Online display media has been around for a long time, longer than search ads, even. (Anybody remember those X-Cam pop-ups?)
In the early days, networks were notorious for low performance and ads were sold like traditional media: on a per-thousand-impression basis.
Tracking was minimal, or even non-existent. Demographic and audience targeting was nearly non-existent, as well. As digital marketing goes, buying early display media was like buying a lottery ticket. Even the Google Adwords Content Network, as it was known back then, was rife with issues, including click fraud and lack of advertiser control. Bottom line, display was difficult for a direct response advertiser to justify.
Fast forward 10 years or so, to 2011, and display media is more important than ever.
Ads have a broader reach.
Search pay-per-click (PPC) is great: it’s highly targeted and super-effective for driving leads. However, search volume is finite: your ads will only been seen by people searching on your chosen keywords.
Search volume is also affected by a number of factors, such as seasonality and the economy. What often happens is that even though an advertiser is getting great results and wants to spend more money on PPC, there isn’t any more search volume to be had. The market has essentially set a ceiling on your sales.
This is where display comes in. Display ads aren’t served on search engines like Google; they’re served on content sites that match the digital marketer’s offering. Because impressions aren’t triggered by a keyword search, they’re not limited by users actively searching for your product or service. If you sell mountain bikes online, your display ads can appear on biking enthusiast sites – exposing your business to an entirely new audience, and moving you further up the consideration funnel.
Digital Marketers have more control.
Both Google Adwords and the Yahoo-Microsoft Search Alliance have display networks now, where ads can be purchased on a cost-per-click or even (in the case of Adwords) a cost per acquisition basis. This means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, or when someone takes a desired action such as making a purchase or filling out a lead form.
Rich data is available about the sites your ads will appear on, including the number of daily page views and the demographic makeup of the audience. Both text and image ads can be used. Tracking data is robust, down to the exact page that drove traffic and conversions, and poor-performing sites can be excluded. Ads can be displayed to certain audiences, such as sites that talk about biking. All of this means more relevance for the advertiser, which means better results at an affordable cost.
Display is necessary for retargeting.
Retargeting is a relatively new, very powerful feature in online advertising, that enables an advertiser to tag site visitors who came to their website via a PPC or display network ad, but did not take a specific action. These visitors can be segmented via a retargeting engine, and served an ad on display websites as they travel throughout the web. Ads can be tailored to include a special offer or discount, making them a powerful tool for converting visitors who didn’t convert on the first visit.
Let’s look at the example of the mountain bike seller. Let’s say the bike shop wants to target site visitors who came to their site from a search PPC ad, placed a bike in the shopping cart, but didn’t complete a purchase. The bike seller can create a retargeting campaign for those visitors, perhaps with a message saying, “Return to Joe’s Mountain Bikes today and get free shipping on your order!” Or, “Buy your bike in 5 minutes or less – we’ve saved it in your cart!” As you can see, retargeting is a highly effective tool that can be used to reduce cart abandons or increase the number of leads from your website.
Have you tried display advertising recently? If so, let us know what’s working for you! If not, why not? Discuss in the comments!
Richard Retyi is the Social Media Director at Fluency Media. He has a decade of public relations and social media experience working with global brands like Chevrolet and building the University of Michigan athletic department’s social media infrastructure. He’s a freelance writer, a former high school teacher and a Canadian. Check back often to see more posts from Richard at blog.fluencymedia.com