Search & Display: A Brand’s Secret Weapon

The marriage of search engine marketing (SEM) and display advertising is a proven winner. Savvy advertisers are taking full advantage of this union to improve key performance indicators online.

It’s well documented that SEM click-thru rates are lifted when combined with display. Additionally, time to convert is also shortened. Some studies have even shown increases in market share and brand favorability. Advertisers as diverse as Quaker Oats, Value City Furniture, Hewlett-Packard and many others have published studies showing significant improvements in key measures when adding display to the digital mix.

Display Seeds Brand Messaging
The road to successful search conversion seems simple. Maximize your SEM budget, capture every conceivable keyword and push your SEM ads to the first three positions. However, users’ decision to click on your ad is much more complicated, involving a whole host of preconceived attitudes and experiences.

Now that they have arrived near the end of the sales cycle, they have already accumulated a plethora of opinions about your brand and others. The all-important search has led them to pages of results, and in an instant they will sort you into (or out of) a sales consideration set. Here is where creating a strong brand impression prior to this experience will pay off.

Brand favorability cannot be built during a search, even though you have spent hours choosing just the right headline, photo and copy. Online users will click on brands that they already know, or at least have heard about. But you have an advantage.  A properly structured display campaign has already seeded your brand story and created important keyword associations for the user.

Reach Consumers at the Point of Consideration
So why do we also need online display to increase brand awareness; doesn’t TV or other parts of the media mix take care of this? Display is the only medium that lives in the same environment as search, and delivers messaging right at the moment of consideration, while TV ads, for example, are not as close in timing and can be interspersed with competitor messages.

As most online activities happen during the workday, display ads are the last thing your customer usually sees prior to conducting his search. Display allows you to reach your customer one last time before she finalizes a short list to consider for purchase.

Drive More Searches
When creating digital marketing campaigns, advertisers today view SEM as a new Yellow Pages — a place to be whenever a customer decides he is ready to make a purchase. Brands spend thousands, sometimes  even millions, of dollars a year bidding on keywords to drive clicks and, subsequently, sales.

Display advertising can create an opportunity for search. In other words, users may see a display ad for an interesting product and choose not to click on that ad at that moment. But at a time more convenient for them, they will search for that product. The display ad is then directly responsible for driving that search click.

In 2012, SEM will remain a critical piece of the marketing mix, getting that image, headline and copy in front of people at the right time. But by combining display with search, brands deliver a one-two punch, creating a greater opportunity to connect consumers to your brand at that critical point of consideration.

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Lisa Kidwell
Lisa Kidwell