domestic growth has decelerated in 2008, and we expect international regions to slow in the fourth-quarter of 2008 and 2009 as well. U.K. ad revenue was flat for the last three quarters, and the rest of Europe and Asia are seeing cutbacks in ad budgets as well.”

Not surprisingly, various research agencies are reducing their projections for online advertising growth going forward. Just last week, marketing research firm eMarketer reduced estimates for U.S. Internet advertising to $25.7 billion for next year, about $2.7 billion less than a forecast from just three months ago, but still a 9% increase over this year. EMarketer predicts U.S. search ads will generate $12.3 billion next year and that “display ads” will rise nearly 7% next year to $4.9 billion (less than the 14% growth previously suggested). Considering we’re in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, I would say that any growth at all is pretty good! The reason for continued growth in PPC advertising despite this crisis is because it works.

While “decelerating growth” may be a sobering reality for Google, it will not bring them to their knees. In the near term, Google may have to make some adjustments, but they appear incredibly well positioned to potentially dominate multiple marketplaces going forward, including organic search, sponsored search advertising, online video & the wireless market. Organic search, PPC advertising and online video (via YouTube) are already in the bag, at least for now, and Google’s wireless Android platform¬†is new but already creating a lot of buzz. Actually, I personally think that what Google has already accomplished is amazing and I look forward to witnessing their future innovations. They always¬†seem to be one step ahead of the competition.

Holiday Reminder– The busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday (this Friday) is followed by the biggest online shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday (next Monday). Happy Thanksgiving.

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