A Display Ad FAQ For Paid Search Marketers

Last week, in An SEO FAQ For Paid Search Marketers, we went a bit out of bounds for this column, which is a one-year course for learning PPC. However, I made the case that as a search marketer, you’re still an online marketer and it helps to know a bit more about the other sub-disciplines that are cousins to paid search, such as SEO, email, social media and so on. Overall, I think that it’s safe to say that you’ll be a better search marketer by learning more about the big picture of digital marketing.

Today we’ll continue on this trek and talk about display advertising. Whereas paid search garners 47% of today’s total online ad revenue, display comes in second with a 36% market share so it’s definitely an important piece of the puzzle. In fact, because display also comes into play within search marketing (via content and placement targeting), it’s worth a moment for you to learn some of the top line nuances of the medium.

So, what is online display advertising? The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) defines online display advertising as “a form of online advertising where an advertiser’s message is shown on a destination web page, generally set off in a box at the top or bottom or to one side of the content of the page.” I don’t know if I particularly agree that that covers the full range of what display marketing really is. Frankly, I’d describe it more as a bucket term used for standard advertising online, but not text links, not search ads, and not social channels like blogging, tweeting, etc. However, you could have a display ad on a blog. Hope that doesn’t confuse you.

Is display just banners? Even though the main display unit is a banner, there’s also rich media, online video, full page sponsorships and other formats that can be categorized under the display category. In fact, display advertising is treated very much like TV or print advertising where marketers try creative combinations of sight, sound and motion to push their message onto the viewers.

What’s rich media? Rich media is basically banners on steroids. It’s a term used to describe display formats that are not just the same old flash banners. These banners can expand over the screen, play videos, be multi-tabbed, etc. Their goal is to get users to connect with them and spend more time with the brand either through interesting content, games or other engaging features. Check out Media Mind’s Creative Zone to see some awesome examples of very creative rich media experiences.

What’s a first party ad server? The website owner (often called the publisher) uses a first party ad server to manage all of the ad sales to ensure they deliver the right amount of impressions to each of their advertisers. These tools have evolved to become very sophisticated and do not just help publishers manage their advertising inventory, but allow them to report on and optimize it as well. This technology is usually leased as you would any search management tool; some examples include DoubleClick’s DART for Publishers and OpenX.

How often does a website change ads? Actually, in most circumstances, every time you load a page, a decision is being made by the website’s first party ad server about which ad to serve. Try going to a page on your favorite news site and reload the page in your browser a few times. You’ll see that many of the ads will change. With sometimes hundreds (or even thousands) of advertisers buying ad inventory on their site, publishers need to rotate the ads often to deliver their contracted impressions to the right audiences, regions, times of days, etc.

So what’s a third party ad server? A third party ad server is the advertiser’s tool to manage ads on their end. Instead of sending a publisher their ads, many advertisers send tags (little pieces of web code) that are served like ads. When the tag is loaded onto the page by the publisher’s first party ad server, it requests the corresponding ad from the third party ad server which happily sends it along. What’s the advantage? Well, advertisers can use their third party ad server to audit the impressions and clicks that the publisher’s first party ad server is reporting instead of simply taking their word for it. The third party ad servers have also evolved and are now very good at advanced reporting and optimization. Some well known third party ad servers include DoubleClick’s DART for Advertisers (DFA), Microsoft’s Atlas, and MediaMind.

How is display bought and sold? Generally, it’s done similarly to offline advertising via a cost per thousand (CPM) model, but many different pricing models exist. Many times, advertisers and agencies will issue request for proposals (RAPs) from publishers who they think might be worth investigating for a particular campaign due to the sites’ content and audience. The RFP will describe the upcoming campaign, its goals and parameters, and ask the publisher to submit pricing and advertising ideas for a partnership. If the advertiser or agency feels that they would like to proceed, they will sign a contract or insertion order (IO) and deliver the publisher their third party ad server tags to run on their site.

What’s an ad network? An ad network is a company that mergers various types of ad inventory together to provide a single place to buy advertising on multiple sites—sometimes thousands. Some have all types of inventory, but others, called vertical ad networks specialize in a single kind of inventory such as mobile display or online video while others focus on a particular audience such as moms, tech professionals or sports enthusiasts.

What’s the right way to do display? Very similar to paid search, display is done best when it is working towards a specific goal. Whether that’s to gain sales, earn followers/fans, build an email list, etc, display can be very powerful when leveraged properly. In fact, there is a definite connection between search and display. When used together, the two channels can be stronger than when used separately. Check out this article at iMedia Connection for more information.

PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | PPC Academy

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About The Author: is the director of marketing research for Kenshoo, the leading provider of bid management software. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • chango

    Great article Josh,

    A lot of our work at Chango is geared towards educating SEM about display…Articles like yours definitely help a lot!

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