Combining search and display advertising

We have been working recently with some of our long-term clients to expand their online advertising from PPC into PPC + online display. For some reason, it seems to be something that quite a lot of prospects have been more interested in recently when I have been out and about meeting people. I can only speculate that this is because of the increased visibility of online advertising as all the media talks about online as resistant to the downturn.

The combination of search and display is something that fascinates me - I have written about trying to measure it before over at SEOmoz.

So I was interested to read Nick Drew’s piece on research Microsoft have done with comScore to measure the uplift in traffic to a site when display advertising was combined with search. The results are pretty dramatic as you can see in the chart above (hope they don’t mind me nicking the chart - I’m assuming they want to spread the word far and wide!).

The comments on that post are worth reading because there is a bit more insight into the methodology. While it is never possible to guarantee results in this kind of study without doing extensive double blind work advertising new brands that do nothing else, it is nonetheless interesting data.

The biggest question it creates in my mind is about the mechanics of the effect and the relationship with natural search. Presumably most of the search traffic that display advertising drives is branded queries - and most brands rank for their brands, so the mechanic of why PPC is causing such a large uplift when combined with display is still not entirely clear to me.

Anyone got any ideas about that?

Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. Will is part...   read more

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  1. Hope I have the right understanding here.

    Could it be that the PPC adcopy message matches the message that is being used in the display advertising and so more users are attracted to the PPC ad?

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  2. That could definitely help with the additional uplift - and is one reason that PPC clicks often convert better than natural clicks, but there has to be more to it than that I would think...

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  3. Hi Will,

    We work with some of the larger media agencies one of which did a study into this, but also Google released some test results on PPC/Organic results relationship showing the combined appearance generated a 22% uplift in prompted brand recall.

    If you think about the customer journey through their purchase research we are exposed to multiple product and brand messages, we may start looking for a camera, then an SLR then a camera comparison site and then best prices comparisons etc.

    Your final purchase decision is therefore influenced at many points and ultimately you may not base your decision on price alone but also on trust.. and here the brand kicks in. If during this research you are exposed to display advertising which touches the more aspitational/emotional elements of our purchase decision the theory is that this influences your ongoing research and trust in the brand you eventually choose to buy.

    make sense??


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  4. I've only just seen this post - just got back from holiday this morning - but it's great to see this theme still resonating with people. At a time when advertising budgets are under greater scrutiny, I think it's a really pertinent message that reinforcing campaigns with these different elements greatly increases their performance and ROI.
    As part of our 'better together' research, we looked at how display exposure among consumers drives search activity, and found that those who saw the display part of a particular campaign were 58% more likely to search on key branded terms - brand name, product line, plus key taglines and messages used - so it's fair to say that the display activity is definitely driving branded searches. But I think it's reasonable to suggest that non-brand searches will also increase - a particular campaign may simply prompt a consumer to think of the generic product being offered, and want to research the topic more.
    As for how the display element primes consumers, or reinforces the message, if you're a consumer looking at a list of 5 sponsored links for an obscure product, you may well opt for the one that has a tagline you recall from a particularly diverting display creative you saw a few days ago – so the display exposure increases the performance of the search ad.
    I've linked to a white paper I wrote on the subject that collates our research to date in Europe; the plan is to continue to explore further to pin down exactly how it all works in more detail.

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  5. Thanks Nick. I'll look forward to reading your European data. I was slow to reply as well as I went away just around when you commented!

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  6. I think it is because of two factors, the subliminal 'have seen that name before' while scrolling through the results and the double factor of trust, appearing twice means they definately have the product the consumer wants. Simple. Matt.

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