LONDON: UK search advertising expenditure reached £783m in the first six months of 2014, with financial services emerging as the top-spending category, according to new research.

AdGooroo, a Kantar Media-owned company that measures search marketing in more than 50 countries, examined paid search advertising on desktop and tablet in the UK during the first half of 2014. Mobile search and product listing ads were not included.

The great majority of expenditure – some 95% – went to Google AdWords; the Yahoo! Bing network took just £41m.

Financial services brands accounted for 20% of all spending, at £158m, with price comparison site the leading individual spender. There were four other such sites in the top 20, including (4th), (10th), (12th) and (13th).

But the category with the greatest number of entrants was online gambling, with six. And while its overall spending was lower, at £74m, it had the most expensive keywords.

There were five gambling-related keywords in the list ('online casino', 'casino', 'bingo', 'online casino games' and 'roulette') which averaged a £36.90 Cost Per Click (CPC), the highest of any industry category. The term 'online casino' was the most expensive average CPC at £52.72.

The shopping/classified category attracted £100m in spending, mostly from retailers, with Amazon the most prominent. John Lewis and Asos were the only other two appearing in the top 20.

The branded term 'asos' had the highest average CTR, as almost one in every five persons (18.13%) who searched for apparel retailer Asos clicked a related ad. The term also had the lowest average CPC (£0.34).

There was just one insurance brand in the top 20, Aviva, but insurance keywords saw extremely high competition, averaging 83 advertisers bidding on each term. The top paid search keyword was 'car insurance', on which advertisers spent £7m during the first half of the year.

Tesco is best known as a retailer but its Tesco Bank was the only financial institution to appear in the top 20, which Adgooroo suggested was a sign of "a concerted effort to gain a foothold over its competitors".

Staying with matters financial, 'payday loans' was among the top five search terms in the UK, reflecting both the high level of interest in this growing online finance category and the impoverished state of many consumers.

Data sourced from Adgooroo; additional content by Warc staff