Posted September 10, 2012 7:00 am by with 0 comments

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Before joining PPC Associates in February, I spent the previous few years at Progressive Insurance. Opportunity for exposure to various digital marketing channels was abundant. The display team sat next to the search team, but we didn’t have much knowledge of the other’s day-to-day activities. However, both teams had, at the very least, a functional understanding of the other’s channel. So when I left Progressive, I left an existing cross-channel marketing team.

PPC Associates, on the other hand, brought me on board as the company’s first-time display guru. So for the first time I’m bringing the knowledge and experience to a new team. I still have lots of knowledge-sharing to accomplish, but I’ve loved all the discussions about display advertising. Getting to write display advertising posts on historically search-focused sites has been an added bonus.

A lot of SEMs I have met in the past don’t have a lot of knowledge about display advertising. For my first post on Marketing Pilgrim, I thought it would be a good idea to share a display advertiser’s perspective on search marketing.


Man, you guys love clicks – and rightfully so. There isn’t much more that can be interpreted in the intent-heavy world of search. It’s about capturing hand-raisers at the right time. Someone is searching for cheap auto insurance? Pretty good bet that they’ll click somewhere on the SERP. What’s the CTR? The CPC? These are things that we consider in the display world, but they’re usually not the main focus.


Bring up this topic at an SEM happy hour and prepare for deep philosophical discussions. In most digital channels, people either believe in the post-view conversion or they don’t; I haven’t seen a lot of middle ground. But as the digital marketing world moves towards a cross-channel universe, the post-view discussion needs to be had. You can’t ignore it. We all need to come to an understanding about the topic. After all, people never could (until recently) click on their TV or radio. Post-impression conversions happen in the offline world.


With the right processes and practices in place, SEMs can create truly high-performing campaigns. Like, I mean, awesome. Since conversion lag time doesn’t have as much of an impact in the search world (compared to display with post-view look-back windows), CPAs can be pretty cut and dried. I am constantly amazed by the work my SEM colleagues do on a daily basis. The display world can end up being complex and fragmented, so it’s nice to see search campaigns in action – and to digest the metrics from good work.


The search marketing community is large, well established, and authoritative. I’d be hard-pressed to name more than a handful of other communities that are full of people who genuinely want to disseminate knowledge and help others succeed. Display doesn’t seem to have that same community yet (display blogs are typically just subsections of marketing sites). The community for SEMs has helped build up the channel to what it is today, IMO (that and Google’s algorithms).


I still have so much to learn about search. As our company grows into cross-channel digital marketing management, it will be important for me to participate in the search community. And I hope to help disseminate display knowledge at the same time. I always enjoy a good discussion.

About the Author

Sean Nowlin is Sr. Display Media Manager at PPC Associates, a digital marketing firm based in the Bay Area and downtown Chicago. He has worked in the sales and marketing industry since 2000. Before joining PPC Associates, he spent three years running display campaigns for Progressive Insurance. Sean’s display expertise consists of managing premium publisher relationships, ad networks, Demand Side Platforms, ad verification, and Online Behavioral Advertising compliance. Sean is a Cleveland native and a die-hard Cleveland sports fan.