Do Search & Display Really Belong Together?

The premise is simple – PPC and display are both media buys trying to achieve similar outcomes; both are forms of ‘bought media’ and now with display moving to a biddable environment both now require quantitative skill sets to manage them. It’s not a tough sell to convince a budget holder that a single agency or resource should own both the PPC and the display media campaigns.

Back in November, I asked 4 experts from AKQA Media, Booyah, ethology and iCrossing whether the overlap was real (see: The Industry Speaks On The Overlap Between Search & Display) and the general consensus was that it is and that it can be measured.

Techniques like search retargeting especially are the first real examples of search and display working together for a beneficial outcome, combining the power of search with the reach of a display buy.

The Reality

However, the more marketers I talk to, the less real overlap I actually see occurring.

A common scenario for an agency client will be a weekly call where a display buyer will walk through their results and plans, and then listen as the PPC manager does the same, hearing each others ideas for the first time at the same time as the client does.

The teams are disparate and have little time to do their own jobs (see: Follow-up to A Manual For The Brand-Agency-Vendor Relationship), never mind try and be collaborative with their counterparts. Clients have driven margins too tight for an agency to operate optimally causing time to be short and the talent working an account to be less experiences than the ideal.

Technology lacks too, with display often being tracked in Dart, and PPC in Kenshoo or Marin, and very little use of additional tools that bring everything together. As our experts said back in November, it has to be tracked in order to optimize and measure the impact!

Yet despite these problems, banners ads and search ads keep appearing, clients keep spending and (in a good relationship) both channels keep improving despite the optimization being in isolation.

So the question becomes ‘is there a better place for search or display to live than with each other’?

The SEM Partnership – PPC + SEO?

I doubt I will get many objections from the Search Engine Land audience that there are benefits of putting both types of search together!

I have always felt the most obvious is that an SEO team will have terms that they simply can not rank effectively for, and therefore PPC can fill in the gap, and likewise, PPC will want to remove expensive head terms from their campaigns if they can rank naturally using SEO.

Again, the story seems simple, but how often do the two teams collaborate – and how often do they really need to? The occasional comparison of campaign tactics and consumer behaviors related to keywords would seem to be frequent enough and what happens in practice.

Relevent Messaging – Display + Creative?

So if benefit can be driven from moving PPC over to SEO, that leaves display looking for a new home – and given it’s a visual execution, shouldn’t that home be over with creative?

In a recent article by Sarah Lockwood at Booyah (The Crawl, Walk, Run of Display Creative) the benefit of creative optimization seems apparent with examples showing over 87% improvement by making small tweaks to the banner ad or the landing page. Those are improvements difficult to drive from any algorithmic media optimization!

Additionally, when creative and media teams work together, clever executions can be produced that produce high engagement rates because of their relevancy and unexpectedness.

My favorite currently is the banner buy on Map My Run – as you build your run on the map, the total distance is fed into the display ad and a relevant message is shown.

That’s eye catching and cool!

Dare We Talk About ‘Traditional’?

I sometimes feel that mentioning traditional is a dirty word on sites that focus on digital media and search, but the reality is traditional still works otherwise marketers wouldn’t use it. TV, radio, print and outdoor all drive activity online and offline and shouldn’t be forgotten.

The tendency is to think digital leads and that there doesn’t need to be collaboration with what happens elsewhere – the smart marketer realizes that consistent messaging and persistent brand exposure across all channels is what really matters.

In a recent discussion with a client, it was explained to me that they were combining all buying (SEM, display and traditional) under the watch of a single resource to make sure they were making the most of these potential benefits. It seems that would give the consumer a better experience too.

Home Is Where The Heart Is

That’s the answer – your unique situation and experiences will determine the right solution; PPC + display under one team can be argued as strongly as PPC + SEM or Display + Creative can be.

The message is that if you can track and measure overlap between any of these disciplines then there are clear benefits of doing so –  but if you are like many budget holders where that is simply not happening then you need to look hard at your team / agency and work out where you can generate the greatest uplift. Chances are it relates more to the messaging than the buying.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Display | Search & Display


About The Author: is the Chief Strategy Officer at Chango, the solution to programmatic marketing and "big data", and is based in San Francisco and London. You can follow him on Twitter @DaxHamman.

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