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Merkle|RKG Digital Marketing Report: Q3 2015 Released

We are excited to announce the release of Merkle RKG's Q3 Digital Marketing Report for download today. As always, the report offers in-depth analysis of trends impacting paid search, SEO, comparison shopping engines, display advertising, and other areas spanning the digital marketing spectrum.

This quarter's report also dives into several recent developments and trending topics, including:

  • The rise of Gemini traffic and how it performs for advertisers
  • The addition of a third text ad above the organic results for mobile searches on Google
  • How paid search stands to be impacted by ad blockers in iOS 9
  • The decline of mobile organic CTR as a result of Google updates in Q3

Download the Q3 2015 Digital Marketing Report Here

Here's a brief introduction to some of the interesting trends and themes covered in this edition.

Paid Search


U.S. paid search clicks increased 12% year-over-year in Q3, a reversal of the deceleration of click growth observed in the first two quarters of 2015. At the same time, CPC growth declined from 11% in Q2 to 6% in Q3. Both of these trends are tied to surging mobile traffic tied to Google's decision to begin showing three text ads above the organic results on phones where there used to be only two.

This update disproportionately impacted non-brand ads on Google, which actually saw average CPC decline for the first time over the past six quarters while clicks grew 17%.

The update to begin showing three text ads on mobile also resulted in 1% growth for text ad clicks in Q3 following a 5% decline in Q2. Click growth for product ads on Bing Ads and Google continued to far outpace that of text ads, however, up 47% in Q3.


Organic Search & Social

The addition of a third text ad on mobile search results, along with other updates such as larger PLA images on phones and the move of the Google local pack to the top of the page, hurt the likelihood of mobile searchers clicking on organic links in Q3. Year-over-year, organic visit growth on phones fell from 51% in Q2 to just 20% in Q3. In turn, overall organic visit growth declined from 11% to 2%.


Google accounted for a commanding 89% of all organic search visits in Q3, which should result in increases in the share of organic search traffic coming from Google as more and more searches occur on mobile devices. However, Google's increased monetization of mobile search in Q3 along with other mobile search updates resulted in its overall share of organic search traffic remaining steady at 85%.

rkg q3 2015 organic site visit share by engine

Increased monetization and other format changes also impacted the overall share of organic search traffic coming from mobile devices, which slipped below 45% in Q3.

rkg q3 2015 organic mobile share

Comparison Shopping Engines

Amazon's Product Ads format, which will be discontinued entirely at the end of October, accounted for 16% of all comparison shopping engine spend in Q3, up from 10% last year. The combined spend share of Connexity and PriceGrabber (which was acquired by Connexity in June) fell from 51% last year to 41% in Q3 2015.

RKG q3 2015 CSE spend share

CPCs for most major CSEs fell in Q3 year-over-year, though smaller engines did see a CPC increase of 24%.

rkg q3 2015 cse cpc by enging



The share of Google spend headed to the Google Display Network held relatively steady quarter-to-quarter at 11%, up from 8% in Q3 of last year. GDN share of Google spend rose from Q3 to Q4 of 2014, a trend we may see again this year.

rkg q3 dmr display gdn spend share google spend


CPC growth for Facebook ads fell from 30% in Q2 to just 1% in Q3. This is largely a result of the larger right hand rail format rolled out in Q2 of 2014, which reduced the amount of available ad inventory on Facebook, no longer affecting year-over-year numbers. Facebook spend still increased 44% as traffic continued to rise.

rkg q3 2015 display facebook spend cpc growth

Download the Q3 2015 Digital Marketing Report Here