Thursday, November 13, 2008

Does Search Get Too Much Credit?

The Atlas Engagement Mapping concept has gotten a lot of play with it's headline-grabbing sound byte that search gets too much credit because it is usually the last ad clicked prior to conversion. The notion is that proper attribution needs to be given to each of the consumer touchpoints (eg. online display ads) prior to that last clicked ad. Offline marketing also plays a role (as does word of mouth, etc.) in influencing conversions but today those platforms can't be tracked holstically since they are not delivered digitally.

I will not dispute the fact that search often-times gets too much credit for driving sales. Online display ads definitely play a role in driving consumers down the purchase funnel and often stimulate search activity. That said, there are times when search does not get enough credit. Today, search ads cannot be 3rd party ad served. This means that search does not get credit for any conversions that occur after someone has been exposed to a search ad and converts via another channel. Meanwhile, online display ads routinely get attribution for post-view conversions.

The bottom line is that maketers and agencies need to understand the impact of all media placements on driving consumer response. While Engagement Mapping is a good step in that direction, until search ads (and offline ads, for that matter) are delivered the same way online display ads are, we'll never have a completely accurate picture of the influence of each channel and, therefore, never be able to allocate budget appropriately.

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