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RKG is a digital marketing agency providing data-driven solutions to online marketing challenges.



 



Brand Building and Reaching China's Connected Consumer

14 Feb 2017 11:55:53

Hi, I’m Dalton Dorné, VP of Marketing here at Merkle. Today we’re going to talk about how advertisers can navigate China’s digital ecosystem, and ultimately, build their brand in China. We all know that China is one of the world’s most exciting markets, and it’s no secret the opportunity for marketers is huge. However, China is also a complex market, and Chinese consumers are among the world’s most brand-conscious buyers. In fact, they’re willing to pay more for branded products compared to their price-driven peers in other markets. This trend is also reflected in Chinese search behavior. In the US, searchers are more likely to search non-brand products and look for price comparisons amongst different retailers and brands. Chinese consumers are more likely to use search to research and validate brands beliefs, which, ultimately, may inform a higher-priced purchase. As such, brand value is extremely important in China. Sounds like a brand manager's dream. But it's exceptionally important for digital marketers too. It matters because China is the world’s largest mobile market, its rising middle class is extremely comfortable purchasing across digital devices, not to mention, nearly 90% of Chinese consumers use Baidu for search. Luckily, Baidu offers some pretty unique opportunities for brand building. As Merkle is Baidu’s first US headquartered reseller, we’re going to explore how marketers can take advantage of some of these unique offerings. Probably the most exciting brand opportunity on Baidu is Baidu’s Brand Zone. Brand Zone allows advertisers to own a sizable amount of the SERP with brand content, which is similar to a SERP takeover experience as advertisers essentially own all the space above the fold. This is completely unique to Baidu and not available on other search engines. There are a variety of formats and options within Brand Zone, and the experience is very customizable based on content, assets and consumer value-adds that the brand can provide. Not surprisingly, Brand Zone works for exact match brand searches only. Baidu believes that for exact brand searches, the consumer is truly looking for a specific brand and therefore enjoys the rich brand experience that Brand Zone delivers. The results back up this belief. Engagement with Brand Zone is high, with an average CTR of over 50%. By comparison, data from our quarterly digital marketing report shows that advertisers see closer to a 25% CTR for brand searches on Google. Beyond Search While Baidu is China’s largest digital platform and the world’s fourth most trafficked site, there’s much more to Baidu than the search engine alone. Baidu has numerous successful and important properties, including Baidu Knows (community forums), Baidu Baike (wiki-like encyclopedia), Baidu Music, Baidu Map, Baidu Cloud, Baidu Space (social network) and more. For enterprise brands looking to make a big splash in China, Baidu offers Brand Zone Matrix – which is the ability to have Brand Zone on up to six Baidu platforms - ensuring strong brand visibility and performance, at massive scale. Brand Protection While these are great opportunities for building your brand in China’s digital ecosystem, it’s equally important that you take steps to protect your brand as well. Designing and implementing a brand protection strategy is one of the first things Merkle does when onboarding new clients in China, and is a form of trademarking your brand keywords on Baidu. Let’s quickly look at this brand search for Topshop. Without brand protection, Topshop is not able to secure the top placement on the Baidu SERP, with competitors like GAP and shopbop appearing above them using their brand name. It’s an understatement, but ouch. If you’re interested in learning more about unique ad formats on Baidu, check out my recent Dossier article “Brand Building in China’s Digital Golden Age”. For more information on how Merkle can help you with your Baidu marketing goals, visit our Baidu page. Thanks for watching! [...]



Amazon Focusing on Mobile with Google Product Listing Ads

14 Feb 2017 9:32:10

A collective shudder rolled through the shoulders of the paid search industry at the end of December as news spread of Amazon’s move to begin competing in Google Shopping, also known as Product Listing Ads (PLA). As the largest American online retailer, Amazon is uniquely positioned to drive significant competitive changes simply by entering an ad space, and many brands advertising through PLAs rightly fear that there will be significant negative effects on business as a result of this change. Digging into the Google Auction Insights data, it seems Amazon is much more competitive in phone and tablet Google Shopping results than it is on desktop, a trend not observed for text ads. This may be because phones are the largest and fastest growing segment of PLA traffic, drawing Amazon’s initial focus. It could also be Amazon's response to fading organic search growth on phones driven by Google updates in recent years. Amazon Impression Share Higher on Mobile Devices Marketers can identify when Amazon is directly competing with their brand in Google Shopping through AdWords Auction Insights reports, which detail which competitors are appearing in paid results for the same search queries as an advertiser. While, in December, Amazon’s presence in these reports was limited to a handful of advertisers that focused on home goods products, it rapidly expanded in January and Amazon is now a competitive presence for most brands with any connection to home goods. Brands that now see Amazon competing against them in Google Shopping find that Amazon’s impression share is higher on phones and tablets than desktop – a fact that is true for every single advertiser studied. Below is a table of the median value by week for Amazon’s PLA impression share against individual retailers, showing that the median Amazon competitor consistently finds that Amazon has a higher impression share on phones. Note: In Google’s Auction Insights Report, competitor impression share is populated as ‘<10%’ if the value is less than 10%. Some brands with Amazon as a competitor find that Amazon does not appear in desktop Auction Insights at all. While the median Amazon PLA impression share was <10% for both tablets and desktop for a couple of weeks in the sample, there isn’t a single retailer that found Amazon’s desktop impression share higher than that of tablet devices in any given week. Given that different device types display PLAs in different bundles, it could be possible that device impression share is impacted by the number of impressions available for different devices and what that does to the competitive landscape. If there are fewer possible impressions on one device, the vast majority of brands would have a lower impression share for that device type and vice versa. However, Google Shopping impression share for the Merkle advertisers studied is very similar across all three device types, indicating that the differences by device in Amazon’s impression share are the direct result of its bidding strategy. Taking a look at Amazon’s text ad impression share, we find that its presence on phones is often the weakest of the three device types. However, we find the same is true for Merkle advertisers, which likely reflects that these differences are indeed caused by differences in the number of total ad impressions for each device type rather than bidding strategy. Bottom line, we don’t see the type of higher Amazon impression share on phones with text ads that we find for Google PLAs. Thus, it appears that Amazon is in fact focusing its Google Shopping efforts on phones in a different strategy than it uses for text ads. Why Might Amazon Focus on Mobile Google Shopping? As shown in the Q4 Merkle Digital Marketing Report, phone PLA spend grew 61% Y/Y, driven entirely by click growth, and phones accounted for 56% of all PLA traffic in Q4. In the bigger picture, phone PLAs accounted for over a quarter of all Q4 search traffic for retailers.  Thus, Amazon may just be more aggressiv[...]



Winners and Rookie Callouts from the 2017 Digital Bowl Report

9 Feb 2017 14:40:24

Thanks for joining us for this Merkle Insight video. I'm Dalton Dorné, VP of marketing. I'm joined by George Kamide, our social media and content manager. We're here to talk about the 2017 Digital Bowl.

This year's winner was T-Mobile, which ran an astonishing three ads throughout the big game and ran a multi-platform call to action for user generated content, and multi-narrative campaign across all digital channels. 

Our second-place winner goes to Avocados from Mexico. Avocados from Mexico performed killer across the three categories of SEO, paid search, and social media, getting a perfect score in those three areas. There was some opportunity for them to capitalize on in digital media and display, specifically with social retargeting pixels. If they had done that, they would have been this year's winner. As such, they remain our advertiser to watch in 2018.

And this year, we have some rookie call outs for Airbnb and 84 Lumber. Airbnb jumped in at the last second, and dropped an ad with relatively little ground game in digital, but the ad was so creative and so compelling that it trended for most of the game without any of that digital support. We have 84 Lumber, which is a first-time advertiser, jumping in with an astonishing 90-second ad buy, and which had suffered a setback earlier with a rejected ad, coming full force with a beautifully designed website. And again, they had a small digital ground game, but their compelling creative created a conversation throughout the big game.

That was an interesting one because that had a pure play digital call to action to go to the site. They did crash for a bit, but they were able to recover and get back up and had a lot of positive momentum in social.

For more insights from this year's Digital Bowl, and to deep dive on the various sections that we looked at, including paid search, SEO, social media, display, and digital media, please download our report. We'll see you next time.

See you next year!

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What Super Bowl Social Media Success Looks Like

3 Feb 2017 9:52:01

At Merkle, we are now in our fourth year of analyzing Super Bowl advertisers’ digital marketing efforts, judging how well they use digital to capture the demand created by the spectacle of their on-air ads. As a live sporting event and mass cultural experience, the big game is rife with opportunity for any brand to reach new audiences, but it is priced accordingly. So, in the age of digital, how do advertisers make the most of this traditional ad buy? As audience behavior has changed, social media has grown from a fun, ‘nice to have’ side project to an essential digital channel, but it’s difficult to judge Super Bowl social success. There are wildcard moments throughout each game, to say nothing of a variety of industries advertising with wildly different goals and objectives. For example, how do you measure a car manufacturer against a CPG firm? To this end, our upcoming Digital Bowl Report, which will be released February 6, grades social media success on three fundamental aspects of social media that can be used to judge advertisers of all stripes: engagement, conversation, and content. Actively Engage with the Social Media Audience In social media circles, ‘engagement’ is bandied about with such abandon that it’s on the verge of becoming trite. For our purposes, we’re looking to measure how actively big game advertisers are interacting with users. If there was ever a time to invest in community management resources, the Super Bowl is it. Social media’s strength is its scale. Brands must exercise social’s ability to reach real users and consumers during the game and in the moments immediately after an ad airs. Boilerplate or ready-made responses are insufficient and may ultimately backfire for failing to genuinely reciprocate users’ replies or conversation.  The most successful advertisers issues calls to action or start conversations, and then expend the effort to respond to users in personal and meaningful ways. Promoting the Social Conversation Just as we look to see how actively brands are interacting, we also look to see how well advertisers are organizing their conversation. During the last Super Bowl, there were 27 million tweets sent. Against that volume of chatter, advertisers need to make sure they’re heard and to lower the barrier of entry for users to participate. One method for increasing participation that is now common-place is incorporating a hashtag into TV ads. However, there are sometimes disconnects between the on-air ad and the digital campaign. For example, one past major Super Bowl advertiser included a different hashtag in their ad than it was using on social media, and the brand never once used the tag that appeared on air in any of its social posts. Brands need to be precise and consistent in their messaging to score well by Merkle's standards. Come with Great Content Last, but certainly not least, is the social content that brands bring to game day. It’s genuinely surprising when Super Bowl advertisers still drop an ad without any social content, and at the bare minimum, an advertiser should have assets that back up or speak to the on-air ad. Today’s Super Bowl audience, however, is sophisticated and expects much more. Not every piece of game day content will fly, but the rewards are great for advertisers who can seize a cultural moment and create something out of it. We look for brands that have the foresight to set aside resources to create relevant real-time, game-related content. In recent years, this has taken the form of templated graphics. However, we are seeing a trend toward animation and short video. With the abolition of Vine this year, we’ll be looking to see if advertisers take advantage of other video channels such as Snapchat, Periscope, Facebook Live, or even Instagram Stories. Conclusion When it comes to the big game, social media engagement, conversation, and content do not and should not operate as discreetly as they’re described above. The[...]



Five Ways to use Digital Media to Spread Super Bowl Campaign Messaging across the Web

3 Feb 2017 8:43:44

Super Bowl television ads get a lot of eyes, and while some people are coming for the football, others are there for the ads. Whatever the reason, it’s likely that people are also looking for those ads prior to, during, and after the big game on digital channels. For this reason, brands that are able and willing to spend $5-6 million dollars on a short television ad should also consider incorporating a strong digital media marketing mix, including display, video, and paid social efforts, to supplement this investment. Here are five key digital media areas that brands should focus on. 1) Align Your Digital Creative with the Television Ad Brands should be developing digital media ads that either complement their Super Bowl ads or show some contextual relevance to the Super Bowl. Specialized ad creative will grab the attention of the digital user more effectively than standard evergreen ads. 2) Prepare to Take Advantage of Increased Web Traffic Brands can capitalize on the incremental web traffic created by Super Bowl interest by implementing platform pixels for both display and paid social retargeting on their main website and/or any specialized Super Bowl landing pages. Through these pixels, brands are setting themselves up to re-engage users that have visited their site with retargeting ads and drive them to take action - usually at a more efficient cost. 3) Leverage High-Impact or Strategic Display Tactics While brands prepare retargeting campaigns using all of their new web traffic, another way to leverage display to support Super Bowl television ads is to invest in high-impact placements. For a small fraction of the cost of a Super Bowl television ad, an advertiser can buy prominent site takeover ads on premium sports publishers such as ESPN.com, CBSSports.com, etc., resulting in high reach and viewability. 4) Release and Promote Video Content Online Consumers are increasingly streaming content online. This allows brands the opportunity to repurpose their commercials for video content placements across the web. Online in-stream video ads are a cheap way to supplement commercials on both YouTube and on miscellaneous sites that feature video content. Additionally, brands who tease their Super Bowl ad prior to the game can build retargeting audiences based on video engagement. 5) Sign On for Social Social isn’t going away. A lot of Super Bowl game chatter will occur on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, and brands should prepare their mix of digital media purchases with that in mind. In addition to the standard paid social ad units, it will be interesting to see if and how brands will tap into newer ad formats such as Facebook Instant Articles, Twitter Conversation Ads, and Snapchat Sponsored Lenses to tap into the conversation from the game. allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="550" scrolling="no" src="https://go.pardot.com/l/47252/2017-01-31/4k99bl" style="border: 0" type="text/html" width="100%"> [...]



How Super Bowl Advertisers Can Maximize Visibility in Search Results

2 Feb 2017 13:57:17

It’s no secret that people interested in the Super Bowl turn to digital devices during the game to watch commercials, interact with social networks, and get more information about the game and players before, during, and after the game. Many begin with search queries to find the content they’re interested in, and Super Bowl advertisers investing millions in a 30-second ad slot should be making every effort to gain visibility for relevant search results both with paid ads and organic links. When it comes to optimizing Super Bowl-related paid search and organic campaigns, we have several tips to keep in mind for each heading up to the big game. Our upcoming Digital Bowl Report will examine how brands fared in each of these channels as well as other digital marketing efforts, and a webinar on Tuesday, February 7 will give listeners a chance to hear from the creators of the report themselves. Brands Need Optimized Paid Ads for Relevant Queries Appearing Across All Device Types 1. Think Beyond Brand Keywords Brands naturally need to have relevant ads appear for their brand keywords, equipped with Super Bowl-related copy and applicable ad extensions such as sitelinks. However, advertisers should also consider bidding on keywords related to the specific product or service that’s the focus of their campaign, as well as any hashtags, taglines, or celebrities associated with their ad. Marketers would also do well to keep an eye out for competitors appearing among the paid results for their branded searches, as bidding on keywords for other brands’ names is becoming an increasingly common tactic. Brands forgoing in-game TV spots may attempt to get a lift by bidding on other advertisers’ brand names, capitalizing on surges in search volume generated by brands paying top dollar for premium airtime. 2. Mobile is a Must Phones and tablets accounted for 57% of paid search visits in Q4, according to the Merkle Digital Marketing Report. As such, it is safe to say that a strong text ad presence on mobile devices is essential for advertisers. This is especially true during the Super Bowl, when viewers are more likely to be using mobile devices as opposed to laptops for browsing. Along these lines, brands should ensure their landing page experience is functional and enjoyable on all device types. 3. Don’t wait for kickoff to make a move In recent years, many brands have started supporting their Super Bowl campaigns with short teaser ads in the weeks leading up to the game. This content is still an important part of the overall campaign and should be promoted through paid search. Some brands have taken to using ad copy as a way to let searchers know when specifically the full TV spot will be aired during the game. Links to the brand’s YouTube channel or a specialized website page are both solid options for landing pages. Advertisers Need Optimized Super Bowl Landing Pages to Compete in the Organic Space 1. Create a Campaign landing page before the game With advertiser announcements and teasers released prior to the Super Bowl, you need a searchable landing page that can capture organic traffic and backlinks leading up to the game. Not having a specific location to funnel that interest is a huge missed opportunity. This page should be more than just a press release or a YouTube feature on the homepage; it should contain the commercial, campaign content, and internal links so users can continue to browse your site. Including relevant content and targeting the on-page elements around your Big Game campaign increases the likelihood of ranking for Super Bowl and related searches. 2. Ensure your landing page is indexed and discoverable After spending the time to develop a landing page, take the extra step to check that it is accessible for organic visitors. Make sure that it is indexed by search engines using tools like Google Search Console's "Submit to Index" feature. Remove [...]



SEO for E-Commerce is the Ultimate Guide to Search in 2017

27 Jan 2017 10:46:16

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SEO for E-Commerce: The Fundamental Guide to Search in 2017
We’re excited to announce the release of Merkle’s SEO for E-Commerce: The Fundamental Guide to Search in 2017. This SEO playbook delivers the latest search strategies and essential priorities for marketers in the coming year.

Organic search is responsible for 29 percent of US site visits (Merkle’s Q4 2016 Digital Marketing Report). Almost half of those visits are coming from mobile devices. What projects are you prioritizing to push ahead of competitors on the SERP and maximize your return from visitors to your site?

In this report, we tackle the newest mobile technologies, including accelerated mobile pages (AMP), deep linking & app indexation, and progressive web apps (PWAs). We explain the benefits and downfalls of each of these options and help you decide if investing in these will drive mobile performance for your brand. 

The local section of the report describes the implications of Google’s Possum Algorithm for retailers with a brick and mortar presence. It also delivers actionable strategies for optimizing local search pages and capturing space on local SERPs. 

Download your copy of the playbook to learn about the expected results of an HTTPS migration and when you should make the switch to secure. We also clarify the difference between HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2 — outlining which SEO benefits are associated with the new protocol. 

Finally, learn to prioritize and capture those coveted quick answers with simple optimization. We also cover structured data and the hidden benefit of structuring content on your site. 

Download SEO for E-Commerce now to restart your search strategy.

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Merkle Q4 2016 Digital Marketing Report Released

24 Jan 2017 12:15:55

We are excited today to release the Q4 2016 Merkle Digital Marketing Report for download. For more than five years this quarterly report has highlighted the biggest trends impacting advertisers and platforms across several digital marketing channels, including paid search, organic search, comparison shopping engines, display advertising, and paid social media advertising. In addition to quarterly metrics, the Q4 2016 edition includes a high-level wrap-up of some of the biggest changes and trends of 2016 across the digital marketing spectrum. It also includes an updated analysis of Amazon’s recent move to begin advertising through Google Product Listing Ads and the current state of their presence in advertisers’ Auction Insights reports. Download the Q4 2016 Digital Marketing Report here. We will also be hosting a webinar on Thursday, January 26th at 2:00pm ET to talk about the major storylines from the report and to answer listener questions. Those unable to attend the live webinar can sign up to receive a recording at the end of the week by registering for the event. Below are some of the data points and trends included in the report, which readers can examine in even more depth by downloading the DMR. Paid Search Google’s Y/Y paid search spend growth continued to decelerate, down from 20% in Q3 to 19% in Q4. Stronger Y/Y comparisons driven by mobile text ad and PLA changes in the second half of 2015 produced strong head winds, but Google made several additional changes in 2016 which helped to increase ad click volume. One such change was to begin showing Product Listing Ads in Google image results across all devices in January. Traffic from PLAs featured in Google image search results are attributed to the search partner network, and the share of total PLA traffic coming from search partners has increased significantly over the last twelve months. While Amazon refused to bid on Google Product Listing Ads following Google’s 2012 move to make Product Search a pay-to-play model, the online retailing giant moved in the final two weeks of Q4 to begin bidding on these ads. Amazon is now consistently included in Google Auction Insights reports for many advertisers which carry at least some products categorized as home goods. Organic Search & Social Overall organic search visits have been in decline for the last five quarters, as search engine updates have increasingly promoted ads and other features over the organic lists. However, one recent SEO bright spot has been organic visits on phones, which increased modestly Y/Y in both Q3 and Q4. While Google organic search visits remained flat Y/Y, organic visits for Bing and Yahoo declined 11% and 28%, respectively. As such, Google’s overall share of organic search visits increased Y/Y. Social media accounted for 3.1% of all site visits, up from 2.5% in Q4 2015. Mobile devices accounted for a robust 66% share of all social media site visits. Display and Paid Social Advertising Facebook ad spend increased 65% Y/Y, with a majority of that spend going to mobile devices. Facebook has a much higher mobile spend share than Google paid search. Advertisers divided display and paid social advertising spend roughly evenly between prospecting and retargeting campaigns in Q4, though a slight advantage went to prospecting. Comparison Shopping Engines The eBay Commerce Network accounted for 69% of all CSE spend in Q4, compared to 29% for the next largest CSE, Connexity. Connexity accounted for 50% of all CSE spend as recently as Q1, but its share has declined ever since. While clicks from Connexity and the eBay Commerce Network convert at similar rates for some product categories, conversion rate is much higher on the eBay Commerce Network for many major product categories. [...]



Essential Shopping Strategy: PLA Playbook Overview

17 Jan 2017 9:25:25

Hi I'm Jared DeSisto. I'm an Associate Director here at Merkle in our SEM and Feeds Department, and I'm one of the co-authors of our PLA Playbook. PLA PlaybookDOWNLOAD NOWSo here at Merkle we have a lot of experience running PLA programs for some of the industry's top retailers. We wanted to put together a guide that outlines some of the changes that are coming to Google Shopping and a lot of the other things people need to be considering as we move forward into this new space. So the playbook starts off first with a high level, just an outline of the basics. So a 30,000-foot view of where the industry has been, where we feel it's going, and then other basic things that all advertisers need to know. What are campaign priorities? How do we set up a shopping campaign? And those types of things. From there we actually get into more detailed strategies about how we can capitalize on the shopping programs themselves and implement new strategies for our clients that are custom tailored to meet their business goals. So we talk a little bit more about query funneling, how we can emphasize some of the best products for our clients, and things of that nature. And then lastly we wanted to round it out by talking about the four main areas where the shopping campaign business is going and four areas that advertisers really need to be focused on in the coming months. So those areas being, one, mobile. That space is growing rapidly as we all know. A lot of advertisers are seeing their mobile moments where that traffic is actually surpassing the traffic they're getting on desktop and tablet. So considerations on the mobile front with PLAs and shopping, and areas people need to be considering there. Then we talk a little bit more about people-based marketing and how that is coming to shopping as well. So using some of the tools that Google has had for a while now with ROSAs, being able to go after past site visitors, then also with the introduction of customer match what some of the results we've seen here at Merkle over the past few months from some of those people based options that are now available. The third thing we wanted to focus on was emphasis on local. So a lot of our retailers have a lot of brick and mortar presence and we wanted to make sure that we're capitalizing on all the new features and tools that Google has at our disposal. The biggest of course being local inventory ads or LIAs. We get into the weeds a little bit showing some of the trends that we've noticed with LIAs and how much traffic is starting to pick up there and discuss a few things that people need to have top of mind when thinking about supporting their brick and mortar stores. Specifically with shopping campaigns and PLAs. Then, lastly, my personal favorite topic is data feeds. So, getting into more detail about what information advertisers need to be providing to Google in those feeds. Some best practices that we have here on our team from working with hundreds of retailers across not only the apparel industry but house and home, electronics, sporting goods, you name it. So some really big considerations of how important high quality data is to Google and why that needs to be a priority for all advertisers moving forward. So go out and download the playbook. And, as always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you want to have a further discussion on shopping. Thank you. [...]



Reversing Course, Amazon Testing Google Product Listing Ads, May Be Ramping Up Efforts

27 Dec 2016 12:40:10

Over four and a half years after Google Product Search moved to a pay-to-play model under the new Google Shopping name, it appears that long-term holdout Amazon is finally testing the Product Listing Ad (PLA) format in the final days of 2016. As a potential competitor for nearly all retailer search advertisers, Amazon had been conspicuously absent from Google’s Shopping listings, but continued to run standard Google text ads. In the meantime, PLAs have grown to dominate the share of ad traffic produced by competitive e-commerce queries on Google. In Q4 2016, PLAs will produce just under half of all retailers’ Google search ad clicks, but between two-thirds and three-quarters of clicks on non-brand queries. The conventional wisdom around why Amazon had refused to participate in Google Shopping has been that doing so would strengthen Google’s position in the battle to be consumers’ first destination for product searches by making Google’s results more complete. That and Amazon would have to cut a (bigger) check to Google every month for traffic that Amazon may have eventually captured anyway. As more and more searches shift to mobile though, that stance may be less tenable and profitable for Amazon, as Google’s status as the default search provider on the two major mobile platforms has meant that Google’s already commanding lead in the search business has only grown in recent years. With less competing real estate on phone results, PLAs also generate a higher share of ad clicks on mobile than desktop. Amazon PLA Testing Appears Limited, but Growing Some marketers first noticed, or were alerted to, Amazon running PLAs early last week. Since then, it has not been as easy to trigger an Amazon PLA as one would expect if Amazon were aggressively bidding on the format across all of its product categories, but we’ve managed to capture some screenshots here and there. To get a better sense of what Amazon is doing, it has been more revealing to look at Google’s AdWords Auction Insights report for a number of retailers’ search programs. For about half of the programs I checked, Amazon is not listed at all, but for the others, Amazon first pops up on December 20th. It is anecdotal, but Amazon seems to be showing up more consistently for home goods retailers. Where Amazon does show, its impression share for PLAs generally started in the mid-teens and remained there through December 23rd. Amazon’s share then jumped over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (the most recent day that is populated in the Auction Insights report) and is now already high enough to make Amazon a top five competitor for some programs. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this situation over the next few days and weeks. It is certainly possible that the recent Amazon PLA impression share spike is a fluke (possibly as a result of their leaving their bids unchanged as the competition lowered theirs) and/or we’ll see Amazon abandon this test entirely. Make no mistake though, if Amazon begins running Google PLAs in earnest in the new year, it will have major ramifications for retailer search advertisers, as well as for Google and Amazon. Stay tuned. Special thanks to Melissa Rowland, Todd Bowman, and Corey Egan for their contributions to this post. [...]