Google paid search spending was up by 19% compared with Q4 2013 and more than 40% of Google clicks came from smartphones and tablets.

Retailers’ paid search campaigns in the 2014 holiday season drove 20% sales growth as smartphones and tablets combined to generate 45% of paid search clicks on Thanksgiving and 51% on Christmas. For the fourth quarter, mobile devices accounted for 39% of paid search traffic, says a new report by Merkle RKG, a search and digital marketing agency.

The “Digital Marketing Report Q4 2014” is based on Merkle RKG’s analysis of Q4 search marketing data from its clients worldwide, which includes retailers. Smartphones and tablets were the source of 29% of ad spending for the quarter and smartphone click volume rose 48% year over year compared with 28% for tablets and 3% for desktops.

Google paid search spending was up by 19% compared with Q4 2013, the report says, riding a 12% rise in paid clicks and a 7% increase in average cost-per-click. More than 40% of Google clicks came from smartphones and tablets.

Bing Ads paid search spending increased 31% year over year. Cost-per-click rose by 3% versus the same quarter in 2013, the sixth consecutive quarter that CPC went up by less than 5%.

Google Product Listing Ads, or PLAs, from Google Inc. produced 30% of all retailer paid search clicks on Google. In addition, PLAs generated 56% of non-brand search clicks, those clicks prompted by search terms that do not include the name of a company or brand.


Combined spending on PLAs and Bing Product Ads from Microsoft Inc., which include images, increased by 45% year over year, the report says.

In the 12 months since their release in Q4 2013, Bing Product Ads grew steadily but slowly, the report says, in contributing to overall Bing search ad volume. But from Q3 to Q4 2014, Bing Product Ads’ share of traffic roughly doubled. For participating retailers, those product ads produced 7% of all Bing Ads clicks and 14% of non-brand clicks. That’s roughly the share Google PLAs had achieved just before Google announced its shift to the paid Google Shopping model in 2012, the report notes.

Google’s share of U.S. search spend fell 1.3 percentage points from Q4 2013 to Q4 2014 and its share of ad click volume fell nearly two percentage points over the same period. The Merkle RKG report’s authors note that external forces were at work. “Google’s loss of default search status on Firefox browsers and the loss of eBay as a mobile search ad partner both shifted traffic to the Bing Ads platform,” they note. Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500 Guide, was the top spender in terms of monthly average paid search in 2014 at $12.23 million, according to data in the Search Marketing segment of Internet Retailer’s 2015 Digital Marketing Report Series. That represented a 56.8% increase from its 2013 paid search monthly spend of $7.80 million. Rounding out the top five are Google Play at $7.9 million per month (up by 55.0%), Sears Holdings Corp. at $4.8 million (up 72.6%), at $4.5 million (up 70.0%) and The Home Depot Inc., with monthly average paid search spend of $3.4 million (down by 10.6%).


Other findings from the Merkle RKG report:

  • The share of web site traffic coming from organic search dropped below 35% in Q4, slightly off the Q4 2013 pace of 36%. The report attributes the dip to search engine updates that more prominently feature paid ads and traffic shifts to mobile where ad click-through rate is higher.
  • More than 42% of organic search visits occurred on smartphones and tablets in Q4 2014, up from 31% a year earlier and a new high for the mobile device share of organic search.
  • Mobile organic search traffic share for Apple Inc.’s iOS devices fell from 72% in Q4 of 2013 to a still-dominant 64% in 2014 as Android and other devices have gained ground.
  • 52% of all site visits coming from social media occurred on tablets and smartphones in Q4, up from 37% in Q4 2013. Social media continues to lead both paid and organic search in share of traffic coming from mobile devices, the report says.

Marketing agency Merkle Inc. acquired Rimm Kaufman Group LLC in July 2014. RKG provides search engine marketing services to 50 of North America’s largest e-retailers, including Sears, HSN Inc., Cabela’s Inc. and, making it the second most popular search engine marketing provider among the Internet Retailer 2014 Top 500.