7 Display Advertising KPIs For Measuring Display Campaign Success

Published December 17, 2019

UPDATED: December 10th, 2021

Knowing in which direction to look

As we covered in a previous post, the true value of display advertising is its ability to put wind in the sails of your most important digital marketing channels: Organic & Paid Search, Direct and even Referral.

But how do we measure that wind?

In this post we'll point you in the direction of seven display advertising KPIs you can use to measure discernible lift to your brand and/or featured products when on-platform conversion activity might not provide the clearest picture of performance.

Knowing where to look when measuring display campaigns can help your team defend its advertising budgets and properly gauge increases or declines in brand and product awareness.

7 display ad metrics for measuring display success

1) Viewable Impressions

This is a simple way to see if your spend is reaching more eligible eyeballs. An ad is considered "viewable" when 50% of the ad shows on screen for one second or longer for static or HTML5 display ads and two seconds or longer for video ads. ​

We prefer to report viewable impressions to our clients whenever possible because…who cares about an ad no one sees? Unless, of course it's an audio ad.

2) Display Impression Share (DIS)

Your campaign may be posting an increase in Viewable Impressions compared to a previous campaign, but what percentage of your entire eligible audience is seeing your ads?

This is what the Display Impression Share (DIS) aims to tell us. Based on your budget and targeting settings (location, ad schedule, interest, keywords, etc.) this KPI tells us what percentage of eligible eyeballs are actually being served your messaging.

You could be getting millions of viewable impressions, but still only reaching a tiny portion of your eligible audience.

In a mature, well-oiled campaign the main obstacle to growing impression share and winning more customers is most often a restrictive budget.

Rising Above the 10% DIS Threshold

An underfunded display campaign can still yield positive results, especially compared to a complete lack of ad presence, but a good goal is to balance your targeting and budget in such a way that you can get over what we call the 10% DIS Threshold.

You can see positive results under 10%, but the needle really starts to move in the right direction the further you get above 10%.

Note also that 100% is not a realistic goal either for Display Impression Share for a prospecting campaign. That would require either an absurdly huge budget or a thimble-sized audience.

How these adjustments typically work themselves out is optimizing the targeting up or down to fit the real-world budget that's available.

3) Product-Relevant Onsite Interest

Screenshot from Google Analytics showing how to measure Product-Relevant Onsite Interest.
You can find this info in Google Analytic's Behavior Reports for product- or service-specific content. Notice how the blue line shows both an upheaval during and a higher plateau after a campaign ends

The real question we're trying to answer here is: Was there a discernible lift in Pageviews or New Users landing on site content that's relevant to your campaign's objectives?

It's best to exclude the campaign's landing page when looking at the data, because of course the LP will see an increase in traffic compared to having never ran before.

So…say your goal was to grow brand awareness and membership. Filter for the pages on site that pertain to membership, but aren't a campaign LP.

Compare when your display campaign was active to the previous period when to it wasn't.

If you're patient and enough time has passed, you can also compare the period of activity to what happened after you campaign ended as well for a more wholistic perspective.

This is a great way to measure the efficacy of a display campaign even if there's no conversion tracking set up for the target goal, which unfortunately is the case from time to time.

Positive Upheaval

A successful campaign should show a positive upheaval in engagement with relevant content during the time it ran.

Another benefit you may see when looking at the before, during and after data is that, while interest will most certainly fall off after a campaign ends, it typically settles at a higher plateau than before the campaign.

Portion of an Edge End-of-Campaign (EOC) report illustrating the rise of both traffic and targeted conversion activity for a home equity campaign.
Portion of an Edge End-of-Campaign (EOC) report illustrating the rise of both traffic and targeted conversion activity for a home equity campaign.

4) Direct, Organic and Paid Search Channel Health

Display assists these three channels most by creating more awareness in users. Later, they go straight to your website (Direct) or perform a branded search and then click on a result or text ad (Organic & Paid Search).

Of course, the benefits of elevated brand awareness don't have to stop with these these channels, but can also extend to your Social Channel as well.

There isn't always a 1:1 correlation between running display and seeing the channels mentioned above flourish side by side. This is why it's important to look at what content, pages and/or conversions excelled during the time your display campaign was active.

But if brand demand is what we're really building then we'll want to be sure to check…

5) Branded Search Demand

The influence of display on branded search can be a bit more mercurial but, in general, a display campaign that's strong on brand should help generate more new searches for your brand.

These new searchers will then typically enter your site through either an Organic result or Paid Search ad if you're running any Branded Search campaigns through Google Ads or Bing…and we suggest you do.

Paid Branded Search campaigns are an economical way to:

  • Expand your real estate in the SERPs with blinged-out ads
  • Amass more usable targeting data
  • Get more conversions at a lower cost
  • Gauge increases in demand for your brand name over time

When you first get started, you may only be able to spend $30/day in order to purchase the majority of your branded impression share but, fueled by increased awareness from a strong display, video or audio campaign, you'll notice over time that there are more customers to pursue.

Look also to your Search Console, specifically for evidence of Organic branded search growth. Have branded search impressions and clicks seen an increase during the campaign run dates?

6) Targeted Conversion Activity & Revenue: On-Platform and Off

Definitely examine your targeted conversion activity and revenue metrics to see what impact your display campaign is having both on-platform and in the periphery channels mentioned in #4 above that display so often assists.

Bullet Chart illustrating Target Goal Pacing for the current year and versus the previous year.
Bullet Chart illustrating target goal pacing for the current year and versus the previous year. Did your display campaign put wind in your sails and help move you towards your targeted goals?

7) Actual Conversion Data

What do we mean when we say, "Actual Conversions"?

Well, there's what an agency can measure in Google Analytics and on-platform, which is often limited by sampling and ad blockers, and then there's what actually happens from the client's perspective.

By incorporating client-supplied conversion actuals into our Digital Marketing Data Warehouses we can see more of what the client sees.

As this important data builds over time, we can know for certain if the client's goals were met and compare campaign performance to historical efforts from previous campaigns.

(Side note: If you're competing in a retail space, you'll need to line up display campaign activity with actual sales figures, specifically for the products and/or locations you're highlighting in your ads.)

Beyond tallying conversion actuals, we can also compare actuals to what we were able to track in Analytics and set baselines for tracking coverage.

We can also improve metrics like Success Rate that help estimate more accurate marketing values for client goals.

For us, creating an Actuals Feedback Loop was the missing piece that helped build trust and a common language for a campaign's success.

More than impressions and clicks

When your team launches its next display campaign you're pursuing much more than just impressions and clicks - you're building brand, fortifying other online channels and generating revenue.

To measure the the true value of you efforts you'll need analysis and reporting that goes beyond a myopic, single-platform view - one that examines the holistic value a display campaign can bring to your objectives as an organization.

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