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The State Of Cross-Channel Paid Search, Part 2: SEM & TV
In the second installment in a series on cross-channel marketing and search, columnist Josh Dreller explores the relationship between TV and SEM, discussing how these can be used in conjunction with one another to improve ROI.
In the first part of this series, which focused on SEM and Social, I made the case that search marketers should be leading the charge in pushing their (or their client’s) organization towards a cross-channel marketing approach.
After all, search is the ultimate net for all of the other channels, right? What channel interacts more with the rest of the marketing plan than SEM?
When consumers learn about an interesting new product or service, one of the first places they go for research is a search engine. Banners drive searches. Tweets drive searches. Videos drive searches. Even billboards and newspaper ads drive searches, eventually.
Because of this unique position that search engines have in consumers’ lives, it makes sense that search marketers could have the most influence to help move the needle when it comes to cross-channel media planning and buying.
What have you been doing to push the envelope?
Is It That Hard To Imagine Cross-Channel SEM Could Deliver 1% More?
I’m not talking about omni-channel marketing nirvana with every channel in sync with each other. Just imagine if your paid search accounts were even loosely coordinated with every other channel in the marketing plan.
Budgets, bids, creative — all elements working just a little more in sync to push just another one percent of efficiency when searches were triggered by the other channels. One percent more engagement. One percent more sales.
Those one percents add up!
Let’s break down that one percent. It just means influencing one more person out of a hundred to take action at each step — and remember, another channel already generated enough awareness to have caused a search engine query for more information, so these are already interested consumers. Could the right ad for the right keyword make a difference with all of the settings (geo-modifier, device-modifier, match type, bid and so on) even slightly affected by cross-channel intelligence? Makes sense to me.
For example, an online fashion retailer is set to start marketing its bathing suits hard on April 1. But maybe it’s been an unusually warm year, and consumers start searching in mid-March for bathing suits. The website starts getting more traffic to the bathing suit pages, and because your practice is in sync with the website, for two weeks you could beat the market to the punch and start pushing up bids and budgets to take advantage of this trend.
A one percent higher click-through rate on one percent more searches and one percent higher conversion rate? It all adds up in the end.
Is search simply too much in its own bubble? Maybe it’s simply a matter of changing our approach, our process, our tools, our data ever so slightly to be more cross-channel focused that could be the last bastion of paid search optimization to go untapped.
So I’ll ask you again: Are you getting the most out of your SEM? How much more valuable could SEM be if it were more aligned to the other channels?
Maybe one day we’ll look back at today’s virtual one-note, always-on paid search approach and wonder why search campaigns in this era didn’t morph and adapt to help squeeze out all of the power of the other channels.
It might look like we were pretty lazy to SEM pros in 2025.
TV & Paid Search: Now Is The Time!
If we are going to really align SEM with other marketing channels, it would seem that the best place to start would be the biggest channel in marketing: television.
There’s been no better time than now to take advantage of the Era of the Distracted TV Viewer, where 87 percent of people who watch TV are also second-screening on their tablets, phones and laptops. In fact, you can pretty much count on the fact that consumers are certainly “watching” search engines while they’re watching TV.
And every TV commercial moment could spark a thought in a viewer’s head to go to a search engine. Even competitor ads could benefit you. Imagine someone is watching a show, and a life insurance ad airs during the commercials.
Out of the millions of people watching TV at that moment, there are going to be some folks that have been meaning to look into life insurance — and that commercial just reminded them. They lift their device off of the couch cushion and begin searching either via text or voice.
Without that commercial, they may have forgotten that need for weeks or months.
One of the studies I often see on the impact of TV on search is from Google. Check out the article link, but the chart below is the money shot. It demonstrates that search volume for a brand spikes when television commercials air.
In a study with one of my own clients, their TV ad occurrences had a significant positive impact on paid search, including a lift of 39.8 percent in click-through rate (CTR) and an increase of nine percent in conversion rates
Even more significantly, competitor ads had a negative impact on performance as click-to-sales conversion rate from search dropped significantly (35.8 percent) during competitive TV ad occurrences.
And there are other studies out there, as well. Here’s one from a previous post here at Search Engine Land. Folks, these charts so obviously show the impact of TV on search that I’m not going to even waste your time with my analysis. Just see the evidence.
Here’s a study from BKV that shows that 80 percent of branded search for direct response TV (DRTV) campaigns is driven by television.
If you still needed to be convinced of TV’s impact on search, then you are one skeptical marketer. Of course, that’s a good trait. Don’t take it from me. Do your own tests.
How To Get Started
It’s a bit tough to coordinate SEM with TV commercials, because many television advertising deals are day-parted into a several-hour window (i.e., prime time, mornings) versus being scheduled to run at a specific hour and minute. Also, many buys are literally just “run of network” and could appear any time.
However, if you know a big television campaign is going to start on a certain date, it might be worthwhile to up your bids and budgets slightly and boost relevant ads for a week or two to see if you can leverage the “halo” effect when TV positively impacts on search.
There are options now for you to automate the process of syncing TV activity to your paid search accounts. In full disclosure, I work for a company that has a TV-Synced Ads product as one of our offerings. There are a handful of vendors that do this, so you have a few options out there.
TV monitoring systems were originally designed to verify that TV buys actually occurred — when you’re buying $50 million in TV, you should have some accountability. These technologies literally watch TV all day and use ACR (automatic character recognition) to detect content, a bit like the music discovery app, Shazam. They can identify TV ads within seconds the same way Shazam can detect songs within seconds.
With automated TV syncing, a trigger is sent to your SEM platform within moments when a TV ad is detected and can activate paused campaigns, change bids and so on, based on how the campaign is set up.
Then, after a specified period of time (maybe 15 to 20 minutes), the system goes back in and reverts the change, then waits for another ad to be detected to do the whole thing again.
Before you get started, you might be able to prove the benefits of coordinating SEM and TV with a simple analysis. Find out when TV spend spiked last year, and then pull a search performance report by day for the same time period.
Overlay the data, and see if you can see any proof that might suggest that TV was impacting performance. Try pulling multiple metrics such as CTR, CPC, conversion rate and impressions to see if you can find any correlation. If you find meaningful results, maybe then you could rally the team to try more cross-channel coordination.
The only way to know if your search programs can benefit from coordinating with TV is to test. Start simple. Here’s a chance to lead. Reach out to your TV buying team and find out when the next big television flight is going to start. Get hold of the TV ads and build out relevant keyword lists and ads to be aligned with the campaign messaging. Do your own tests to see if there’s any value there.
Simply being aligned with messaging when TV is pulsing should provide you some immediately value. Let the TV advertising ping their interest, and put your best foot forward on the search engines to capture that attention.
Remember, those one percents add up!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.