People often make the mistake of thinking that paid search and display advertising are the same, and can be measured with similar metrics.
The truth is that these are two very different animals, and there are a few important differences between these two seemingly similar marketing tools.
Display advertising is one of the first steps towards generating leads, or the top of your sales funnel. On the other hand, keyword-targeted search campaigns are aimed at customers ready to buy, and therefore further along in the sales process.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is heavily focused on certain metrics like click through rate (CTR), cost per acquisition (CPA), clicks, impressions, and conversions. Since SEM is based on showing ads to customers when they are actively searching for related information, it makes sense to rely on these things to measure performance. These consumers are looking for something specific and are far more likely to click on an ad that could help them. Most advertisers and marketers have become so familiar with this AdWords system that they assume display can be explained the same way.
The difference with display advertising is that the focus is not on clicks. People generally do not click on display ads like they do with search ads (and this is not a bad thing!). As a result, the CTR is minimal and even insignificant for display campaigns. What’s important to remember here is that it’s not about getting people to click on your display ad. The goal is to have people see it, and indirectly drive traffic to your website.
A good way to think about display advertising is like a billboard on the side of the road. Potential customers won’t be actively looking for information about your product. Instead, they are going to see your ad on the side of a website that they are viewing, and remember you later when they need your services.
With display advertising, we are dealing with consumers who are engaged in content; therefore, clicks in display do not correlate to sales the way that they do with search ads. The function of display is more about branding and creating top-of-mind awareness for your company or product. What really matters here is getting your ad in front of the right audience and making sure that they see it.
In multiple studies, comScore has found that clicks have virtually zero correlation with conversions. There is, however, a strong correlation with ad hover/interaction and viewable impressions. The comScore study also found that retargeting campaigns helped some brands achieve a 1,046% increase in branded search when they concurrently ran display and search advertising campaigns!
This increase in branded search shows us that users were influenced by the retargeting campaign, but chose to use a search engine to return to the website rather than clicking on the ad. Perhaps the best metric for measuring the success of a display campaign then is looking for an increase in site traffic while the campaign is running.
The most effective way to drive traffic to your website (if that’s your goal) is to use a combination of display and search advertising together. When you put these two together, magical things can happen — like that 1046% increase in branded search.
However, keep in mind that your CTR’s will be very low with display. But don’t get discouraged! A low CTR does not mean that your campaign is unsuccessful. Remember to look at the bigger picture and see that display is just a small part of a much larger system that is helping your business to succeed.
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