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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.

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 »

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 650 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 $500 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.

June 11, 2014, Charlottesville, VA – RKG, a digital marketing company based in Charlottesville, VA, welcomed its first formal intern class on Monday, June 9th. Given the success RKG has seen from employing interns in the past – many of whom are now full-time employees – the agency worked to expand and formalize the program. Designed to give college students firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to work in the digital marketing industry, participants of the program will also enjoy a broad range of experiences to introduce them to the culture of RKG.

Interns will have the opportunity to experience and give back to the Charlottesville community by participating in RKG “giving back” events, including a volunteer day with Habitat for Humanity on Friday, June 13th. Organized by RKG’s Giving Back Committee, which has partnered with Habitat for four years, interns will join other RKG employees to help build affordable housing in the Charlottesville community. More »

Read RKG’s Director of Research Mark Ballard’s thoughts on ‘How Google Can Help Enhanced Campaigns Reach Their Potential’ in this article on Search Engine Land.