Finding efficiencies with integrating Search and Display advertising

The phrase "Online marketing prides itself on its tracking efficiencies" is regularly heard in the marketing world. With the dawn of the 2008/09 recession many advertisers curtailed much of their offline budgets in favour of online channels, due to the belief that return on investment (ROI) and other key reporting metrics could be tracked and accounted for more easily and thus allowing profitability to be maintained. Indeed this can be correct if the right tracking is in place, however if online channels aren't connected this approach may not only inflate sales and ROI, it can also lead to the inefficient allocation of budget, which in the long run will undoubtedly be extremely detrimental to both the online marketing channel and business as a whole.


If implemented correctly however, online channels, in particular Search and Display, can drive the customer journey whilst at the same time improving brand awareness. Search as a standalone channel can be great for delivering high ROIs and tight cost-per-acquisitions (CPA), due to its ability to target at a very granular and specific level. However as a branding tool it is not so efficient and depending on the industry, an advertiser's ability to convert high core generic activity may actually depend on their brand being recognisable outside of the Search environment.


The car insurance industry for example has seen great expansion online over the past couple of years. A look at the Search landscape for key generic terms shows that 80%+ of the paid listings are brands that have injected a great deal of budget towards branding both offline and online. It is not a surprise therefore to see the likes of GoCompare, who have managed to instil their brand in the marketplace, in the top paid position on Google for core terms such as "car insurance".


With the GoCompare example in mind, by successfully using branding channels such as Display and TV, the volume of brand searches an advertiser receives on Google and other Search networks can, as a result, benefit. The advertiser's ability to deliver cheap brand clicks to their site and, depending on the product and site usability, improve conversion rate, will likely increase. Added revenue abound, the advertiser will then have more budget to drive into the core generic terms, further enforcing themselves upon the market and aiding the sales cycle once more.


At the start of this I mentioned the ability to track multiple channels effectively. More often than not Display advertising can suffer and indeed struggle to deliver direct CPAs and ROIs that are comparable to Search. It is therefore important to understand the importance and role of Display advertising as well as other offline branding channels. Search can be great at closing sales, however as mentioned previously, the role of the brand in many industries will be key in allowing the Search channel to actually perform in this way. As with all channels the monitoring of Display activity is obviously required in order to ensure that the overall marketing channel is profitable and performing, however advertisers should try to not fall into the trap of scrutinising Display based on the direct sales volume that it delivers. Instead the use of third party tracking tools can help identify user journeys between both media and site activity, allowing blended CPAs and attribution models to be implemented. Most third party tracking providers allow such models to be implemented including Tagman, Doubleclick and Omniture.


Integrated tracking between media channels will enable an advertiser to efficiently allocate budget. Duplication has previously been and in many cases still is rife across media channels especially when the channels are managed by separate agencies / departments who use their own tracking tools. Tools such as Tagman have helped tackle the problem of duplication; however they can only truly work when all media channels have been connected into them. This approach also advances the way in which advertisers attribute sales and set targets per channel. The last click model quickly becomes redundant when a centralised tracking tool is completely biased towards one channel. With this in mind it is therefore the role of the online marketer to educate the business on the necessity of other channels. This can be aided by the use of attribution models which distribute sale revenue across the individual media exposures that make up a sale. Due to the possibility to now track by post impression, Display has also sought to shorten the performance gap between Search and itself. Whilst it is important for an online marketing manager to identify realistic cookie lengths so that over-inflated sales aren't reported from post impression data, it can be used to effectively measure the impact of a Display campaign on the Search channel for example. 

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