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Google's biggest AdWords customers might surprise you

Insurance and finance companies spend big on AdWords campaigns, according to new estimates from Internet marketing software firm Wordstream. And so do home improvement chains.

Finance people love to spend their dough on Google ads.
Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

In case you hadn't noticed, Google makes a lot of money in advertising. But would you guess that one of the company's single biggest sources of AdWords revenue last year appears to be Lowe's?

The home improvement chain and its competitor, Home Depot, are estimated to have spent more than $100 million combined on Google ad click-throughs in 2011. But it turns out that the finance and insurance sector is the industry that spends the most on Google, according to recently released estimates.

Wordstream, an Internet marketing software firm that helps businesses optimize their use of AdWords, used its own database and services and Google's public keyword tool to do a little reverse engineering on Google's ad data. The result is some pretty educated guesses about which companies and industries are spending the most on advertising with Google.

Here's the breakdown: Of Google's nearly $38 billion in revenue last year (96 percent of which comes from advertising), more than 10 percent, or $4 billion, came from insurers, lenders, and other financial outfits like State Farm, Geico, and Quicken Loans. According to Wordstream, if you click on an ad that comes up after searching for the phrase "self employed health insurance," you just made Google $43.49.

Retailers and sometimes competitors like Amazon and eBay also spend millions of dollars on AdWords campaigns, but one of the biggest amounts spent by a single company on advertising with Google is decidedly more analog--the aforementioned home improvement chain Lowe's, which laid down an estimated $59.1 million for all its AdWords clicks in 2011.

Wordstream's Larry Kim compiled all the data, which was then jammed into this spiffy infographic that provides plenty of entertainment for the obsessive statistical adventurer.

Wordstream / Nowsourcing.com