I have always felt that search marketing and performance display were fraternal twins; that is, not identical, but definitely sharing the same DNA.

Think about it: both are built on cost per click (CPC) and cost per action (CPA) pricing models. They require constant testing and optimisation. And they are definitely direct response focused.

It was only a matter of time before both channels were recognised as such, and integration took place.

There are three technologies in particular I want to highlight, which have been successful in integrating search and display. In doing so, they have opened up many new possibilities.

1. Paid search video ads

Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing have released a new type of paid search ad.

They are called Google Video Extensions and Yahoo Rich Ads in Search, and allow advertisers to integrate video content within their standard text ads.


The importance of this integration is two-fold:

  • Consumers are empowered with richer information about the product they are viewing, and
  • Advertisers can build their brand awareness as they drive direct response.

The last point is especially important for industries that have traditionally not invested significant ad dollars into paid search. For example, the FMCG industry is well known for its light adoption of search marketing. With video ads, they can now satisfy their brand awareness-building requirements while driving traffic to their product websites.

Google Video Extensions are in limited beta mode and not currently available in Australia. However Yahoo Rich Ads are currently live in Australia, and have already received significant interest from advertisers.

2. Cross-channel, multi-click conversion attribution

We know that consumers don’t usually convert into a lead or sale after just one click. A more likely scenario involves a consumer searching, viewing, and clicking on several ads, often over the course of days or weeks, before they convert.

The ability to track and de-dupe conversions across channels (so you are not paying twice for the same conversion) is powerful, and currently available through advanced analytics platforms, like Omniture or Site Intelligence.

The problem with last click attribution

The problem lies in the conversion rate disparity between search and performance display. Compared to display, search almost always converts at a higher rate, and very often captures the last click. So paid search often takes the credit for the sale – even though display had generated an earlier click in the consumer’s journey.

Because of the last click attribution model – which is the standard in our industry – investment in performance display is usually just a fraction of search, which prevents full integration and synergy of channels from taking place.

Multi-click conversion attribution

There is a new technology that is solving the issues associated with last click attribution. It is allowing marketers to track all clicks across multiple channels, and recognise their collective contribution to the conversion. This technology is called multi-click conversion attribution.

Multi-click conversion attribution captures all of a consumer’s clicks within all channels, which took place before a consumer converted into a lead or sale. The technology then assigns a % conversion credit to each of the clicks and channels.

This is equivalent to giving a % goal credit to each player in a football team, for passing the ball around until a goal takes place.

Interestingly, the multi-click attribution model always takes a chunk of credit away from the last click (as it should), and distributes that credit among the rest of the clicks that contributed to the conversion.

Multi-click conversion attribution has profound implications for marketers investing in search and performance display. It allows marketers to:

  1. ‘See’ each click and channel, and how they interact.
  2. Determine performance display’s true contribution to producing conversions (instead of missing out on the last click which is often captured by paid search), and
  3. Identify the true CPA of paid search and performance display.

What is the biggest benefit to marketers? Once true CPA is identified, re-allocation of channel budget can occur with full confidence. This drives incremental sales while saving money (less wastage on poorly performing keywords, banners or sites).

3. Demand side platforms

Demand side platforms (DSPs) are a technological innovation in the field of performance display. Although currently not available in Australia, they are quickly becoming mainstream in the US.

DSPs are technology tools that aggregate the inventory of multiple publishers and ad networks, and then allow advertisers to bid on this inventory in real-time. What’s more, this real-time bidding is done on a per impression basis.

The parallels to paid search are clear. And it is these parallels that have fuelled even further technological innovation.

Several SEM bid management and optimisation platforms (i.e. technology platforms that bid exclusively on paid search), have recognised the efficiency and business potential in integrating DSP within their own SEM platforms.

Examples of leading SEM technology firms that have integrated DSPs within their own platform include SearchIgnite and Efficient Frontier.

What does this mean? Well, it appears that within the next 12-24 months in Australia, marketers will be able to bid on paid search and performance display, in real-time, per impression, all within the same dashboard. This is a compelling proposition if you are trying to maximise performance, efficiency and integration across both channels.

Final thought

The technologies mentioned above represent the next-generation approach to integrating paid search and performance display. And while they might not yet be widely used or understood in Australia, their growth in the US and UK are certain to make them mainstream in the near future.

Marketers who recognise this and take steps to prepare themselves, will be in a superior position when that moment arrives.