2021 Search Agency of the Year: NP Digital

It’s difficult for an independent search and performance agency to compete against others owned by major holding companies, but during one of the most chaotic years in recent history, NP Digital managed to stay one step ahead in terms of the percentage of growth and the way it supports a variety of brands.

NP Digital, a service-based agency, increased revenue by 169% year-over-year (YOY) in 2021, currently forecasting more than $70 million in revenue for 2021 -- up from nothing in November 2017, when Neil Patel co-founded the company.

Non-U.S. revenue in 2021 compared with 2020 rose by 2,862%, and paid-search spend increased 372% YOY.

“We’ve added many clients this past year,” said Mike Gullaksen, CEO at San Diego-based NP Digital.

NP Digital signed on many high-profile companies last year, such as the financial institution SoFi, helping the brand achieve 509% organic growth for a new product launch.

NP Digital helped SoFi, which has worked with the agency since July 2020, enter the investment space and compete with companies like Robinhood and Fidelity Investments. The initial campaign focused on cryptocurrency.

NP Digital also helped Party City increase sales by 175% through the COVID-19 lockdowns, and helped Hickory Farms, a traditional company, go through a digital transformation.

NP Digital’s co-founder Patel, a New York Times bestselling author, also founded Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics.

He was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.

About 500 employees support more than 750 clients such as BMW, CISCO, Fiji Water, Indeed, and Servpro from eight offices worldwide.

NP Digital has experienced explosive growth during the past year.

In the past 12 months, the company has hired 282 employees in six different countries.

NP Digital is a minority founded and minority owned agency. Diversity has been a major focus. Of the 514 employees, 40% are Caucasian, while 25% are Asian; 24% are Hispanic or Latino; 7% are Black/African-American; 3% are two or more races; and the remainder are Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Technology is the foundation for performance. The agency invested $6.2 million in 2021 on technology, with 40 full-time employees supporting product development.

About 371 new features were added in 2021, including Google Search Console integration and Campaign Audits.

Ubersuggest, a development platform and free chrome extension for search engine optimization, reached 3 million active users in 2021, with 600 million monthly queries. The company has more than 6 billion keywords, 2 trillion links and 1 billion pieces of content indexed.

“The tech-stack buildout next year around first-party data will become the ah-ha moment when customers see the power of the data,” Gullaksen said. “I’ve had the luxury of being part of Dentsu, where Merkle was the forward thinking, they were first, Merkle and LiveRamp.”

Gullaksen said It took Merkle and LiveRamp years to get it right. Everyone has talked about personalization for years. Companies that can get the first-party data in place and make connections with partners and platforms to eliminate cookie tracking can truly begin to personalize the experience, he said.

“Some major advertisers are still not prepared to eliminate tracking cookies,” he said.

NP Digital also plans to launch NP University, a training and certification platform to help the industry earn certifications on a variety of subjects.

The agency partnered with Ambra University, an online educational institution, to develop the course curriculum and structure using NP Digital content.

NP University is another way we’re giving back to the marketing community, a great recruiting tool, too,” Gullaksen said.

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