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Search Or YouTube: Where Should Incremental Search Dollars Go Next?

Every so often, paid search is graced by the incremental funding fairy. This is a scenario where another media channel ended a flight with extra funds, and turned to search to utilize those funds before the end of the quarter.

The team's first instinct is to put more money toward branded search to maximize impression share. It’s a great practice but odds are, it’s already maxed out, and the brand keywords cannot take additional funding.

After brand keywords, one would think "let me put the rest in non-brand keywords." But hold on one moment. If your program is being used for ecommerce or DR, then yes, proceed as you believe, however, if your search program is focused on branding, awareness, and/or information gathering (a.k.a. BAI), then you should consider taking a different direction on this.

When it comes to BAI, one of the best ways to convey your message is through TV. This brings us to the digital version; online video. There’re several different video partners and ad units, but a favorite of my team’s is YouTube’s TrueView InStream ad. We’ve found that when done properly, it gives similar (sometimes better) results than regular search.

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For those unfamiliar with the ad unit, it's the pre-roll video ad units that appear on YouTube videos that viewers can skip after five seconds. These ads are bought on a biddable, cost per view model, and the videos can be targeted in a variety of ways. Clicks from the ad to the Web site are free.

Here's an example. Let's say we did a comparison on a client who allowed us to take their TV commercial and run it on YouTube as an InStream ad. The client's goal was a combination of BAI and onsite engagements. We targeted the InStream effort to align as closely with non-brand search as possible.

  • After two weeks of running, InStream saw a CPM nearly 50% more efficient and a third of the impressions resulted in a video view, with a number of clicks to the Web site.
  • Search had site engagement rates below what YouTube delivered.
  • Search drove considerably more clicks, at more efficient CPCs than results with YouTube.

Based on this data, the initial thought is that search remains more cost-efficient based on the lower CPCs, but one must look deeper. This is where we recommended using the $1,000 model (If I gave each channel $1,000, what would it deliver).

For the $1,000 model, first establish a common denominator of traffic and source of measurement. For this example, use Impressions and get that number via CPM.

  • Apply the CTR to get clicks (YouTube will drive fewer clicks but many more impressions than Google or Bing)
  • Separate new visits from returning and multiply that the engagements per visit rate
  • This leaves Google and YouTube having near identical engagements and CPEngagement levels, while Bing has 50% more engagements and a CPEngagement that is more than 20% efficient

Taking a step back, factor in that YouTube had a view rate of 30%, and you realize that while comparable data is similar, YouTube has also played the video more than 8,000 times.

In the end, the data shows that Bing is the best spot to spend that next dollar, but if you want to push your message, video is the way to go. You’ve relayed the message as well as TV can (probably better than the 95 characters in search can), and you’ve also generated engagement data close to that of regular search.

For those considering running a program similar to this, only a TV ad unit is fine, but also have a video ready for YouTube that delivers the message in the first 15 seconds. This will stretch your budget, as well as your reach. In addition:

  • Be highly targeted, use your search keyword list, know your demographics, and focus your videos on relevant content to get the best return
  • Set a daily frequency cap to avoid unnecessary impressions
  • Bid granularly; keywords, topics, etc.
  • Structure it as you would a search campaign, so you know what groups are most effective
  • Take advantage of the companion banner and call to action functions
  • Monitor your data. Google Analytics is great with providing site data from the ad, use it and take those insights to optimize your campaign
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