Driving search conversions with display

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Michael Hubbard
Michael Hubbard

A well-rounded media mix is essential to any marketing campaign, because no channel alone will have the same results as several channels working together and supporting each other. That is something that most marketers can agree on. But many marketers and advertisers are steadfast in their belief that search is strictly a direct response vehicle, and display is only a branding tool — black and white, case closed. But that can be extremely limiting. In fact, there is a gray area where display and search blend together and where display actually becomes a driver of search performance with a direct impact on conversions.

Determining the right mix of search and display buys must be determined on a client-by-client basis. Often, as a media buyer or agency, you are faced with a client who wants to raise the search budget because he or she thinks spending more money on search will lead to better search results. The reality is that spending a larger chunk of your budget by buying up all the related keywords may increase clicks, but it is unlikely to have a significant effect on conversions because that big mix of keywords is no more targeted than before.

For instance, if you're Apple, you're catering to a very specific segment of online electronics shoppers. Basic keywords like “mp3 player,” “computer,”  “processor” or “laptop” may technically apply to the products you carry, but the audience searching for those terms could be looking for something entirely different. If you're looking for Mac users, not just anyone in the market for a computer, why waste the search dollars?

A better technique is to spend a portion of your marketing budget on the most targeted search keywords and then dedicate a good portion of your budget to display advertising to support the search programs, sending more qualified buyers to the search engines. You do this with demographic/geographic and behaviorally targeted ad buys and more brand-based placements to really ensure you're reaching the shoppers with the most potential to buy your specific product or service.

After seeing display ads while browsing, users will often go to their favorite engine and search for the brand they saw in the ad. The reason for this may be because people don't like to click on banner ads as a rule, but once they've seen enough ads to establish brand recall, they will go to a channel they're comfortable with to find it. The point is, there's nothing to brand on search engines alone; something else is always driving you there, and display is one of those big drivers of traffic.

The beauty is that this strategy is two-pronged, because in addition to supporting search, display has its own ROI objectives, which means double the benefit for you. Search is a powerhouse to be sure, but display can be the wind beneath its wings.



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