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Driving Better Performance Through SEM & Display Collaborations

A cohesive marketing strategy across media channels that plays to each channel’s strength is crucial to creating a consistent customer journey and helps drive better performance. In short, search, display, and video channels are more effective when working together. Advertisers can extend the reach of their search campaigns by using insights from display and video prospecting efforts, while also improving display audience relevance in return.

In this blog post, we will dive into ideas that will help advertisers leverage each channel’s strengths and capture more demand.

Display and SEM Relevancy and Reach

Search’s Influence on Display Targeting Relevancy

The Role Keywords Play in Display Targeting and Messaging

Contextual Display Ad Targeting

Contextual targeting uses keywords and topics to show an advertiser’s ads on websites with content relevant to the creative message.

One quick and easy way search ad managers can help display managers get better performance from contextually targeted ads is by providing a list of relevant, well-performing keywords. These keywords improve display contextual targeting efforts because it will help ensure that ads appear on relevant pages (as well as in front of the most relevant customers), and advertisers should pull keywords within a certain product category to increase targeting granularity and align with category-specific display creative.

Targeting Tip: Contextual targeting works best when using broad match, short-tailed keywords because if the keywords are too specific, the campaign might have difficulty scaling since it doesn’t match to many sites.  Paid search performance can help guide advertisers to the short-tail keywords with the best chance of attracting customers. It’s better to focus on finding the right keywords as opposed to building them out in all match types and variations.

Custom Intent

Announced in March 2018, Custom Intent is a new targeting capability within YouTube that display managers can also better optimize with a list of keywords from the search team.

This new option allows advertisers to create audiences based on users’ past searches on Google. For example, an outdoor retailer can target people who have searched for a “top rated ocean kayak”, and show them a video highlighting their collection of ocean kayaks.

When developing custom intent audiences, advertisers should categorize keywords in a meaningful way to build audiences with shared value propositions, category interest, stage in the funnel, etc. This allows video and companion banner assets to be customized based on self-identified interests.

Targeting Tip: Update both contextual and custom intent audiences on a regular basis, especially before a large promotion or a seasonal shift, because consumer demand is constantly changing. This will help keep display and video targeting relevant and on top of these changes.

Ad Messaging

It’s important to be consistent in ad messaging across all channels for effective marketing and a better user experience. Top converting keywords are a good starting point to brainstorm better text, display, and video ad copy. These keywords show what solutions consumers are searching for and what syntax catches their eye, identifying them as more likely to convert.

Search managers should build a word bank of these keywords and share with the creative team to refer to when developing assets and copy, with additional creative adjustments made on a regular basis.

How Search Insights Can Help With Display Competitor Targeting

Auction Insights

Google Ads and Bing Ads offer Auction Insight Reports to paint a picture as to who is competing on a certain search term. Although this feature is typically used to benefit the search team, this insight can also be valuable for display targeting, bidding and ad copy development.

These insights are available from an Impression Share report within the search engines’ user interfaces. When evaluating top competitors, be sure to acknowledge not only the competitors who have the highest impression share, but also those with the largest growth year-over-year.

Search and display teams use this knowledge to update their competitor strategy. Within media specifically there are multiple advantages to using these insights.

  • Changing bid modifications for certain websites or videos
  • Tailoring the value proposition within creative messaging for consumers that are browsing other competitors
  • Building audiences for competitor conquesting (could include keyword, interests and browsing history, purchase receipts, or loyalty membership)

Targeting Tip: Pull these insights regularly to maintain industry relevance and impression share as top competitors fluctuate over time.

Building and Sharing Audiences

Display and video prospecting campaigns can reach a wide swath of potential new customers and drive them to the advertiser’s site. This can build valuable remarketing audiences that marketers can then use in search and display campaign targeting, or it can directly prompt later search activity by those potential customers.

Example Consumer Journey

Lauren watches beauty tutorials, visits lifestyle blogs and entertainment news sites, and frequently shops at the mall. She now falls within the desired audience of a cosmetics retailer.

When watching the latest tutorial of her favorite lifestyle vlogger, Lauren is served a video ad highlighting the new product line. Since Lauren viewed the ad, she is now bucketed into the ‘new product video viewers’ audience. The advertiser can then use that audience in display and search campaign targeting.

While catching up on the latest celebrity gossip later that week, Lauren is served a display ad for a free sample of the new product line, so she clicks to the website and fills out her information for the free sample. Since Lauren navigated to the website and completed a micro-conversion she now falls into ‘site visitor’ and ‘sample requester’ audiences, which the advertiser can again use to further refine display remarketing and search campaigns.

After trying the sample Lauren falls in love with the product and immediately searches for it. With strong bid modifiers boosting paid search bids for searches from high-intent audiences, the cosmetic retailer is the first option among a page full of ads for competing retailers, and she clicks to the website to complete the purchase.

The use of shared audiences between video, display and search campaigns guided Lauren to her purchase across multiple touchpoints. To maximize the likelihood that a customer completes a purchase, marketers should ensure that each stage of the consumer journey creative and ad copy is tailored based on the type of interaction the audience list is capturing. For example, homepage visitors might receive a message about the different product categories, whereas cart abandoners might receive a “Complete Your Order” or “Complete Your Registration” callout.

Targeting Tip: Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) typically work well with search campaigns or ad groups that contain broad match keywords, casting a wide net to capture as much relevant traffic as possible from audiences that are more likely to convert than non-audience members.


Display and search channels clearly have different strengths. Display channels (such as YouTube and GDN) can help brands reach people even when they are not immediately considering a purchase. Search managers can then use audience lists built from display efforts to capture the same individuals, but this time exposing the user to a text or Shopping ad.

This repetition in ad exposure is good to build brand equity because it encourages the user to interact with your brand more often. Here again is an explanation of why being persistent in ad messaging is important for the customer journey.

Display and SEM Conversion Funnel