Display Me The Money: Measuring the Value of a Strong Display Presence

Attribution and giving credit where credit is due

It is still the case for much of Digital Marketing that 100% of the credit goes to the last-clicked channel. 

This can be a stumbling block at times for teams investing in and trying to prove the value of, not only a strong digital display initiative, but traditional display as well.

This is because spending is easily measured and attributable to specific efforts, while the value returned from that money spent is often more diffused. In no other channel is this more the case than in Display.

'Display me the money!'

It makes complete sense when advertisers boosts their display budget that they expect to see an on-platform result beyond more impressions and clicks.

If you're this advertiser and you give a darn about revenue and justifying your ad spend then naturally you'll want to see attributable, on-platform revenue grow in step with your burgeoning budget.

While on-platform conversion activity, positive revenue growth and ROAS are not an impossibility, these metrics should actually be considered secondary to the positive impact your display initiatives are having on three other channels: DirectOrganic Search and Paid Search.

Now is a good time to stop and think about why we run display ads in the first place. It can sound a bit counterintuitive at first, but the reason should not be to get display conversions.

Granted in some verticals, with some products and depending on the budget levels you can, of course, achieve a steady stream on-platform conversion activity, but if you stopped there you'd still only be measuring small chunk of the value. This approach could lead your team to inadvertently undervalue display and make it more difficult to communicate value to key stakeholders.

This is especially true for display campaigns with tighter budgets, or campaigns with newer brands trying to expand their name recognition. They might try it once, not see the flood of conversion activity directly attributable to ad clicks they'd hoped for and declare the effort and spend a bust.


Why do we run display ads in the first place? It can sound a bit counterintuitive at first, but the reason should not be to get display conversions.


Display's primary purpose

The primary purpose of a prospecting display campaign is to raise the awareness and visibility of your brand within the communities you serve.

Generating awareness through prospecting display is a super important activity, but it is a top-of-the-funnel activity, thus one that seldom gets the easy accolades of last touch initiates of Paid & Organic Search, Social Media or Email.

When we're prospecting we're doing just that - reaching out to prospective customers within your market who may have never heard of your brand in hopes that, now that they have, they'll take action in the future, and that future action is very often taken through a different channel.

Display's secondary purpose is to keep your brand top of mind within your market via remarketing. And it is remarketing that typically generates most on-platform display conversions.

Remarketing display is more likely to obtain attributable conversions because we're now reaching out to users who've already expressed interest. These users are further down the funnel towards taking action.

A good display or video campaign builds awareness and affinity. Only after that comes on-platform conversion and revenue growth.

Even then, attributable conversions and on-platform revenue are both just the frosting compared to the value of elevating your brand, filling the top of your funnel (generating demand), and contributing to the health of your other channels.


…attributable conversions and on-platform revenue are both just the frosting compared to the value of elevating your brand…


6 Metrics We Can Use To Point To 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?

2) Display Impression Share (DIS)

Your campaign may be getting more Viewable Impressions than say a previous campaign, but what percentage of your eligible audience based on your budget and targeting settings (location, ad schedule, interest, keywords, etc.) are your ads being served to? This is what the Display Impression Share aims to tell us.

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

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

An underfunded display campaign can still yield positive results, especially compared to running nothing at all, 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

You can find this info in Google Analytic's Behavior Reports for product- or service-specific content. The 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.

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.

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.

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 it was at before the 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 using a search engine and then click on a result or text ad (Organic & Paid Search).

5) Branded Search Demand

The influence of display on branded search can be a bit more unpredictable. In general, a display campaign that's strong on brand should help generate more new search inquiries that include your brand. Look for evidence of branded search growth in your Google Analytics Organic Search > Keywords Report and filter using your brand as a term. Google Analytics redacts much of the keyword data, so look to your Google Search Console as well.

6) Targeted Conversion Activity & Revenue

On-Platform and Off. Finally, use targeted conversion activity and revenue to see what impact a display campaign is having both on-platform and in the peripheral channels that display so often assists.

Taking a broader-picture view of all the available data throughout a person's journey through your campaign and available resources should help identify the best-performing links in the chain, as well as highlight issues. From there, you'll be prepared to defend (or modify) your budget and each element of the campaign.

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