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Why Search Still Matters in the Age of Programmatic Advertising: Balancing Audience and Intent

March 14, 2016 by Aimee
Why Search Still Matters in the Age of Programmatic Advertising

Search engine marketing is a staple in digital advertising today and has been for about 15 years. It’s really become the modern-day equivalent to a Yellow Pages ad - you invest in search if you want to be found.

But search has fallen out of the spotlight as advertisers shift their favor to newer, sexier advertising vehicles like programmatic display, mobile, video, and social. In fact, eMarketer recently reported that more will be spent on display than search in 2016, for the first time ever, with just over $29 billion going to search vs. $32 billion toward display. Display and video are certainly key to reaching consumers where they live, but should they obscure search altogether?

The answer is no - a resounding no - and there are several reasons why:

  • Think about the funnel. Programmatic display targets audiences, which is largely top-of-funnel stuff, although it can be used effectively at other points for engagement as well - particularly if retargeting is employed. Contextually targeted search is most effective at the bottom of the funnel, when prospects are ready to buy. So by combining the two practices, you’re really addressing the sales funnel much more holistically. (Note that this still applies if you subscribe to the customer journey view versus the funnel - you’re still able to engage customers in a more meaningful way all along their path to purchase.)
  • Increase your reach. Because display and search typically rely on different targeting tactics (behavioral vs. contextual) you’ll reach more people by leveraging both. Your display ads for jewelry may be targeted to affluent homeowners who travel and play golf, but they’ll also be found by people who are searching for “women’s tennis bracelets,” even if the searcher has never been on a plane and prefers basketball. By including both search and display, you’ll reach shoppers who fit your profile, as well as in-market outliers.
  • Search is nimble and can easily support more involved multi-channel campaigns. Two of the best things about search are the fact that it’s easy and that it’s relatively cheap. You don’t need designers for your search campaign, and you don’t need a million dollars. All you need are a well-researched list of keywords and a comfortable daily cap. (OK, and a well-constructed landing page - but that’s another post!) With those pieces in place, you can build search campaigns that support other campaigns, quickly and easily - and optimize them for conversion just as quickly and easily. A popular TV or video ad can be supported by search to drive more engagement to those ads. (While I don’t have the stats, I suspect there were a lot of searches for Kmart’s “Ship Your Pants” or Dove’s “Real Beauty.”)

What’s more, you can power up or pause campaigns on the fly. That means if you’re having a flash sale on tickets for an event tonight, you can max out your budget until the tickets are sold out, then end the campaign the second the last ticket is gone.

Really the best reason to continue to invest in search is that it still works. There’s a reason Google AdWords is still a huge part of the search giant’s business model: it still drives results.  Search can be an ideal complement to programmatic display. Both are effective and efficient ways to advertise, allowing for finely-tuned targeting and real-time optimization. While they work very differently, the two can work in harmony to deliver the meaningful, accountable results marketers need.

If you haven’t already, allocate at least a small test budget for search. With so little to risk and so much to gain, you won’t regret adding search to your marketing mix.

Learn more about the services MediaCrossing offers to advertisers, or contact us today to learn how we can support your campaigns with search.



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