Display Advertising And Search Are Connected At The Hip

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The habits of consumers who engage with online advertising is a moving target. Whether it’s watching the shifts in display advertising or following the search engine marketing landscape, one thing is for certain: it’s still early days.

On May 12th, 2009, Marketing Charts ran a very curious news item titled, Online Ads Spark Nearly as Many Searches as Clicks. The news item was based on a recent study conducted by Forrester Research for iProspect about online users behaviour when it comes to online display advertising and search engine marketing (you can view the study here: Search Engine Marketing and Online Display Advertising Integration Study – May 2009). It turns out that those two online advertising channels are much more closely linked than most of us have realized.

This is what consumers do when they see an online ad (according to the report):

  • 31% respond by directly clicking on an ad.
  • 27% respond by searching for the product, brand, or company by launching a search on a search engine.
  • 21% respond by typing the company web address into their browser and directly navigating to the website.
  • 9% respond by investigating the product, brand, or company through social media venues.

What this means is that for every person who sees an online ad and clicks on it, there are almost as many people who see an online ad and immediately do a search in a search engine on the product, brand or company. 

This research brings up a whole new set of strategic online marketing questions that few of us probably think about when it comes to online media planning, and that includes:

  • How easy is it for consumers to get to a search box from where our advertising appears?
  • How closely are we monitoring our search engine results in conjunction with our advertising campaigns?
  • Are we allocating the right amount of advertising dollars on the search engine marketing front to support these online ads and consumer habits?
  • What metrics and web analytics are we using to optimize these types of campaigns?

That last question is worth repeating: how many marketers really do track the myriad of activates a consumer is probably taking right after they see an online ad?

(hat-tip @davehaber)


  1. This is me! I have done exactly the type of searches the report describes. I guess the reason why is that (even though I am a marketer) I have had a distrust for online ads (and I am not sure why). Perhaps the behaviour is one where consumers trust a Google search result more than an ad. Maybe we feel that by doing a search for the organization/product/service in question will get the real goods instead of a sales pitched version through the directed ad. Interesting behaviour to factor in though isn’t it? In many ways it gives a different validation for online advertising.

  2. Great research, although not surprising.
    What’s not being considered is offline/other brand exposure. If you’re going to link display advertising with search, you should link TV, print and every other kind of activity.
    Someone doesn’t simply see something and act, it’s a build up of a series of exposures to a message/brand/product.
    Only when a single research project considers every single touch point on & off line, will we get a true understanding of the impact of every piece of the pie.

  3. We’ve been experiencing results like the ones mentioned with some campaigns. Answers for your last question are every week at the table when we discuss what’s going on with the outcomes we deliver to our clients.

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