The Impact of Search Engine and Display on Digital Marketing

When you type a keyword into Google, two types of results come up, they are paid and unpaid search results. The unpaid are organic searches created through content promotion on your sites in which Google relies on algorithms. Proper optimization of search engines can increase your page ranking and determine how high you appear thereby showcasing your business to customers. This serves as a reach medium.

Display on the other hand, like the Google Display Network, helps create customer attention which also leads to customer enquiry and engagement and this is where search engine optimization comes in handy. In fact, display marketing has grown to the point where there are search display ads. In all truth, I would prefer to favor search engine marketing as a more influential form of marketing for e-commerce. However, when it comes to other forms of advertising campaigns not related to e-commerce, I would surely bow my head to display marketing. For example, an advertising and marketing campaign for an event would be focused more on display marketing rather than search marketing.

However, when it comes to ecommerce the nature of the business requires that such ecommerce companies have a well-developed search market platform not leaving behind display marketing. Research has shown that various customers who purchase items online or offline make use of the internet to research during pre-purchase. This is to identify the e-commerce company location through a directory list, product capability, price comparison, discount offers, pricing, customer reviews, and so on.

According to Bcommerce Business, technology, and Society by Kenneth C. Laudon and Carol Guerco Traver, over 59% of shoppers find online vendors through search engines, 28% through marketplaces (Amazon, eBay)  and 3% use other methods.

Whilst display marketing drives home the point, for example, a fashion e-commerce company is expected to display its products like shoes, bags, and clothes for the customers to identify their needs and make their choices. Also, when carrying out a particular advert campaign which is a form of marketing, 70% of the advert campaign would be done through display marketing.

I can emphatically state that search engine marketing is done to ensure customers or audiences have detailed information about the e-commerce company when they search or carry out their research. Display marketing is done with the business trying to reach the customers or audience. While the former is done to meet customer initiatives the other is clearly the business initiative to reach out to the customers and audience.

When it comes to return on investment (ROI), display marketing often gets knocked out due to poor conversion rates and high cost-per-acquisition, but it would be silly to eliminate it based on this. For as earlier stated they both have their purposes and are a good marketing mix.

Illustrating how they work together, display advertising does the “heavy lifting” early in the consumer decision-making process of driving awareness and consideration, and it’s often only because they had this initial exposure that a user will come back later and convert. This return visit often gets credited to search marketing, as the user will often go and search for the brand or relevant category terms (and then click on a paid search link, for example). But the question is – if someone saw a display ad first, but comes back later through a paid search ad, which tactic should get “credit” for that conversion? It’s an attribution problem that many marketers have struggled with. Many studies have proven that display advertising has a strong impact on driving both organic and paid search queries and conversions.

In Quantifying the Impact of Display on Search, leading to conversion, a report by Julie on reviewing Yahoo research did justice to it.

Yahoo Advertising has conducted multiple studies and case studies around this and has confirmed a strong correlation between display advertising and search lift.

Yahoo’s Retail Reconnaissance study found that following exposure to a retailer’s display ad, there was a 59 percent lift in conversions (e-commerce activity done by customers or audience initiated by the company such as a purchase). In its research, Yahoo also references third-party studies that show how display drives search actions.

Specifically referencing a study by Forrester on behalf of a search marketing firm iProspect, Yahoo relays the following: “Approximately 31% of users clicked on the ad itself, while 27% searched for the product, brand or company using a search engine. That means that when display ads drive an immediate response, it is as likely to take the form of a search as it is an ad click.”

Yahoo also references a 2010 MediaMind study which contrary to popular belief, stated that more online conversions actually come from the display channel than the search channel (72% versus 23%). In fact, 5% of those conversions first saw a display ad and then a search ad.

This report might insight doubt considering Yahoo provides both use search and display ad platforms but independent third parties seem to have similar evaluation statistics.

ComScore has reported an average lift of 49 percent in site visitation and 40 percent in brand name queries among those who were exposed to a display ad in the U.S. market. The European market boasts even bigger lifts: “Those exposed to online ad campaigns in Europe were 72% more likely to visit the advertiser’s website and 94% more likely to conduct a trademark search query on the advertiser’s brand…”

In a Stanford University field experiment called “Display Advertising Impact: Search Lift and Social Influence,” the researchers found that those who were exposed to a display ad performed 5 to 25% more campaign-relevant search queries than those who were not exposed to the ad.

At this point I might stand to be corrected of my earlier perception that search marketing has more strength since part of the reason is because customers and audience are fueled to do so as a result of display ads.

As I have stated, the display is primarily for driving awareness and “filling the funnel” whereas search is better for driving immediate consideration and direct response. Understanding the role of each of these tactics is important to the marketing decisions of every e-commerce company and digital marketing campaign.

Finally, it is ideal to deploy an integrated online marketing strategy that includes both search and display in order to maximize reach and conversions. You may find that while search drives more direct conversions, the volume is not sufficient to generate the number of leads you’re looking for. This is where you may look at scaling up your display advertising investment to drive search volume, hence the need for a marketing mix.

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