Improve Your Paid Search CTR With Display Ads

When I was a little kid, my absolute favourite movie was The Lion King. I can’t even tell you how many times I watched it, over and over, singing along to Hakuna Matata and laughing at Timon and Pumbaa. It’s a fantastic movie full of heartache and love, laughter and wisdom. Yes, wisdom. You see, even as an 8-year old I felt that there was something very profound about the Circle of Life.

If you haven’t seen the movie (go watch it, I still love it 25 years later) here’s a quick recap of the Circle of Life as explained by King Mufasa to his lion cub, Simba:

Mufasa: “Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance. As king, you need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope.”

Simba: “But Dad, don’t we eat the antelope?”

Mufasa: “Yes, Simba, but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life.”

Rafiki holds newborn Simba up to the Animal Kingdom

What the wise King meant is that everything in life affects something else. Digital marketing is no different (what, you thought this was gonna be a film review? Ha!).

Understanding the Mindset of Your Potential Customer

A recent Harvard Business School study showed that display advertising can significantly increase search conversion rates. But, how can that be? Let’s take a look at the dynamics involved.

Just like the great Circle of Life there is the great Circle of Advertising, or as we call it in marketing, the Conversion Funnel. To understand how display advertising affects your paid search campaign you’ve got to understand the mindset of your potential customer and the process that takes them from not knowing who the hell you are to wanting to buy your product.

The basic overview is as follows:

Awareness > Consideration > Desire/Intent > Action

This funnel is meant to help us visualize the flow through which a potential customer lands on a website and then takes the desired action (makes a purchase, fills out a lead form, etc).

The Difference Between Your Display Audience and Your Paid Search Audience

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a digital marketer is expecting people at different stages of the cycle to behave in the same way. What I mean by this is that you can’t expect to see the same click-through rates and conversion rates from display advertising as you do from paid search. You’re targeting different audiences with very different mindsets.

Unfortunately, I see this mistake all the time. A marketer will take a look at their statistics, see that their display advertising has produced zero conversions and make the short-sighted decision that it must not be working and should be stopped.

And here I am shouting, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hold your horses! Don’t be so hasty!”


Listen… Display advertising is meant to drive awareness. Of course, you’re not going to see high conversion rates here, these people haven’t even had the chance to consider your offering!

Paid search advertising is different. It’s meant to capitalize off those who have already formed the intent to take action. They know what they want and now they’re searching for it. Of course, they’re more likely to convert.

A potential customer cannot form the desire and intent to take action if they aren’t aware of your product or service in the first place. This is how display advertising can compliment your paid search campaign.

And just like the lion and the antelope, display and paid search must exist together in a delicate balance.

How Pausing My Display Ads Caused Organic Conversions to Plummet

Ok, I realize I’m starting to sound a bit philosophical here. My bad. Let me take a step back and give you a real-world example from a campaign I’ve been working on.

Immanuel Kant Philosophy Pun
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who is a central figure in modern philosophy. I love puns, don’t you? Lol!

One of my clients is a large events venue. They host conferences, conventions, weddings, galas, etc. We had been running Facebook ads to boost awareness of this new venue and I felt that the campaign had been performing well. We’d been getting a ton of impressions, the click-through rate was quite high and the overall website conversion rate was healthy.

However, what my client saw in their monthly reports concerned them. Looking at their statistics, they noticed that Facebook was not driving conversions. They saw all these clicks from Facebook to their website but zero leads! Understandably they came to the conclusion that Facebook advertising just wasn’t effective and directed me to stop the campaign. I did what I was told.

Guess what happened next? Over the course of a month and a half, my client’s organic leads dropped by more than 50%.

You might be thinking, “WHHAAAAA?! How can that be? All those leads were coming from organic search, what’s that got to do with Facebook?”

Well, it’s really quite simple when you think about it.

If you were ready to book a venue for your wedding, would you really be sitting around waiting for an ad to show up in your Facebook News Feed? Probably not. You’d head over to Google and start searching for wedding venues.

And when all those links show up in your Google Search results, what are you most likely to click on? A venue you’ve never heard of? Or the one you saw incredible pictures of on Facebook last month?

That’s how my client’s Facebook campaign was driving leads. We had been targeting a Lookalike Audience (based on past leads) with a carousel ad showing stunning images of the facility and its luxury features. Although this audience wasn’t yet ready to book a venue, they became aware of what my client had to offer.

Then, when it came time to start making inquiries for their events, these users recognized my client’s name in their Google Search results, clicked through to my client’s website and filled out the online contact form.

The lesson in this story? When my client stopped running Facebook ads, they stopped building awareness of the brand. And without awareness, users were unable to consider my client’s venue and we were unable to capitalize on their intent through search. As such, the number of actions taken on the website dropped.

What did I do? Well, I restarted the Facebook campaign and I’m happy to report that leads have begun flowing for my client yet again.

What Does This All Mean for Your Marketing Campaigns?

If you haven’t yet invested in display advertising, it’s definitely worth a try. But don’t feel discouraged when you see low click-through rates and no direct conversions. What you spend on display can very well increase your return on investment by the boost it gives to organic and paid search traffic.

Does that mean you should just blast everyone, everywhere with banner ads? Of course not. Think through your display advertising strategy carefully just like you would with paid search. Just be mindful of who you’re targeting and what your potential customer’s mindset may be at the awareness stage of the funnel.

Remember, it all comes back to the great Circle of Life (ummm… I mean Circle of Advertising) ?

Simba, Timon and Pumbaa singing Hakuna Matata
Hakuna Matata ?

What effect has your display advertising had on your search results? Hit me up and let me know what’s working for you!

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