OPA Study Reaffirms Display Ads Drive Search

Search and display. One often hears how they work together, but there’s still plenty of skepticism out there, especially in the SEM community, about the value of display advertising. Indeed, during the recession search has prospered (relatively speaking) while display has suffered. But a new study from the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and comScore argues that display ads can have a major impact on search and consumer engagement. The study, called “The Silent Click: Building Brands Online” (pdf), compares the behaviors of consumers exposed to online display advertising vs. those in a control group.

According to the press release and supporting materials, the study “assessed 80 of the biggest branding campaigns across 200 of the most trafficked sites over a month’s time analyzing consumer behaviors of those Internet users who were exposed to display advertising . . . and measured three consumer actions: 1) searches conducted related to the advertisers’ brands; 2) site visitation, the traffic driven to the advertisers’ site and 3) consumer spending, the e-commerce transactions related to the advertisers’ brands.” The top-level findings were as follows:

  • One in five conduct related searches and one in three visit the brands’ sites
  • Users spent over 50% more time than the average visitor to these sites and consumed more pages
  • Users spent about 10% more money online overall, and significantly more on product categories related to the advertised brands
  • Higher income audiences visited the advertisers sites

Standard CTRs for banners and other display ads range from .06% to .17% according to DoubleClick data presented in the OPA slides.


Among the interesting things about the study, the OPA is arguing that clicks are essentially a false metric for other than DR advertisers. Previously Tacoda did research released early in 2008 on online click behavior and found that the “heavy clickers” were not necessarily a desirable audience:

Called “Natural Born Clickers,” the study reveals that a very small group of consumers who are not representative of the total U.S. online population is accountable for the vast majority of display ad click-through behavior.

Consistent with this earlier data, according to the Silent Click report:

  • 16% of [the] internet population represents 80% of ad clicks
  • Clickers are predominately younger (24-44 age range) and lower income (under $40K)

The vast majority of those exposed to display advertising in the study did not click on ads but later performed activities, such as (trademark and brand) searches and site visits, that indicated they had in fact been influenced by the display ads:


Those exposed to the display ads were also considerably more engaged than those in the control group:


These data are further segmented by site content category (news, sports, business news, entertainment) and other variables such as user income. The bottom line is that a CTR is not a good measure of consumer intent, engagement or value as a metric for display advertising. The data also affirm what many other studies have also shown: display and search can work together and display provides a significant lift to search.

Beyond proving the value of display the OPA has spearheaded the development and now launch of new, more creatively engaging ad units making their debut around the internet today. Among the new ad units is the “push down” (below). These larger units provide more opportunities for interesting creative and consumer engagement. Here’s one for Bing on the NY Times website:


In the end, then, one of the potential substitute metrics (beyond CTRs) to evaluate the success of an online display/branding campaign is search volumes on branded keywords.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Features: Analysis | Search Ads: General | Stats: General | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com nickstamoulis

    I am not that surprised by this new display study…this has been the case for years…just like other forms of offline marketing/advertising can influence and do drive branded search visitors…

  • http://www.seopros.org Webmaster T

    If it was a search engine and not the people who actually benefit from proving this relationship… I’d be less skeptical of the data, the assumptions made and the final nail in the coffin for me… the thought that measuring branded search volume was preferable to CTR. Then I come from a direct response bg so,,, I’m always looking for a direct corelation between action and CTA.

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