Merkle Q4 2017: Search ad click growth fell, ad spend rose 23% across Google, Bing, Yahoo

Overall, in Q4 2017, search ad click volume growth slowed by 9 percent as the average cost per click (CPC) increased 14 percent. Spend rose 24 percent year over year. Engagement and conversion performance from search ads improved, however, and clicks from phones accounted for 50 percent of all clicks for the first time. Those are among the findings reported in Merkle’s Q4 2017 Digital Marketing Report.
Source: Merkle
These search ad trends are consistent with the Q4 performance trends reported by Marin Software last week.
Google ad spend growth slowed slightly from Q3
Spending on Google search ads increased 23 percent overall year over year in Q4 2017. Retail and consumer goods spending on search ads rose 24 percent during the holiday season, according to Merkle’s Q4 2017 Digital Marketing Report.
That growth in search ad spend is actually a slight deceleration from Q3. Search spend jumped 38 percent on mobile and 21 percent on desktop. Click volume growth slowed sharply to 8

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Insights from our 2017 holiday retail survey

By most accounts, the holiday shopping season was an e-commerce success, with final tallies beating analyst estimates. Earlier this month, we asked e-commerce teams about their holiday marketing strategies — planning, budgeting and expectations — and what they did differently this year from last year.
Nearly 100 respondents shared their feedback. The majority (57 percent) of respondents worked in-house, while 43 percent were at agencies. The client/company size represented skewed to the smaller end, with 60 percent of respondents working with companies with annual revenues below $25 million. Nearly 13 percent represented companies with annual revenues over $500 million.
There were several interesting findings from the survey. Here are some of the highlights from the final results.
Holiday budgets rose across most platforms
Overall, search and social budgets increased this holiday season over the previous year, with 70 percent of respondents saying they increased budgets on both channels. Display retargeting budgets for more than half of respondents (56 percent) also increased

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Reviews & other UGC more influential for consumers than search engines & ads [Study]

It’s well-established that ratings and reviews are widely consulted and have a significant impact on consumer purchase decisions. A new study from TurnTo affirms this and provides some additional color and nuance for the discussion.
Called “Hearing the Voice of the Consumer” and conducted by Ipsos, the study involved 1,070 US consumers who had bought something online in the past 12 months. User-generated content (UGC) is defined here to include ratings, reviews, photos, videos, social posts and Q&A participation. The most common forms were reviews and ratings, however, with 71 percent and 69 percent of survey respondents saying they’ve submitted those types of UGC.
Online ratings and reviews are a form of word of mouth, which is the most trusted source consumers consult before buying. Indeed, 90 percent of survey respondents said UGC had at least some influence over their online purchases. Roughly 53 percent rated it “extremely influential” or “very influential,” a higher percentage than for any other category. After UGC, search engines had the greatest influence over purchases.

UGC helps increase consumer confidence

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Merkle: Google Q4 search growth aided by changes other than ETAs

Paid search spend growth held steady in Q4 with 14 percent growth year over year, according to Merkle’s latest Digital Marketing Report. That’s up from 13 percent growth seen in Q3. Google’s many changes, including device separation, helped drive growth.
In Q4, CPCs were off just 0.5 percent, and click volume growth slowed to 15 percent year over year. Mobile phone clicks accounted for 47 percent of clicks, up from 33 percent the year before. Tablet share fell to 9 percent with the device bidding separation. Desktop spend rose after the device separation to 63 percent.

A number of changes kept Google growing
Google paid search spend grew 19 percent year over year in Q4, down slightly from 20 percent growth in Q3. Spending on non-brand, however, rose slightly to 21 percent in Q4.

The biggest Google growth drivers among Merkle’s client set in Q4 were:

Returning device bidding and separating tablet and desktop bids. Merkle says this change made the biggest difference.”As

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Searchmetrics Google ranking factors study says content gaining while links losing in importance

A new Google search rankings factors study released by Searchmetrics today shares that while content relevance is gaining in importance with Google, backlinks are a declining ranking signal. The full study can be downloaded over here, but here are the key takeaways from the study:

The URLs with the highest content relevance are those on positions 3 to 6.
Desktop content is around a third longer than mobile content.
In 2016, just 53 percent of the top 20 URLs included the keyword in their title.
The Time on Site for the top 10 URLs is 3 minutes and 10 seconds.
The average Bounce Rate for URLs on the first page of search results is 46 percent.
The pages occupying positions 1 through 3 have an average Click-Through Rate of 36 percent.
Almost half of webpages in the top 10 now use of HTTPS encryption.
Eighty-six percent of the top 10 domains now use the .com TLD.
Pages ranking for mobile are around a third smaller in

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Coaxing smarter paid search bidding decisions out of sparse conversion data

Paid search is an industry that’s grounded in data and statistics, but one that requires practitioners who can exercise a healthy dose of common sense and intuition in building and managing their programs. Trouble can arise, though, when our intuition runs counter to the stats and we don’t have the systems or safeguards in place to prevent a statistically unwise decision.
Should you pause or bid down that keyword?
Consider a keyword that has received 100 clicks but hasn’t produced any orders. Should the paid search manager pause or delete this keyword for not converting? It may seem like that should be plenty of volume to produce a single conversion, but the answer obviously depends on how well we expect the keyword to convert in the first place, and also on how aggressive we want to be in giving our keywords a chance to succeed.
If we assume that each click on a paid search ad is independent from the

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Merkle: After big increases in mobile inventory last year, paid search growth slows a bit in Q3

Overall, spend growth on paid search dipped in Q3 to 14 percent year over year, down from 15 percent growth seen the previous quarter, according to Merkle’s Q3 Digital Marketing Report, issued this week.
Merkle says the slowdown was expected when comparing to the period last year, when Google significantly increased the number of ads displaying on mobile search results. Click volume growth slowed in Q3 to 20 percent year over year. Click growth has been trending down the past two quarters after dramatic increases seen in the last two quarters of 2015. Overall, CPCs were off five percent from last year.
Mobile spend across the search engines increased by 134 percent year over year. Meanwhile, search spend on desktop and tablet spend dipped four percent.

Google accounted for 86 percent of ad spend and 87 percent of click volume among Merkle clients represented in the report. That’s up from 81 percent and 82 percent a year ago, respectively.
Google
On AdWords, spend and

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Google reports more than 40K government requests for user data during 2nd half of 2015

Google has released its latest transparency report update, reporting 40,677 requests for user data from governments around the world.
According to the latest numbers, there were over 5,000 more requests during the second half of 2015 compared to January through June of 2015, with 81,311 total users/accounts specified.
Requests for user data by reporting period

Of the more than 100 countries listed on the transparency report, the United States had the most government requests for user data and account information at 12,523, followed by Germany with 7,491 requests and France with 4,174 requests.
Google gave itself a pat on the back on its latest Google Public Policy blog post, noting it had led the charge for global transparency around government surveillance laws.
We helped create the Reform Government Surveillance coalition to encourage Congress and the executive branch to take steps to modernize US surveillance laws, further protect the privacy and data security rights of all users, including those outside the US and

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Mobile brand CPCs on Google are climbing, finds Merkle

The average mobile cost per click (CPC) for brand keywords started to shoot higher starting in the last week of June.
In a blog post Friday, Merkle’s Senior Research Analyst, Andy Taylor, wrote that the median Merkle advertiser has seen mobile CPCs rise 25 to 30 percent above where they were in early May.

Tablet and desktop costs, meanwhile, continued to fluctuate within normal ranges. Mobile traffic share has also remained steady through this period, on average, for Merkle advertisers.
Last year, Merkle saw a jump in brand CPCs across all devices, beginning in the first quarter of 2015. By the end of the second quarter, brand CPCs for the median advertiser were 22 percent higher than the historical average of the previous four years.
If you’re seeing similar increases in your own accounts, you may want to gradually lower mobile brand bids, as Merkle says many advertisers did last year in response to the CPC increases.
The post Mobile brand CPCs on Google are climbing, finds Merkle

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Report: US Google search spend was flat, but mobile spend jumped 55 percent in Q2

In Q2 2016, Google paid search spend in the US dipped slightly year over year among IgnitionOne customers. Slower spend growth was driven largely by a greater click share coming from mobile, where CPCs are lower. Smartphone ad spend grew 55 percent year over year; smartphone CPCs remained half of desktop.
The Q2 decline of one percent in spend was an improvement over the five-percent drop of Q1.
Across the advertiser set, impressions increased 13 percent with more mobile inventory available, and clicks rose 10 percent year over year. Smartphone impressions rose 46 percent, and clicks jumped 69 percent compared to the previous year. Click-through rates rose 16 percent on smartphones and fell 23 percent on tablets.
The spend drop last quarter was driven primarily by advertisers in the finance and travel sectors, with spend off seven percent and 12 percent respectively compared to the previous year. Education spend grew 42 percent, and it was also the only sector to see bumps in CPCs (up

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