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How to Leverage Search Keyword Learnings Across Programmatic Display Campaigns

Cross-channel integration is frequently forgotten when building channel-level tactical media strategies. Often, advertisers and analysts alike only assess the role of other media channels when evaluating conversion attribution and each channel’s role in the path to purchase.

However, leveraging successful targeting learnings from sister media channels can add immense value and allows for more efficient reach against target consumers. This practice is most notably successful when implementing contextual keyword targeting across programmatic display campaigns. DSPs evaluate keyword inputs against onsite text for programmatic display placements to gauge whether keywords are contextually relevant to the page’s content. These sites are then collected to create a larger inventory pool that campaigns will serve ads across.

A national coffee advertiser partnering with Merkle tested an integrated search and display keyword strategy during a product promotion onsite. Brand and non-brand seasonality keywords were laddered up against evergreen keyword targeting tactics. The test group yielded an average 250% higher CTR and a 25% lower cost per conversion vs. the control group.

There are several steps required to build and execute an effective paid search and display keyword activation strategy.

  1. Identify top-performing search keywords.
    • Pull paid search brand and non-brand keywords from the respective engines and ad accounts.
    • Use metrics such as CPC, CTR, and ROAS (if applicable) to evaluate which keywords are driving success against desired campaign KPIs and determine which keywords should remain on the targeting list for the DSP activation.
  2. Adjust keyword lists to fit programmatic needs.
    • Remove any symbols or misspellings within the keyword list to ensure keywords are targeted accurately and with a high match rate.
    • Tailor keywords to fit the campaign’s KPI and the consumer purchase phase. For example, non-brand keywords tend to perform better against awareness campaigns, whereas branded keywords typically drive better performance against lower-funnel consideration or conversion campaigns.
    • Keep in mind that, unlike search campaigns, display keyword campaigns can only be evaluated at the audience level in DSP level reporting, so keyword groups should be built with the level of granularity expected in internal and external reporting.
  3. Upload keyword lists directly into DSPs that support keyword targeting.
    • Evaluate potential audience size and data sources provided by each DSP in audience forecasting tools once uploaded.
  4. Launch!

When determining success for display keyword lines, performance should be evaluated against evergreen keyword targeting if this exists, as well as any contextual or content-based targeting within the same campaign parameters. When evaluating any changes in performance, it’s helpful to look at display performance in tandem with search campaigns to evaluate if there are trends in performance that speak to larger consumer behavioral shifts.