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Columbia, MD – July 14, 2015 – Merkle (www.merkleinc.com), a leading technology-enabled, data-driven performance marketing agency, announced the release of its Q2 2015 Merkle|RKG Digital Marketing Report. The report provides comprehensive and detailed insights into digital marketing trends, using data from the agency’s vast client base to analyze activity in paid search, SEO, social media, product ads, display advertising, comparison shopping engines, and more.

Google growth continued to slow in Q2 2015, as paid search ad spending increased by just 12% YoY, down from 24% a year earlier. Google click traffic growth fell by 1%, as advertisers continue to face a higher average cost-per-click (CPC). Advertisers paid significantly higher costs to appear for their own brand names on Google in Q2 2015, seeing on average a 40% higher CPC. While Google has officially reported falling CPCs year-over-year, their numbers are reduced by low YouTube CPCs; Merkle|RKG data shows that Google-specific paid search CPCs rose 13% over last year in Q2.

Bing Ads growth also slowed from last quarter, but is still strong compared to last year. Paid search ad spending on Bing increased by 27% from Q2 2014, driven by a 24% increase in ad clicks. Bing ad CPCs grew by just 2%.

Meanwhile, Facebook ad spend and CPCs continue to rise; advertisers spent 69% more on Facebook ads, including Facebook Exchange (FBX), in Q2 this year compared to 2014. Both click volume and CPC increases contributed to the overall increase in investment, with the latter up 30% year-over-year.

Google, Yahoo, and Bing Continue to Jockey for Search Share

With Bing Ads striking a deal to replace Google as the default search provider for AOL, Merkle|RKG data shows that AOL produced 1% of overall Google search ad clicks in Q2 2015, a sizeable portion of the 8% share of Google clicks that search partners produced overall. This follows Google’s loss of default search status on Firefox in Q4 2014, which resulted in it losing 2% of the overall U.S. search market. Also at stake is Google’s status as the default search provider for the Safari browser and iOS devices, which produced 35% of search ad clicks in Q2 2015.

Yahoo’s new search platform, Gemini, now accounts for 15% of total Bing and Yahoo paid search clicks across all devices, among advertisers who have adopted the program. Gemini traffic share jumped 2.2 points from April to May following the announcement that Yahoo could begin serving Gemini ads for desktop traffic. Yahoo also recently confirmed that it has tested running Google search ads on its domains; Merkle|RKG data finds that Google search ads produced 31% higher conversion rates than Bing Ads in Q2.

Amazon Increases Its Presence in Google Paid Search, Despite Shunning Product Ads

Although it has avoided Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs), Amazon’s presence in Google text ad auctions has increased significantly. Over the last three years, Amazon’s text ad impression share has nearly doubled across multiple retail industries.

Amazon’s own product ad format continues to see success, with advertiser revenue from Amazon Product Ads up 85% year-over-year. Advertisers running both Amazon Product Ads and Google PLAs saw Amazon drive revenue equal to 17% of that driven by Google PLAs in Q2, nearly double the 9% figure from Q2 of last year.

Google Buy Button “Imminent”; Merkle|RKG Data Offers Context

As Google’s buy button functionality for PLAs on phones appears imminent, Merkle|RKG found phone revenue-per-click running 58% lower than desktop in Q2 2015. By clicking the buy button, users would be directed to a Google website where they could complete their purchase. Doing so may ease the mobile buying process, as users could use Google-saved information to purchase and would be guaranteed a mobile-friendly experience. However, some advertisers have expressed concerns over the ability to cross-sell and upsell with Google handling the customers experience; Merkle|RKG finds that PLAs are already producing 13% smaller orders than text ads.

Other Q2 Highlights Include:

Paid Search:

  • Overall paid search spending grew 14% year-over-year (versus 17% in Q1). Clicks were up 3% while CPCs were up 11%.
  • Phones and tablets produced 41% of paid search clicks and commanded 31% of spending. Tablet click growth has slowed to just 1% year-over-year, while phone clicks increased 35%.

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Columbia, MD – April 21, 2015 – Merkle (www.merkleinc.com), a leading technology-enabled, data-driven performance marketing agency, announced that Merkle|RKG released its Q1 2015 Digital Marketing Report today. The report analyzes trends in paid search, SEO, social media, product ads, display advertising, comparison shopping engines, and more, providing comprehensive and detailed insights into digital marketing trends using data from its vast client base.

Key themes from Merkle|RKG’s Q1 2015 report include divergent performance trends for Google and Bing, highlighted by a stall in Google click growth and a continued increase in Bing Ads traffic. Mobile devices also continue to see an increase in traffic for both paid and organic search channels. Meanwhile, Google’s algorithm update will take “mobile-friendliness” into account, which may significantly impact mobile search results and cause major brands without mobile-friendly sites to see a decrease in ranking.

Google Click Growth Drops to 0.2% Year-Over-Year, Down from 12% Growth in Q4 of 2014

Spending growth on Google decelerated from 19% in Q4 2014 to 13% in Q1 2015, as click traffic grew by just 0.2% year-over-year and cost-per-click (CPC) rose by 13%. Google’s click growth was negatively impacted by several factors, including slowing tablet growth, the maturation of the Product Listing Ad (PLA) market, as well as the loss of Google’s default search provider status on Firefox, which resulted in a 2% shift of U.S. search traffic share to Yahoo.

However, Merkle|RKG data suggests the deceleration in growth may also be a consequence of Google showing fewer ads for each search query, resulting in fewer ad impressions available to advertisers (down 17% year-over-year in Q1). The decision to show fewer ads would likely result in a lower total ad click-through-rate (CTR) for Google, but the move could be revenue-positive if it drove more of the remaining traffic to higher-priced ads. Merkle|RKG data shows that CPCs rose 13% in Q1, while first page minimum bid estimates grew by a factor of between two and three over the past year. More »

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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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 »

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.

September 16, 2014, Charlottesville, Va – Business Insider named Rachel Schnorr, VP of Paid Search at RKG, a Merkle Company, to its 2014 list of the most powerful women in mobile advertising. Business Insider’s list recognizes the most influential women in the mobile space and highlights the impact they’ve had on their organizations, clients, and the mobile industry as a whole.

As RKG’s VP of Paid Search, Rachel oversees a team of more than 80 analysts working on over 150 client accounts. In the past year, RKG has managed over $230M in paid search media spend, $55M of which was dedicated to mobile advertising.

According to Google, RKG is one of the largest independent search agencies in the world, and was named the fastest-growing search agency by AdAge in 2013. RKG was recently featured on the Inc. 500|5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America, with over 250% growth in the past three years. More »

September 15, 2014, Charlottesville, VA – Search and digital marketing agency, RKG, a Merkle Company, announced the appointment of Matthew Mierzejewski to the role of Executive Vice President of Client Service & Delivery. Based in Charlottesville, VA, Matthew will oversee all client service operations for RKG. Having previously served as the EVP for both the Paid Search and SEO departments, Matthew brings nine years of digital experience to his new role. RKG looks to leverage his strong operational expertise to continue to grow its service offerings.

“Our service teams are growing quickly and continue to drive high-quality results,” says Matthew. “I’m eager to lead such an experienced team of thought-leaders, who have such a strong reputation among both clients and industry peers.”

Matthew started as an analyst at RKG in 2005 and worked his way up to lead the department as VP of Paid Search by 2008. During his time as VP and later EVP of Paid Search, Matthew was instrumental in growing that service. For the six years he led the paid search team, annual sales revenue for the department grew by an average of 50% each year, and personnel increased from 20 to over 100 employees by the end of 2013.

RKG is one of the fastest growing paid search practices globally, and was recently featured on the Inc. 500|5000 list of fastest growing private companies in America. Additionally, RKG works with more Internet Retailer (IR) Top 500 clients than any other agency, and has Fortune 500 clients in the retail, travel, and financial services verticals.

“Under Matt’s guidance, RKG has grown to become a leading performance marketing agency,” says George Gallate, RKG’s CEO. “Matt has the ability to grow a service exponentially, while also elevating the level of service RKG provides.” More »

Ranks #1520 on Inc. 5000 with Three-Year Growth of 252%

Charlottesville, VA, August 28, 2014 – Search and digital agency, RKG, now a Merkle company, has once again been recognized on the annual Inc. 500|5000 list as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies. 2014 marks the fourth time RKG has been recognized since 2008, when it debuted at #215.

Compiled annually, the Inc. 5000 list ranks private companies according to their revenue growth over the past three years. With an impressive 252% increase in revenue from 2010 to 2013, RKG placed #1520 on the overall list – making the top 30% of Inc. 5000 companies. RKG was also ranked #161 in the Advertising & Marketing industry – which saw the second-highest cumulative growth rate of any of the 25 industries featured.

“We’re pleased to be ranked on the Inc. 5000 list for the fourth time,” says George Gallate, CEO, RKG. “To show consistent growth over the years is a powerful testament to the quality of our talent and service offering. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished and continue to focus on helping our clients win in the digital marketplace.” More »

July 15, 2014, Charlottesville, VA – Leading full-service digital marketing agency, RKG, a Merkle company, released its Digital Marketing Report covering the second quarter of 2014 today. By analyzing data across its client base, which includes 50 of the IR Top 500 Retailers, RKG’s report provides insight into digital trends for search, SEO, product listing ads, display advertising, social media, comparison shopping engines and more.

After a slow start to the calendar year, U.S. paid search spending growth accelerated during the second quarter. Google saw a 24% increase in ad spend from Q2 of last year, as Product Listing Ads (PLAs) continue to produce huge growth, while Bing Ads search spending grew 19% from last year across Bing, Yahoo, and search partners.

Mobile traffic continues to produce strong growth, while desktop traffic continues to decline. Smartphone clicks grew by 47% year-over-year, compared to a 43% increase for tablets and a 2% decline for desktop.

Product Ads Continue to Exhibit Impressive Growth

Image-based product ads continue to see much higher growth than traditional text ads. Search advertiser spending on product ads in Q2 rose 72% over last year, while text ad spending grew just 6%. PLA share of total Google clicks remained steady from last quarter, at 26% of overall paid search clicks and 50% of non-brand clicks.

With Google’s upcoming transition to a new PLA campaign structure next month, RKG data found that conversion rates continue to be higher for PLAs, resulting in a 13% higher ROI than text ads, and suggesting continued growth opportunities for this ad format. More »

Columbia, Md. – July 2, 2014 – Merkle (www.merkleinc.com), a leading technology enabled, data driven customer relationship marketing (CRM) firm and the nation’s largest privately-held agency, announced that it has acquired RKG (www.rimmkaufman.com), a leading search and digital marketing agency based in Charlottesville, Va.

This is Merkle’s second digital agency acquisition in 2014, demonstrating the company’s commitment to an aggressive growth strategy in scaling its own digital agency business, whose 2013 net revenue exceeded 2012 by greater than 43%. In the 2014 AdAge Agency Report, Advertising Age named Merkle|IMPAQT the 10th largest and fastest-growing search agency in the U.S. The report also listed RKG as one of the fastest-growing independent search agencies for the second consecutive year. Additionally, RKG works with more Internet Retailer Top 500® clients than any other search agency. Merkle’s integration of RKG results in expanded digital media capabilities and adds nearly 220 employees to the Merkle team, which now consists of more than 720 experts in digital strategy, creative, user experience, web/mobile development, media, search, email, and social. The combination of Merkle and RKG has created a truly scaled media agency, with estimated 2014 media billings in excess of $600 million.

Merkle was initially drawn to RKG because of its well-recognized digital marketing talent, its service-oriented approach, and its digital media capabilities used to create effective, data-driven solutions in pay-per-click (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO), comparison shopping engine services (CSEs), display, and social. In addition, RKG’s deep expertise and penetration in retail and other key markets complements Merkle’s industry-focused approach.

“The acquisition of RKG supports Merkle’s dedication to helping world-class brands attain the Platform Marketer™ competencies they need to capitalize on the massive opportunity of addressability at scale, which has been brought about by the digital audience platforms,” said Craig Dempster, executive vice president and digital agency group leader for Merkle. “RKG represents the best of breed in search, display, social and other digital media marketing solutions, and we are delighted to have them join the Merkle family.”

RKG CEO, George Gallate, commented on the acquisition, “As a progressive performance-based team whose primary focus is fostering growth for our clients, we were honored to be approached by another high-growth, independent agency. Merkle is a proven leader in creating customer experiences that drive outstanding marketing performance in addressable media, and we’re proud to join its ranks. Our two companies also share a similar energy and passion for success, which are the makings of a perfect cultural fit.”

About RKG
Founded in 2003, RKG is a search and digital marketing agency that combines superior marketing talent with world-class digital media capabilities to create the industry’s most effective data-driven digital marketing solutions. RKG drives business to clients by maximizing a full range of opportunities including paid search, SEO, product listing ads, social media, display advertising and comparison shopping engine management services. A privately held company, RKG is headquartered in Charlottesville, VA with offices in Bend, OR and Boston, MA. For more information visit www.rimmkaufman.com or follow the company on Twitter @rimmkaufman.

About Merkle
Merkle, a technology enabled, data driven customer relationship marketing (CRM) firm, is the nation’s largest privately-held agency. For more than 25 years, Fortune 1000 companies and leading nonprofit organizations have partnered with Merkle to maximize the value of their customer portfolios. By combining a complete range of marketing, technical, analytical and creative disciplines, Merkle works with clients to design, execute and evaluate connected CRM programs. With more than 2,100 employees, the privately held corporation is headquartered in Columbia, Maryland with additional offices in Boston; Chicago; Denver; Hagerstown; Little Rock; London; Minneapolis; Montvale, NJ; Nanjing; New York; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; San Francisco and Shanghai. For more information, contact Merkle at 1-877-9-Merkle, visit www.merkleinc.com or follow the company on Twitter @MerkleCRM.