Not every Google search makes money for the company. Google says it only shows ads for about 20% of searches – what it calls “commercial queries.” You won’t see ads on informational queries like “US president in 1836” or when simply looking for a website like “facebook.” But searches like “best new car 2023” or “cheap flights to London” attract advertisers wanting to be first in results. There’s big money for Google in those commercial lookups.
Rare View of Lucrative Search Terms
During the US v. Google antitrust trial, a confidential list was revealed showing the top revenue-generating searches from one week in September 2018. While limited, it’s an unprecedented look into where Google profits most from search ads. The data was only made public after much debate between the judge and legal teams.
Top 20 Queries by Revenue
Here were the top 20 queries from that week purely ordered by revenue generated:
1. iphone 8
2. iphone 8 plus
3. auto insurance
4. car insurance
5. cheap flights
6. car insurance quotes
7. direct tv
8. online colleges
16. insurance quotes
17. free credit report
18. cheap car insurance
Analyzing the Money-Making Queries
The list contains 3 iPhone-related searches likely driven by new model launches and accessory sellers bidding for top spots. Insurance queries accounted for 5 entries, a lucrative industry where customer acquisition is expensive but long-term value is high.
Several searches were just for brand names like “At&t” and “Uber.” Google has pushed brands to buy ads on their own name to avoid competitors taking the top results.
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In general, the most profitable searches seem to be popular lookups related to competitive, high-cost industries. Specific and local searches bring in even more money per click than general ones.
Though limited, this rare data provides unique insight into where Google profits most from search ads, with clues that Apple and insurance dominate their highest-earning queries.