The New Era Of Display: 5 Reasons Search Marketers Should Care

Chefs. Musicians. Athletes. Each is a master in their own discipline. Yet, many of these folks have skills that can be leveraged in a completely different channel with great success. Quite often, making the leap to another field can open up an entirely new world for them. And that’s exactly what display advertising offers search marketers.

Display’s New Era

Online display advertising is in the midst of a major transformation. In fact, you could say it is entering into a new era. And technology is the key driver behind its evolution.

Specifically, real-time bidding (RTB) is forever changing the way display ads are purchased. The days of buying banner placements in blocks of thousands or millions of impressions are numbered. Today, marketers are increasingly bidding on individual banner placements in real time.

According to IDC, RTB-based display ads in the US are expected to quintuple from $1.1B in 2011 to $5.1B in 2015. The growth of RTB is being driven by several inherent advantages over conventional display advertising. These advantages are appealing to search marketers, as they include increased performance, more precise targeting, greater reach, and improved transparency.

The effects of real-time bidding extend beyond bringing new capabilities and performance to display. RTB is also playing a major role in driving the overall growth of the display channel.

Currently, over 500 billion display impressions are sold via real-time auctions each month. And that number is expected to grow considerably. IDC projects that total U.S. display advertising will grow from $10.9 billion in 2011 to $18.9 billion by 2015.

An Opportunity For Search Marketers

opportunity sign The combination of transformative technology and channel growth is creating an opportunity for online marketers to master this new era of display advertising.

Traditional display buyers are adapting quickly, and setting up special groups to manage their real-time bidding – these are often called trading desks.

However, many of the skills required to succeed in real-time bidded display are the same as those required for success in search marketing.

For example, both are data centric, both enable bidding decisions at the keyword level, and both need regular analysis and fine tuning for optimal performance.

These commonalities spell considerable opportunity for search marketers to parlay their expertise in this burgeoning channel.

5 Reasons RTB Display Makes Sense For Search Marketers

By applying their “search craft” to online display advertising, search marketers have the opportunity to boost their ROI and grow their budgets.

Below are five reasons that real-time bidded display makes sense for search marketers.

  1. Data-driven approach: Search marketers are data junkies. They eat, breathe, and sleep data. They are constantly analyzing large amounts of data because it helps them make important optimization decisions that will affect campaign performance and improve ROI. And this is exactly the case with real-time bidded display advertising today. While automated optimization algorithms can do much of the optimization, a data-centric approach and analytical thinking are very beneficial in determining starting points and setting campaign strategy.
  1. Granularity of placement: Search marketers are accustomed to managing large quantities of segments. In fact, for them, each keyword is an audience segment in itself (the audience of users that have searched on that term). Because search marketers are accustomed to bidding on and optimizing thousands of segments, they would be adept at managing the sophisticated segmentation options offered by real-time bidded display today. While traditional display campaigns target only a handful of audience segments, real-time display enables marketers to bid on and test thousands of segments.
  1. Knowledge of search keywords: Naturally, search marketing is keyword centric. Because of that, search marketers have considerable experience with keyword lists, and know how to bid, report, and optimize on individual keywords. These are exactly the skills needed for search retargeting, which is one of the most effective techniques in real-time bidded display. In short, it is the practice of targeting users based on their recent search history, and its performance is driven at the keyword level.
  1. Knowledge of contextual keywords: Many search marketers run campaigns in various content networks, and are very familiar with creating custom contextual targeting categories based on keyword lists. Fortunately, this same capability is available in real time bidded display today. While some contextual display inventory resides in pre-defined categories, marketers can now customize their efforts by using keywords to define and target contextual categories in display.
  1. Site Retargeting: Many search marketers are already familiar with site retargeting, which is also referred to as remarketing. This is the practice of showing banners to users who have already visited the advertiser’s site. Site retargeting consistently delivers strong ROIs on real-time bidded display inventory. Retargeting on RTB inventory has the advantage of greater reach, enabling increased delivery and a greater variety of sites on which to serve retargeted ads.

Overall, real-time bidded display has evolved into a highly effective channel, and is experiencing impressive growth. And because many of its attributes parallel its sister channel, search, it represents an ideal opportunity for search marketers. Those who apply their “search craft” to online display could boost their ROI and grow their budgets.

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 a seasoned online advertising executive, specializing in targeting, optimization, and technology. Frost is CEO and co-founder of You can follow him on Twitter @phrossed.

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  • Pat

    an Ad Network is a 3rd party you rely on (though most aren’t worthy of trust) to screen dist partners, RTB removes (or decentralizes, granularizes) that. RTB requires each individual advertiser to understand who each individual distribution partner is. to say this is more transparent, is a misnomer – seeing isn’t understanding. shatware folks love going direct, instead of being faced with dozens of informed screeners, they are faced with tens of thousands of uniformed individual buyers… and their margins are higher.

  • Frost Prioleau

    Hi Pat ,

    RTB is definitely more transparent, as advertisers are able to see the exact impressions, clicks, conversions, and cost associated with each domain where their campaigns are served. With Search Retargeting they are also able to see this for each keyword targeted. With this reporting comes understanding.

    It sounds like the issue that you are concerned with is is how to control the quality of the sites where your campaign is served. To control this, most DSPs have automated systems that screen out adult and other undesirable content, as well as poor performing sites.

    In addition, most campaigns are started with either a white list of specific sites where the campaign will be served, or a blacklist of sites where the campaign will not be served. Most DSPs will provide these whitelists and blacklists as a starting point for your campaign.


  • Pat

    “With this reporting comes understanding.” Thanks for taking the time to reply, but we are worlds apart! :-) Numbers never tell the whole story, in fact, they often mask it. I am not concerned much with where the ad shows, but how it is delivered, and the veracity with which it’s reported.

  • Jim Banks

    I agree that analytical search marketers can do well in the display ecosystem, but let’s be honest the RTB model is just another home for the remnant inventory that ad sales houses have been too inept to find a premium buyer for.

    The amount of money put into display has put that sector into the same bucket search was in 10 years ago, there is tons of demand and very few people who know what they are doing, so a lot of acronyms and winging it, with some fancy charts and terminology.

    RTB can be a bit like a junkyard, occasionally you’ll get lucky and get some gold, but you’d be better served to do your research, identify your audience and put a really sold plan with the correct things like : above the fold, impression cap, delivery frequency, out-clauses.

    RTB is great because it presents a very low barrier to entry, but there are not enough hand-holding staff to help newbie display buyers and the learning curve from search to display is not an easy one to navigate.

  • Pat

    “RTB can be a bit like a junkyard” — yes, and some folks who can’t open a store at the mall, cruise the junkyard for unsuspecting buyers. :-)


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