I get asked a lot about the value of paid display campaigns when sales or lead generation are the primary goals of the advertising efforts. After all, as the objection goes, "why waste advertising dollars on banner ads when paid search is so effective in reaching an audience right at the time when they enter a search that matches the product or services offered?"
Initially, this seems like a valid point, but only if we consider exclusively the ubiquitous last-click conversion attribution, a model in which the "last click" is given credit for a sale or conversion, regardless of the fact that it is very likely that what caused the user to perform the search query which led to a conversion was in fact viewing or clicking through a banner ad (or a YouTube video) a few days prior to the conversion moment. This is to say that, in measuring performance, we cannot compare search and display as apples to apples; additional KPI's such as site engagement and view-through conversions can tell a better story of the role display plays in your marketing efforts.
In fact, I argue that display advertising does a lot of the heavy lifting in the early stages of the decision making process, and this initial exposure is crucial in driving consumers to return to convert via paid search. In a nutshell, display advertising will ultimately drive increased search, especially when search volume is not sufficient.
Research seems to agree: according to comScore, a leading internet technology company that measures what people do as they navigate the digital world, after seeing a display ad customers are 136% more likely to search for your brand and 140% more likely to click an organic link, and users who are exposed to display ads in the U.S. market see an average lift of 49% in site visits and a 40% jump in brand name queries. There you have it: display advertising does help in generating more search volume, clicks and conversions.
That is why, when preparing a strategic media plan for a client, I often recommend allocating some advertising dollars to the Google Display Network (either using contextual targeting, remarketing, or both) in order to leverage the synergistic effect that display has over AdWords for search.
What is great about the Google Display Network (or GDN), the biggest digital ad network in the world serving a whopping 1 trillion impressions every month, with a 92% reach across millions of sites including premium sites such as The New York Times, Time, NBC, and National Geographic, is that it’s one of the few display networks that runs on a CPC vs. CPM model, a truly efficient way to minimize wasted impressions and maximize exposure to a very targeted audience.
In conclusion, it's important for advertisers to remember that display's primary focus and role is to "fill the funnel" for search and remarketing efforts, and utilizing search together with display will help in the end in increasing both reach and conversions.