I’ve just attended a webinar dealing with this question and the main argument for display ads was the time people spend browsing the web, which is much more than the time people spend searching. In percentages: 95% browsing, 5% searching. Therefore, display ads would still be an effective way to drive traffic and reach customers since search marketing only works when people actually – search. Kind of sounds logical.
Of course, search engine marketing should be run alongside because apparently click-through rates increased by 22%, related brand searches increased and conversion rates via search ads increased when search and display were run together.
Now, what’s been said here is that display ads actually push traffic and conversion through search. If your site ranks high in the organic search, you are a winner. Otherwise, it basically means that you are paying advertising money twice.
Also, it has become much easier for people to avoid advertising as this blog entry highlights: Has the internet made it easier to hide from adverts? Which in turn makes for a substantial argument in favour of search ads.
Search ads are delivered at a point when people are actually actively looking for something: a solution, product or service, compared to unwanted and irrelevant display ads they are bombarded with while browsing.
Search marketing results are usually predictable, can be targeted effectively and measured to calculate the ROI (Return on Investment). However, it is true that the search market becomes increasingly competitive and text ads such as Google AdWords only contribute to branding and awareness in a limited way.
In my view, display ads are not dead as part of an online marketing mix, and especially not on the Google AdWords content network or in an affiliate programme. But properly evaluate who else you are running your display campaigns with and whether search ads may not be a more (cost-)effective way of driving customers to your site.
Webinar by AdReady and ClickZ, Oct 2009