<< by on October 16th, 2009
On the third day of SMX east I attended the session, “Search Meet Display; Display Meet Search.” The session focused on how search and display ads are two entirely different creatures, insight gathered from studies on the behavior of web surfers for both, what the insight may mean for those advertising with both search and display ads, and how most advertisers just don’t quite understand the benefits of using the two together.
The Moderator for the session was Greg Sterling, Founding Principal, Sterling Market Intelligence. The Speakers presenting were Kevin Lee, CEO, Didit; Robert Murray, CEO, iProspect; Surag Patel, Director, comScore; Megan Pagliuca, Director, Professional Services, Yahoo! Inc.
The session talked about how if you are running regular text ads at the same time as display ads that correspond with each other overall, the result you will achieve is synergy. The benefits of running both at the same time are greater than if you were to run each campaign separately.
Presenter Surag Patel laid the foundation for this theory by discussing findings from a comScore study. In summary, when the study accounts ran both text ads and display ads at the same time, they experienced a lift (or increased conversions) over an extended period of time for all other corresponding campaigns. This lift increase was above and beyond what they normally experienced when the text and display ads ran separately.
The remaining speakers went on to talk about how ultimately display ads on the content network have less competition for showing. This is due to the popular stigma of the content network as ineffective since web surfers are not actively seeking out your product or service like they are in search. The end result is that CTR’s and conversions are less overall for display ads versus text ads.
However, what most advertisers are overlooking is that the overall number of people reached by display ads is typically much higher than search, combined with the fact that almost as many internet users initially respond to online display ads by launching a search on a search engine as those who click on the ad itself.
What drives this is that when internet users see display ads, 38 percent of the time they are learning about your brand for the first time. This naturally makes internet users hesitant to click on an ad, unsure of where it might lead them. They may not trust the ad, or they may not want to accept your cookies. So it appears that people turn to what has become so mainstream- search.
Many people use search as their main doorway to the internet looking for third party validation of a brand (people think top brands in search engine must be the top brands in general). And because they use search for validation, display campaigns drive additional searches for your brand and long tail terms, resulting in an overall lift in your corresponding paid search text ads- but not display ad clicks.
What I find interesting about this how easily it would be for a business or agencies running display campaigns for a client to misinterpret a successful campaign.
Most of the time, online advertisers start out with text ads on the search network because of the large number of people whose primary focus is actively searching for a product or service; how easy it is for the advertiser to identify those users searching for related products or services and where they are in the buying cycle; the end result being a far more efficient and effective use of funds to convert those at the bottom of this funnel.
Here is my own theory behind an advertiser’s thought process and how things may go wrong:
- Texts ads become stagnant
- Brainstorm alternative ways to grow campaign
- You put x amount of $$$ into something new like display ads you do not fully understand; all the while you’re conditioned to think display ads carry a particular stigma and are used to seeing a certain level of success
- Evaluation: When you go to evaluate if the display ads where successful or not, you find that not only did the display ads show much lower CTR and conversion numbers than your normal text ads, but your text ad performance for whatever reason is no longer stagnant.
- You use this data to justify returning exclusively to text ads. But you ignore the synergistic effect that the display ads might have created.
It’s easy to think this way simply because an accurate attribution model for PPC traffic is hard to come by. Even with today’s advanced tracking methods it is nearly impossible or very expensive to prove the connection with the text ad traffic to display ads.
Even if you do recognize the potential synergy in this manner, you run into the challenge of successfully explaining this theory (which you cannot definitely prove) to your client or upper management.
……. So is going out on a limb with display ads worth the risk?