News and Press

news 02/02/2015

February 2, 2015, Charlottesville, VA – Search and digital marketing agency, Merkle | RKG released its second annual Digital Bowl Report, evaluating Super Bowl advertisers’ digital marketing efforts. This year, newcomer Wix and longtime sponsor Bud Light took first and second place, respectively. The two brands outshined everyone else in almost every category, taking top honors for truly integrated marketing. Loctite, another big game rookie, was a top performer in social. Doritos had great SEO, and big names Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz rounded out the winners in Display.

The Digital Bowl Report examines the array of digital channels that brands have at their disposal: social media, SEO, paid search, display advertising, and email marketing. Wix got all the little digital things right. With a great paid search and organic search strategy implemented prior to the big game, Wix was ready to corral users looking for relevant content. The brand also showed up on game day with great social content, engagement, and conversation throughout the game. Coming in second, Bud Light locked down its presence at the top of search results with focused ads, making up for a tepid social presence. The brand excelled in display marketing, running pre-roll ads on super bowl commercials and executing premium display buys across the web during the game to stay in front of users on their second screens in real-time.

The Super Bowl is advertising’s biggest day, with media costs increasing every year. “The day after the big game, from water coolers to the halls of Madison Avenue, everyone will be talking about the funniest or the most touching ad, but those measures are all subjective. We wanted to take a look at harder metrics, at the efforts which really show whether a brand is prepared to compete in the digital space,” said Dalton Dorné, CMO, Merkle | RKG. “If you’re going to spend $4.5 million on a thirty-second spot, you better make it count.”

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news 01/22/2015

January 22, 2015, Charlottesville, VA -  Merkle | RKG released its Q4 Digital Marketing Report today, which covers trends in paid search, SEO, product ads, social media, display advertising, comparison shopping engines, and more.

Overall, paid search spending was up 21% in Q4 of 2014, as click traffic increased by 14% and cost-per-click (CPC) rose by 6%. Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) continue to show impressive growth and accounted for nearly 30% of retailer Google search ad clicks in Q4 2014. Advertisers also saw strong holiday growth overall, with retailer paid search revenues up 20% over last year.

Q4 Sees Slight Gains in Market Share for Bing and Yahoo; Potential for Larger Gains in 2015

In December, Yahoo became the default search option for Firefox in the US, supplanting Google after its ten-year run. Accounting for the percentage of search traffic coming through Firefox along with the switchback rates of users opting to go back to Google, Yahoo will end up gaining about 2% of U.S. paid search clicks. With rumors that the door is open for Yahoo or Bing to become the default search engine for Apple Safari in 2015 – which accounts for almost half of all paid search traffic – the result could be a shift of more than 10% of search market share away from Google.

Google’s Product Listing Ads (PLAs) also face competition from Amazon Products Ads and Bing Product Ads. Both Bing and Amazon’s product ads are growing at a faster rate than Google’s, with Amazon’s ads generating revenues for participating retailers that were 19% the volume of PLAs, up from just 8% a year earlier. Bing Product Ad share of total Bing traffic doubled from Q3 to Q4 and is now at 7% and contributing to strong overall Bing growth.

Despite these developments, Google remains the dominant search engine. Google’s search ads converted 43% better than Bing Ads, and had a 39% higher average click-through-rate. Google also leads in mobile search, with 40% of Google search ad clicks coming from phones and tablets, compared to 36% for Bing Ads.

Beginning and End of Holiday Season See Strong Growth for Retailers; Mobile Plays Larger Role in Holiday Traffic

For retailers running paid search campaigns, the 2014 holiday season started and ended on high notes with sales growth ultimately coming in at 20% year-over-year. After impressive Thanksgiving sales growth of 37% and Black Friday growth of 29%, things cooled off a bit, echoing recent holidays past.

By mid-December, cumulative sales growth had slipped to 16%, but advertisers saw very strong last-minute shopping numbers, particularly in the week before Christmas when many paid search programs achieved sales growth of over 40%.

As expected, mobile devices played a larger role in driving traffic this season as phones and tablets combined to generate 45% of paid search clicks on Thanksgiving and 51% of paid search clicks on Christmas. For the full fourth quarter, mobile devices drove 39% of paid search traffic. More »

press 01/08/2015

Forbes quoted Merkle | RKG’s Director of Research, Mark Ballard, in an article about why Google’s search loss share to Yahoo isn’t that signficant. Forbes contributor Robert Hof explains that the market share shift is largely a result of Yahoo replacing Google as the default search engine on Firefox browsers. He then questions the lasting effect this change will have, as users may opt to go back to Google. He writes:

Actually, it’s more a question of how many Firefox users will switch back. Because it’s apparent that some already have. According to numbers crunched by Mark Ballard, director of research at [Merkle | RKG], writing on the website Search Engine Land, Yahoo may already have peaked in market share.

And there’s even less of an issue when it comes to the bottom-line impact. “We have seen a dip in Firefox’s share of total paid search traffic since the beginning of December,” wrote Ballard. “We could very well see this reverse itself soon, but it could also be a reflection of a deadweight loss, of sorts, that advertisers are experiencing just from Google being better at serving ads than its competition.”

To read the full Forbes article, click here.

press 12/05/2014

Data from RKG’s Q3 Digital Marketing Report was featured in a Search Engine Land article detailing tablet and smartphone spending trends within PPC and SEO.

“Skepticism about the value of mobile search does appear to be waning, however. In its third quarter report, search firm RKG noted that after holding down smartphone bids in 2013 in order to improve ROI for its predominantly U.S.-focused e-commerce advertisers, mobile CPCs rose sharply (27 percent year-over-year) and ad spend on smartphones jumped 117 percent.

While still accounting for just a fraction of overall conversions, smartphone-attributable conversions rose 17 percent after RKG factored in cross-device conversions. The firm also saw a surge in mobile search traffic from the Bing Yahoo network.”

To read the full Search Engine Land article, click here.

press 11/14/2014

Charlottesville, VA (November 14, 2014) – RKG today announced it ranked #268 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500™, a ranking of the 500 fastest-growing technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences, and clean technology companies in North America. 2014 marks the fourth consecutive year RKG has made the list. Award winners were selected based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth from 2009 to 2013, during which time RKG grew by 362%.

RKG’s CEO, George Gallate, credits the company’s powerful proprietary technology, quality staff, and industry-leading thought-leadership with its sustained growth. He said, “We have consistently stayed at the forefront of the digital marketing industry, providing innovative and lasting solutions to help our clients create digital visibility and drive results.” More »

press 11/10/2014

RKG’s co-founder and chief marketing scientist, George Michie, was featured in a newly released AdWords guide on how to best use bidding tactic to drive profits:

“If there’s real long-term value in your customers, then investing some of that value to grow can lead to a great deal of material profits. Bidding is your means of controlling how much of that to invest right now.”

To download the full guide, click here.

George has also published an article taking an in-depth look at the rationale behind different levels of marketing investment, titled Avoiding a Marketing Death Spiral, now available for instant download in RKG’s Dossier 5.2.

press 10/22/2014

Last year, federal regulators required Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft to clearly distinguish paid ads from organic search results. However, the search engines have done little to highlight differences between the two, and in some cases, they have made paid ads and organic listings look more similar than before.

“Mark Ballard, research director at search-marketing firm RKG, says that in 2011, Google made subtle changes to the fonts and headlines used in ads to make them look more like organic results.”

Read the full article on the Wall Street Journal.

press 10/14/2014

October 14, 2014, Charlottesville, VA – Leading full-service digital marketing agency, RKG, a Merkle Company, released its Digital Marketing Report today, which covers Q3 2014 trends for paid search, SEO, product ads, social media, display advertising, comparison shopping engines and more. By analyzing data across its client base, which includes 50 of the Internet Retailer Top 500 companies, RKG’s report provides comprehensive and detailed insights into digital marketing trends.

The third quarter of 2014 saw continued growth in paid search spending, as Google saw a 27% increase and Bing saw a 24% increase in ad spend over this time last year. Ad spend on the Facebook Exchange (FBX) was also up 30% for the quarter. As advertisers head into the holiday season on a high note, mobile devices and product ads continue to drive search growth, while social media traffic share continues to vary by site.

Smartphone and Tablet Traffic Share Continues to Grow; Early iPhone 6 Data Shows Higher Conversion Rates

Mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, now see 38% share of both paid and organic search traffic. 42% of social media driven site visits came on mobile devices, a 13 point increase from this quarter last year. Smartphone ad spend grew 117% year-over-year as advertisers continue to invest in this ad format.

Despite this growth, smartphone revenue-per-click is still 66% lower than desktop. Cross-device conversion estimates from Google show that smartphones should receive 17% more conversions than the total captured by single-device tracking, though factoring in cross-device conversions only closes the RPC gap between smartphones and desktops slightly. Recent releases of iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 may have an impact on smartphone performance, as early data shows that iPhone 6 users are converting at a higher rate than users with earlier models. More »

press 10/09/2014

RKG Scores Victory at US Search Awards – Recognized for Best Local Campaign in Search

October 9, 2014 – RKG, a Merkle Company, a prominent digital agency based in Charlottesville, VA, has once again been recognized in the industry for its innovative campaign work.

RKG was awarded the best local campaign by the US Search Awards for its work with Bealls, a leading Florida-based department store with over 500 retail locations. RKG helped Bealls leverage paid search to capitalize on the company’s strong brand recognition in order to capture additional market share both online and offline. RKG used its adaptive bidding technology to provide tailored experiences to local customers that reinforced Bealls’ messaging and succeeded in driving users to physical store locations as well as improving online performance.

RKG was shortlisted for a number of other US Search Award categories, including Best PPC Campaign, Best Mobile Campaign, and Best Travel Campaign. The US Search Awards also named RKG a finalist for Best Agency. More »

news 09/18/2014

Last month, The Wall Street Journal first reported that Amazon has plans to depart the Google Search Network and replace the Google ads it currently runs on the Amazon domain with its own in-house ads.

Amazon hasn’t confirmed this, but those keeping a close eye on their Google search partner traffic may have seen a signal of this change months ago.

Read Mark’s full article here on Search Engine Land.