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Merkle Q4 2019 Digital Marketing Report Released

Merkle is happy to announce the release of our Q4 2019 Digital Marketing Report, which includes nearly 60 charts with analyses on major digital platforms like Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon and channels including paid search, SEO, display advertising, and paid social.

Download the latest Merkle Digital Marketing Report here.

Below are some of the highlights from the report, drawn from its executive summary:

While spending growth for Google search ads remained steady at 16% Y/Y, some of the key drivers of Google spend have been shifting in recent quarters. After a stellar Q4 in 2018, Google Shopping ads have seen their growth cool, while spending growth has accelerated for Google text ads. In Q4 2019, spending growth for the two formats was roughly equal.


Text ads for advertiser brand keywords saw particularly strong volume growth in the back half of 2019, with clicks rising 21% Y/Y in Q4. Average click-through rate (CTR) for brand ads has risen significantly since late 2018 as advertisers have worked in partnership with Google to improve creative excellence, expand ad coverage, and adopt the Responsive Search Ad format.

Although mobile continues to outpace growth for other devices, desktop Google search ads have also seen improving trends over the past year. Desktop clicks rose for the first time in over two years in Q4 2019, while spending rose 12%.


Retailers running Google search ads during the holiday shopping season faced a couple of headwinds in 2019, including a six-day-shorter period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a more aggressive competitor for Google Shopping impressions in Amazon. Ultimately, retail Google search spend growth decelerated just a point to 15% Y/Y.

Many retailers found success in reaching holiday customers with Google’s Local Inventory Ad (LIA) format, which saw it’s share of Google Shopping clicks rise throughout the quarter and peak three days before Christmas. Similarly, clicks from Google Maps ads hit their quarterly high on Christmas Eve.

YouTube was another bright spot for overall Google ad spending, as advertiser investment in the platform rose 43% Y/Y. For brands running both YouTube and Google search ads, YouTube accounted for 26% as much ad spend as Google search ads in Q4.

As Amazon entered Q4 2019 with a larger presence in Google’s Shopping listings, other advertisers turned to Amazon’s ad platform to boost their Q4 sales. Spending on Amazon Sponsored Products ads rose 63% Y/Y as advertisers saw sales produced by the format rise 106%. Amazon ad spending growth had slowed in late 2018 as advertisers sought out a higher ROI from the platform. Those ROI gains continued into Q4 2019 even as ad spend growth has reaccelerated.

Spending growth for Facebook was also higher in Q4 2019, with spend up 15% Y/Y, excluding Instagram ads. Instagram itself delivered a 38% Y/Y increase in ad spend, among brands advertising on the platform since Q4 2018.


Instagram has also seen more advertisers come on board in the past year, as brands have increasingly seen it as a best practice to optimize across all of Facebook's platforms. For advertisers running ads on both Instagram and Facebook in Q4 2019, Instagram accounted for 27% of total Facebook ad spend, up from 21% a year earlier.

Finally, organic search visit declines steepened in Q4 as traffic fell across all device types, including phones. As advertisers have seen higher CTR for paid brand keywords in recent quarters, some have seen the opposite for their organic brand listings.

While DuckDuckGo delivered 47% Y/Y growth in organic search visits overall in Q4 2019, that was down from 68% growth a quarter earlier. That deceleration contributed to the bigger decline in organic search visits across all engines compared to a quarter earlier.

For more details on these findings, please download the latest Merkle Digital Marketing Report here.