How Keyword Research and Competitive Search Fuels Display Campaigns

Traditionally, the worlds of online display advertising and search marketing have mainly operated in silos. The two tactics may both be part of the bigger online strategy, but the people involved with search generally do not really work in or understand display and vice-versa. Lately however, it feels like there’s a greater interest in fusing the two worlds together,

maybe fueled by the diversion of traffic away from search and into social media and/or Google’s rebranding of its Content Network into Display Network. Regardless, when the search and display professionals come together, a lot can be gained from the sharing of information. Today, let me give my media planning brethren some tips from the search side.

Keywords Tell a Lot

For the online media strategist, an existing PPC campaign can be a goldmine of information. Keyword performance can help sculpt various directions of the campaign from its creative concepts, messaging and copywriting to identifying sites to target for placements or new niche opportunities. Don’t have an existing PPC campaign to turn to? Consider a bit of keyword research in the vein of a start-up PPC campaign for all the same insights mentioned previously.

Begin by using the same keyword research tools a PPC specialist would:

  • Web analytics: Understanding what keywords are already driving traffic to the site and where that traffic travels throughout the site and if that traffic converts into the desired action can be quite revealing. Doing a gap analysis of the advertiser’s objectives versus what they’re actually achieving should provide the media strategist with some informative insights and direction.
  • Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool: The “granddaddy” of free keyword research tools, this tool allows you to gauge the popularity or importance of a keyword or keyword phrase based upon its search volume, while at the same time identifying other related keyword phrases. The tool lets you manipulate your query in all sorts of ways, for example, limiting results by geography, by type device accessing the search, by product category, and more. Once served, you can also manipulate and sort the data. In the below example, limiting results to the Anti-Aging category, I queried for some skincare keywords as searched for on mobile devices within the U.S. and then sorted by the most popular U.S. searches.adwords-keyword-toolYou can take your favorite keywords from this list and toggle over to the Traffic Estimator to get some projections on volume and cost, both of which the media buyer might want to use for perspective if you’re trying to deliver a direct response campaign through display advertising and needs to negotiate CPMs on an eCPA basis.


  • Google Trends: Media buyers looking to do mass marketing naturally gravitate to popular content for all the eyeballs it attracts. Similarly, Google Trends tracks and showcases what’s “hot” in search at the moment. You can capitalize on these trends if you can move quickly and have ad creative and budget at the ready.
  • Twitter Search and Trending Topics: You can also gauge the current pulse of a keyword, especially more unique ones, by seeing how many tweets mention it. Do these tweets link to sites that might be useful for your media plan? Use Advanced Twitter Search to pinpoint more specifically if appropriate. Twitter’s Trending Topics – though often a jumble of nonsensical hashtags plus celebrity names – may also help identify opportunities for quick of-the-moment ad buys.

Useful Information From Competitive Search

In addition to datamining existing advertiser and generic public assets, it can be useful to apply the same techniques as above to some of the free and paid competitive search tools. Google AdWords’ Analyze Competition feature, SEMRush, and SpyFu are all free or quasi-free tools. The Search Monitor, a for-fee platform, gives all kinds of juicy information about competitors as well as trademark infringements and affiliate miscreants. AdGooroo, also a for-fee platform, has some similar elements as The Search Monitor along with a “Display Insight” feature which can definitely be exploited by a media planner/buyer.

Another Thing You Can Do With Keywords

I’m a big fan of contextual advertising, much of which is based on keywords, so your campaign may only perform as well as you’ve compiled a sound list of proven keywords to provide to your vendors. Your contextual network representative can tell you not only how many impressions they estimate, but also what related keywords you might have missed and other opportunities to exploit your list.

Want to hear more on this topic? Come hear me speak on the “Crossing the Digital Divide: The Leap from Search to Display” panel at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in New York next month!



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