Google, known for its dominant position in search, just crossed an important milestone, unseating Yahoo as the biggest seller of online display ads in the U.S., according to IDC.
Google's share of the U.S. display ad market grew to 14.7% in the first quarter of 2011, compared to Yahoo's 12.3%. Google's share is growing fast (from 13.3% last year), while Yahoo's is declining almost as fast (from 13.6% last year).
The display revenue figures are just as stark: Google had $396 million in display ad revenue in the quarter, compared to Yahoo's $330 million. And Yahoo's second-place position is under threat: Facebook is well within striking distance, with $238 million.
All these numbers come as the overall display market is once again growing fast. Earlier today, the Interactive Advertising Bureau said online display advertising grew 23% to $7.3 billion in the first quarter, meaning display ads are now growing faster than search.
The latest figures show that the display infrastructure that Google built on top of search -- including properties such as its ad network, video site YouTube, ad server DoubleClick, its ad exchange and Invite Media -- is certainly working. Google is on track to grow significantly from its $1 billion in display in 2010.
For Yahoo, its a psychic blow, but Google isn't hurting Yahoo directly, at least not yet. Google's display revenue is coming largely from small- and medium-sized search advertisers that are branching out in display, as well as the revenue it earns from powering the back-end plumbing of display through DoubleClick.
"So far we see minimal impact on Yahoo," said Karsten Weide, analyst at IDC. "Most of the display advertisers on Google are small and medium business that used to run search ads and are now trying out display. That's not the clientele that Yahoo is after."
Yahoo's advertisers are the big consumer brands, those that spend most of their dollars on TV. Those advertisers spend their biggest dollars on Yahoo's owned properties, including its homepage and log-in page, rather than on a network. Google has a big display property in YouTube but most of its ads are served on its content network.
Bottom line: The display market is growing fast in the long-tail and Google is benefiting from that . Yahoo is still strongest among big brand advertisers in display, but its position is eroding, fast.