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Use SEM Strategy to Tune Up Programmatic Display

Published: October 31, 2014

Author: Kristin Kopp

I began my foray into online digital marketing by diving into the world of SEM.  Working in search engine marketing, I quickly learned the ins and outs of Excel as well as various tasks used to keep your account efficiently driving new business.
A year and a half ago, I made a turn in my career path to explore the world of display.  It was posed to me as the “Wild West” of online marketing.  And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to explore the Wild West at least once in their lives?  Little did I know that everything I had learned from search engine marketing would become so valuable in this new world.
Here are five of the production tasks that I learned from SEM that help me hone in on great performance in the world of programmatic display:

Placement Review

Whether you are running a contextual, prospecting, retargeting or any other strategy through programmatic buying, it is always important to know where the inventory is actually coming from.  It is doubly important to understand it if all of the inventory that you are running on is converting and getting you to your goals.
Once every two weeks or once a month, I take a look at a site transparency report in our DSP (MediaMath).  The report allows me to see impressions at a domain level along with crucial metrics like clicks, cost, and conversions.  Using this report, I can decide if I need to add a poor-performing site to a blacklist or if it makes to isolate a few of the best-performing sites to a whitelist.

Ad Testing

I believe all marketing benefits from ad testing, so it is of no surprise that this is an important task in display as well.  Pull creative reports on a regular basis to understand how each is performing.  Get rid of poor performers and continue to test iterations of the best performers.

Bid Adjustments

SEM bidding is all about the bidding on keywords and ad groups.  Display is about bidding on the audience or contextual target, but the same principles can apply.  Take a look at your bids on a weekly basis and compare with the effective CPM that you are paying.  If your eCPM is higher than what you are bidding, then you are missing out on potentially good impressions.  If your eCPM is lower, you may have an opportunity to decrease your bid to bring about a lower CPA.  Most importantly, do not change bids too often.  Allow at least a week between changes so you can isolate the effects that your bid change had on your delivery.


Just as in search, your display campaigns and strategies may perform best at certain times of the day and or days of the week.  When working with B2B clients, especially, you may find that running on weekdays only gets you the best efficiency.

Geo Review

Depending on the client and/or end user, taking a look at best- and worst-performing geos can’t hurt your display campaigns and strategies.  A good strategy could be to break out your best-performing geos into their own strategy and bid a bit higher on these or remove poor-performing geos.
I hope that you too can use these tasks and tips to lasso a bit of the Wild West programmatic display world and create efficient campaigns. What other tactics work for you?

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