Display Ads Stimulate Search, Confirms Eyeblaster Study

Open a browser window and type in a URL. It's simple enough, but more often than not, people rely on search engines to find exactly what they need. And the keyword search terms tell the paid-search ad-serving platform the type of targeted advertisement to present.

But typing a Web site address into the browser and landing on a page might not make the searcher's intent as apparent as typing a search term into the keyword query box. So, both search and display campaigns must work together to provide marketers the biggest return on investment.

Marketers know this, but apparently most don't bother to tap into agencies and technologies that allow them to not only measure the benefits, but also connect media allocation to unify campaigns, according to Didit Chief Executive Officer Kevin Lee.

"A marketer should remain agnostic to the channel, search or display, or even offline media," he says. "They should use an agency, vendor or technology that allows them to effectively take advantage of all digital media."

An Eyeblaster study released Tuesday "confirms" that display ads stimulate search by increasing the speed at which people searching enter the purchase funnel.

The research across more than 1,300 integrated search and display campaigns shows 72% of conversions result from display advertising, while 23% of the conversions were a direct result of the search channel and 5% were the result of display ads that were followed by a search.

This suggests that when marketers execute search and display campaigns, the display advertising increases audience reach, driving more consumers to search and move throughout the purchasing funnel faster.

The study examined 207 advertisers in 21 verticals across search and display campaigns between June 2008 and August 2009. Nearly one in five people who convert after using search viewed at least one display ad prior to typing the keyword, according to the study.

When the campaign needs to scale beyond the number of prospective customers that search can reach, display comes into play, according to Eyeblaster Principal Analyst Ariel Geifman. "Since search is down the funnel, you need more prospects in the intent-to-purchase phase," he says.

Geifman says advertisers can scale a display campaign much more easily than search, but each channel offers benefits.

Typing "car insurance" into Google's search box makes the topic obvious, compared with going to an automotive Web site and seeing a display ad, Geifman says. The act of typing in the keyword "car insurance" tells the search engine to serve up car insurance-related ads. But landing on an automotive Web site doesn't give the ad server much to go on. "You might be looking for auto insurance, but it's not explicit," he says. "That's what makes search much more targeted then display advertising."

In search campaigns, only potential customers who have shown an active interest in the product by typing a keyword are served the ad, while display advertising gets pushed to all of the target demographics.

Search works on the lower parts of the funnel by targeting prospective customers in the consideration stage or in the intent-to-purchase stage and pushes them to complete their purchase. Display works on all stages of the funnel, bringing prospective customers into the funnel by generating awareness for the products or the services.

Small businesses have several challenges with display advertising, but there are options for those who want to combine both. Didit's Lee serves up the following advice. Marketers should put their money first into retargeting people who have already visited the Web site through search or direct navigation, which Lee calls the "most effective use of display dollars on a marginal basis." Companies need 50,000 unique visitors a month to even consider retargeting.

Lee also says buying display advertising without the benefit of behavioral segments, such as retargeting or other cookie pools, becomes less effective. And the cost of producing good banners creates a challenge. While there are wizard-based banner creators, generally they don't perform as well. "Without search retargeting as a viable option to build scale in a media campaign it is often better to simply invest more in search as a small business because user intent is strongest for searchers," Lee says.

The findings suggest that each channel plays a unique role in a campaign. Display increases reach by soliciting as many customers as possible and moving them into the funnel. The role of each is not exclusive onto itself. Conversions make it evident that marketers need a combination of search and display.

Tags: display, ppc, search, sem
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