Can TV Advertising Really Impact Search Performance?

It’s relatively easy to report what happened in an ad campaign, but much more difficult to understand why things happen. Visits or conversions might go up or down, but why? It could be some form of seasonality or maybe your latest review hit the front page of Reddit. The mysteries of consumer behavior like to be hidden in the shadows of other events that have happened prior to and during the timeframe in question.

Connecting Online & Offline Advertising

Drawing connections between online and offline advertising efforts is full of externalities and question marks. Seasonality, sales, budgets, timing, and the lack of tracking in offline mediums combine to form murky waters and inconclusive correlations between offline flights and online marketing results.

In response, we do our best to ensure common messaging to users at the same stage of the buying cycle. Online display or video should be inline with TV as both increase branded awareness reach, while email and direct mail solidify relationships through deals and search results, both paid and organic, should highlight key value propositions learned in the research phase.

Despite all the externalities working against online and offline correlations, at some point, if there’s a strong enough connection between offline advertising and online marketing success, we have to take notice.

How TV Ads Boost Traffic From Search & Other Channels

One such case is the impact of television ads on online marketing channels. An advertiser I’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years, an online subscription service provider, has intermittently run TV flights over the past few years with great success. TV ads get run and various online channels observe a bump in volume during the flight as shown below.

The graph above shows the relative boost in traffic broken out by channel during a TV flight. During the 10 week reporting timeframe, visitors increased by 15-25% across organic search, paid advertising, and email relative to the rolling average (100%).

We would expect a significant brand awareness push to trickle down to branded paid and organic search, but the reality has extended beyond brand into core non-brand terms as well, as shown below.

There is a logical lag between launching the TV flight and search getting a lift. On the flip side there is also a lag time between the flight ending and the impact on search reverting to a more normal trend.

Most importantly, this is not a one-time occurrence. Over the course of more than a dozen TV flights, we continued to observe core non-brand search terms generate 25-30% incremental visitors while maintaining normal conversion rates, resulting in great performance.

How TV Flights Impact CTR In Paid Search

It’s important to note that in non-brand paid search visitors/clicks increase disproportionately to impressions, or in other words, CTR goes up during the flight, highlighting increased brand awareness during and immediately following TV flights as shown below.

With a naturally increased CTR, we can push for incremental volume through bidding and maintain normal CPCs as we benefit from a Quality Score boost.

So, does this mean you should go out and spend millions on TV spots? Not necessarily… this is one example where it works. Before investing in TV, maybe try display and develop a strategy to align messaging across channels, reaching users at common stages in the sales funnel.

As observed in the example above, an end-to-end brand and direct response strategy can have a cumulative impact on user engagement that’s greater than the sum of its parts.

Experimentation is good, and while tracking is difficult between online and offline advertising efforts, if you can create a simple enough environment by limiting or normalizing for externalities, then the analysis becomes easier to distill into why things happen rather than just what happened.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search & Analytics


About The Author: is the Vice President of Performance Marketing and Analytics at SellPoints and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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  • Kevin Lee

    Video (TV and online) drive emotional engagement. That’s why despite the flight of eyeballs away from traditional TV and DVRs TV advertising is still thriving. It delivers the emotional impact and recall at scale. However clearly one needs a great SEO and SEM campaign as well as strong social to make sure the interest driven by the TV campaigns is properly nurtured and harvested.

  • Douglas Jacob Puhl

    Regarding organic traffic increasing and nonbrand traffic increasing… interested to see the organic traffic only broken down between nonbrand and branded terms. If organic brand increased, that obviously makes sense as people are viewing the commercials and searching the brand. If the organic NON brand increased, that could imply a few interesting things… either a) for the terms that the site ranked for, they are now seeing an increased CTR in the organic SERP because visitors are recognizing the brand amongst the other ranking sites above and below your client or b) somehow rankings were affected and increased by all of this activity (enter: conspiracy theory of paid search affecting organic rank, possible).

    Can you break that down as well?

  • gimmi81

    really cool article. Do you guys know if there is any similar study on the impact from generic online “branding” adv (display, for instance) on search? It should be much easier to track, although many companies still have issues to understand the real value the get back from it.

  • Luis Garcia de la Fuente

    I work in a lead generation company and I know this effect quite well. We may get x2 or x3 times incoming phone calls when our customer is advertising on TV. This ‘real time effect’ is due to the fact that many people is watching TV while using their laptop or iPad.


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