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Paid Search vs. Display Ads: Which Works Better to Promote Video?

Google has two major advertising vehicles: paid search listings via the Google Search Network and display ads that appear throughout the web, via the Google Content Network.

While a well-executed display campaign can be a very effective tactic in driving awareness and traffic, the core measures of site engagement — page views, time on site, bounce rate, etc. — typically favor search campaigns.

But what happens when you want someone to watch a video? We recently had the opportunity to test this metric, and found strong evidence to support using display ads.

The Test

Recently, a client asked us to promote a video embedded on their website. We knew we wanted Google to supply the traffic, but we needed to determine where to place the ads.

So we set up two campaigns on AdWords: one for the Google Search Network and one for the Google Display Network. Once the test began, the general pattern of site engagement held true: Compared to visitors from display ads, visitors from search ads averaged 52% more pages per visit and 76% more time on the site. The bounce rate from search ads was also 9% better than display ads.

What was startling, however, was that display ads significantly outperformed search ads with regard to video views.

online ads marketing google video promotion views  google adwords cost per acquisition

As the above charts show, ads from the Google Display Network converted post-click at a rate 122% higher than ads from the Google Search Network. Furthermore, the cost per view was 60% less for display ads.


When it came to video views, display ads outperformed search ads significantly. But why? The answer likely lies with the intent of the user at the moment of each click.

When prompted by a search ad, a user may click the link with the intent of exploring general information on a given subject and thus spend more time looking around the site; but might not be interested in a specific video. Users seeing the same ad on the content network, by contrast, are likely browsing articles and consuming rich content, and are attracted to the idea of viewing a video. These users came to the site specifically to see a video, and are therefore more likely to watch it.

Never Stop Testing

While we got some pelling info for our client in this instance, and are now able to run a better campaign, it’s hard to say what would happen in a different situation. We’ve said it before: No two online constituencies display exactly the same behavior. This is why testing and optimization are among the core aspects of our media planning approach.


Rick Raymond is an online advertising associate at Blue State Digital.

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