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Department store mogul John Wanamaker wasn’t sure which half of his advertising was working

Department store mogul John Wanamaker wasn’t sure which half of his advertising was working

Troubled with an inability to track the effectiveness of his advertising dollars, John Wanamaker, the father of modern marketing, famously quipped: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

The lack of hard metrics available to measure the success of traditional advertising has since been dubbed the Wanamaker problem, and has eluded marketers for years. While it was understood then as it is understood now that advertising is a compulsory part of doing business, the value of a print ad, radio spot, or TV commercial is inherently difficult to determine. Beyond calculating reach, there is little marketers can do to measure the effect an advertisement has on their bottom line.

Luckily, the shift to Internet advertising and specifically, search engine marketing, has presented marketers with new opportunities to deliver more transparent and fiscally-responsible ad campaigns. Pay-per-click advertising revolutionized the industry allowing marketers to cut eliminated advertising spend by targeting people actively seeking their products and services, performance marketing let brands expand their reach while assuming none of the financial risk and paying only for results, and search engine optimization gave brands visible proof of their investment in the form of top placement in the search engines.

However, despite the considerable advances in tracking that have come with the advent of online marketing, elements of the Wanamaker problem still exist, especially when it comes to display.

The Facts About Display Advertising

Measuring the effectiveness of display is difficult, but Google Campaign Insights makes it easier

Measuring the effectiveness of display is difficult, but Google Campaign insights makes it easier

At a recent conference, a Product Manager for Google Campaign Insights, a tool to measure the effectiveness of display ads, addressed the fact that 33% of display advertising has ‘no lift’. In other words, 33% of display advertising does nothing to boost brand awareness or drive sales. Moreover, just as in Wanamaker’s day, marketers are unable to determine which 1/3 of display ads are ineffective.

How Display Drives Paid Search

Despite a lack of metrics to measure the effectiveness of display, it has been shown that display ads drive Internet searches, and adding a paid search component to a display campaign can boost results.

Specifically, a recent study conducted by search engine marketing firm iProspect found that:

  • 31% of people who see a display ad click on the ad itself
  • 27% of people who see a display ad perform a related search

These two statistics tell us a lot about the relationship between display and search: not only does display drive online searching behavior, but the number of Internet users who click on a display ad is nearly equal to the number who performs a related search instead. While display generates brand awareness, and in some cases drives traffic, adding a paid search component to a display campaign helps a brand capitalize on generated demand and ensures momentum is not lost if the user decides to perform a search rather than click on the ad.

The Risk Of Running A Display Campaign Without Paid Search

While the benefits of integrating paid search and display are apparent, there are some marketers who may opt to run a display campaign alone. Assuming the campaign is compelling, running display without a search component will lead to demand creation and drive Internet searches. But what will happen once these searches are performed?

Without paid search to back up a display campaign, one may very well be creating demand for a competitor. If a PPC ad doesn’t show up in the sponsored listings when a user performs a display-driven search, competitor advertisements will.

While driving traffic to a competitor’s website is not something any brand sets out to do, running display without a paid search component may achieve just that!

The Big Picture

By now it should be clear paid search is a vital complement to any display campaign, but looking at the bigger and less immediate picture gives us even more reason to combine the two tactics.

A paid search presence ensures Internet users exposed to your brand find you when it counts

A paid search presence ensures Internet users exposed to your brand find you when it counts

The iProspect study mentioned above also found:

  • Almost four in ten Internet users (38%) perform a search on the brand featured in a display ad rather than immediately upon viewing the ad
  • 14% of Internet users who perform a display-driven search down the line visit the brand’s website and convert
  • What does this tell us? The results of any marketing campaign are not always immediate and advertisements do not always lead to a direct action. Display advertising is no different. In turn, integrating paid search into a display campaign will help capitalize on actions taken by users exposed to your brand in the past.

    In the end, adding a paid search component to a display campaign improves one’s chance of converting Internet users into customers and decreases the chance that spend on display (or any media, for that matter) will put money in the pockets of competitors.

    We hope this article helps you understand how display advertising and paid search work together. If you have any comments or questions, or would like more information on search engine marketing, please contact sales@wpromote.com.


    10 thoughts on “Boosting the Effectiveness of Display Ads with Paid Search
    1. Jesse says:

      Another solid post Amanda. I think everyone understands the relationship between display advertising and paid search a little bit better now.

    2. Brian says:

      The tough part is measuring that search lift post display impression creates and tying that to display campaign effectiveness to evaluate performance all the way down to a creative/placement/site level.

    3. Dan Pacifico says:

      Definitely informative thanks for the added knowledge

    4. John Vantine says:

      Nice post – It gets even more confusing when billboards, TV/radio ads, etc come into play. Conversion attribution is interesting stuff, but there doesn’t seem to be one hard and fast rule/formula to determine ROI when so many different forms of advertising come into play. Thanks for an interesting read!

    5. Mike says:

      Will there always be some amount of ambiguity in advertising?

    6. marcyzuendel says:

      Great post. I think it is important to recognize the possible negative effects of running display ads without a paid campaign.

    7. Becca says:

      After studying traditional advertising for several years, I know that budget tracking can be challenging. Online advertising gives companies a way to track where their budget is best spent… companies can even track which methods work best online to get an idea of what will work best for traditional media.

    8. Chris Laub says:

      This is becoming increasingly important. The research is there proving the importance of running the two simultaneously, we just have to do a better job of informing the client of it’s importance and implementing it properly.

    9. Nathan says:

      The biggest pitfall encountered by inexperienced PPC managers is the lack of knowledge when it comes to tracking. It is absolutely crucial to know precisely what traffic you are receiving, where it originated from, the keywords that were used, where the user went using those keywords, and which keyword combinations get the best results.

    10. Joseph John says:

      A successful campaign includes not only selecting and tracking the correct keywords, but determining proper bid prices, writing good ad copy, creating compelling landing pages, creating search engine friendly links and headings, streamlining usability, and writing those all important calls to action. Professional companies managing PPC campaigns are highly skilled in tracking every aspect of a campaign and adjusting all of the crucial items to maximise your PPC profits.

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