How TV (And Video) Influences Search Behavior

In a multi-screen world, you're competing not just for media placement, but for attention. Columnist Erin Everhart discusses how search marketers can use this to their advantage.

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We idealize that picturesque Friday night family time where Mom, Dad and their 2.5 kids fire up NBC on the one television in the house and snuggle in on the couch for 30 minutes or an hour of uninterrupted entertainment.

But that was when we only had access to one form of entertainment at a time. Multi-tasking wasn’t a thing. Marketers and advertisers only had to worry about competing against other marketers and TV advertisers. There were no second screens; some people didn’t even have one screen.

Now, it’s more like Mom, Dad, their 2.5 kids and their seven electronic devices are all watching a different TV show in different rooms of the house.

In 2015, Nielsen ran a study of more than 30,000 global respondents, and 58 percent of them said they browse the internet while watching video programming. Another 47 percent of them said they engage with social media while watching video programming.

Consumers don’t know how to be entertained by only one thing at a time anymore. We’re constant consumers of content, and that’s made it harder for marketers and advertisers.

Now, we’re not just competing with other marketers and advertisers. We’re competing with things that have never historically been competition, like video games, social media, news, text messages or Snapchats.

Sometimes, we’re even competing against ourselves — with other types of our own content on our other media channels. We’re not competing for media placement anymore — we’re competing for attention. And frankly, that’s an even scarier competition.

More Complicated Path To Purchase

Consumers today have a much more complicated path to purchase than they did five, or maybe even two years ago.

For example, I wanted a vacuum for Christmas, which is quite possibly the saddest thing I’ve publicly admitted, but that’s what happens when you become a homeowner.

A few years ago, here’s what my path to purchase might have looked like:

I go to Google and search “vacuums.” My eyes may catch a few brands I know, like Panasonic, but ultimately, I’m persuaded to click on a Kohl’s listing because it has a review score of 4.5 stars and it’s under $100.


I end up buying the vacuum from Kohl’s on that very same session, and of course, I sign up for an account so they can continue to send me more stuff.

That never happens these days.

In reality, my path to purchase got started when I was watching Jimmy Fallon one night, and I was looking at my dog-hair-infested carpet that I swore I had just vacuumed last week. That’s when a Roomba commercial came on.

I still went to Google, but I searched for “best vacuum cleaners” and read a blog article, a buying guide, a comparison post and a review post to start narrowing down my search. I got distracted by a text message. I checked Instagram. I then went to Reddit and read three different forums, including an AMA from a vacuum repair technician.

I then looked at 11 different websites where I could buy a vacuum, including brand websites like Hoover and Shark, discount/used websites like eBay or Craigslist and retailer websites like Costco and Amazon. I got bored after reading about vacuums for 45 minutes, so I went to Facebook — and that’s when the remarketing started.


The point? There is no such thing as a linear path to purchase anymore because users are influenced at any time of day by any particular medium that triggers something in their psyche that says, “Hey, I need that.”

Even as far back as 2012, Time Inc. found that during non-working hours, digital natives (adults under 30) were switching platforms every other minute. We’re not just marketing in a second-screen world — there’s a second, third and fourth screen. That has a tremendous impact on the way we optimize our search channels.

Making Digital & TV Work Together

Now that we know consumers are actively using offline and online media simultaneously, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to ensure your channels are working together rather than against each other.

Own The Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) & Increase Your Bids

Consumers aren’t necessarily going to remember your brand when they see your TV commercial; they’ll remember the product or solution, so you need to be sure you’re appearing in search results, both paid and organically, for both non-branded and branded keywords.

Because you’ll have more control with PPC in owning your SERPs, consider increasing your bids for both text ads and PLAs the 30 minutes before and after your TV commercials air to ensure you’re in front of consumers’ eyes when they go to search for additional information.

Advertise During Your Competitors’ TV Flights

In the above example, I didn’t want (or even consider) a Roomba when I decided I needed a vacuum. But it was their commercial that sparked the interest.

However, they weren’t anywhere to be found when I started my online research. Other brands capitalized on Roomba’s TV spot and captured the additional web traffic, and ultimately a sale, because they were running online advertising during a competitor’s TV spot.

Consistent Keywords

We’ve lived and breathed keywords since the dawn of SEO and PPC, but those keywords shouldn’t just be limited to your search marketing. Incorporate them in content across all of your marketing messaging to establish consistency. That’s what people will remember and ultimately search for.

For example, when McDonald’s decided to serve breakfast 24/7, they used “all day breakfast” (instead of “breakfast all day”) consistently across all of their marketing to support it.

Run Display Ads During Commercials

Instead of competing with content publishers for your audience’s attention, use it to your advantage. Run display ad campaigns during your TV slots on publishers’ sites where your users are surfing during commercial breaks.

Let’s End With Examples

You can find a ton of examples of TV and video spots that lead to increased web traffic for brands, from the likes of Dodge Durango and Ron Burgundy or the #EsuranceSave30 Super Bowl ad. There are two that stick out to me that did a superbly fantastic job, though.

Lincoln MKC & Matthew McConaughey 

Lincoln secured Matthew McConaughey to help promote their Lincoln MKC to a younger demographic and launched a series of TV commercials and YouTube videos that eventually would turn into a series of spoofs and parodies.


Not only did Lincoln generate more search interest for their MKC, but Google suggests “Lincoln” as the fourth option that people might be looking for when they search for “Matthew McConaughey.”


Most impressively, of all the cars Lincoln sold in October 2014 (the month after the campaign), 25 percent of them were MKCs.

Old Spice Smell Like A Man

A Super Bowl campaign that didn’t even air during the Super Bowl, Old Spice took to YouTube to create the (arguably) most successful YouTube video campaign we’ve ever seen.


What I love about this is not just the massive spike in search trends that Old Spice saw during the videos, but that after leveling out, more people were searching for Old Spice one, two and even three years later after the campaign aired than they were prior to the campaign launching.


There’s no doubt about how much search plays into a customer’s path to purchase, but it’s not the only medium they rely on.

The delineation between online and offline marketing will continue to shrink, and we need to be pretty prepared so all of our channels are working together, rather than against each other.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for Search Engine Land and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the search community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Erin Everhart
Erin Everhart is an experienced digital strategist, content developer and search marketer. She's currently the Senior Manager, Media Strategy for The Home Depot and has previously worked agency-side for mid-sized business and Fortune 500 companies. She speaks regularly on digital strategy, content development and inbound marketing at conferences nationwide. Follow her on Twitter @erinever.

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