The boundaries between search, social and display media are diminishing. This means advertisers, agencies and marketers face a new kind of challenge.

The search world is changing into a new type of ecosystem, one where all forms of digital media can be purchased, tracked, and have ROI attributed via a single platform. It’s only a matter of time before search and other forms of digital marketing can no longer be viewed in silos. In fact, it’s happening as you read.

Clients' increased interest in Facebook and renewed interest in display are great examples of this evolution. EMarketer predicts that $1.28bn will be spent by advertisers this year on Facebook. According to estimates from Borrell Associates, display will grow almost 60% in 2011, reaching $10.9bn. This presents an opportunity for social, search, and display markets to grow and learn from each other.

Two of many buzz words you will read about in coming months are real-time search and real-time bidding. Real-time search is just one indicator that points to the convergence of search and social media.

Renewed interest in display and the rise of Demand Side Platforms is fuelled by real-time bidding (RTB) - This means that search centric methodologies can be applied in a display environment. In order for marketers to keep pace it’s time to get real and adapt to two significant paths of convergence. 

Real-time search, just one indication of the convergence of search and social media

Last week saw the launch of Google real-time search. Twitter-inspired "real-time" search results now how have their own Google webpage. Following on from Bing's launch of ‘Bing Social’, Google has provided a dedicated portal for those seeking information, mainly relating to Tweets.

Google’s real-time search lets you sort results according to location of tweets. It also has a "conversation" view designed for following ongoing discussions on the web. For ‘fans’ on Google alerts a new real-time search option is available in a drop-down menu. This allows users to get an email update related to real-time search results.

Traditional search, SEO and PPC, now has a new partner in the form of social media. However, both disciplines cannot live long in silos. They support tactical brand positioning, engagement, and research. For example, the emergence of Social Media Optimization (SMO) is a combination of SEO and social media strategies.

Real-time search is still very much under development and so the new Google page, when it works, has received criticism based on its similarity to Bing, being Twitter centric. Many believe it to be no more than an enhanced reputation monitoring tool at the moment.

Real-time search platforms and homepages may need some further work, however it does signify a move towards search and social media convergence.

Real-time search is already having an impact on SEO as fresh/real-time content leapfrogs relevance, especially for news related searches. SEO companies now have to ensure they optimize for fresh content and not just relevance.

In addition, social media-exposed consumers are also far more likely to search for brand and product-related terms, and click on a brand’s paid search ad. Real-time search enables brands to ride waves of interest and use this ‘social media’ intelligence to plan follow up campaigns.

It’s important to remember that Google's search system (forget the real-time search page for a second) has been around a like time. It is based on popularity measured by links, mentions, recommendations and interactions – sounds pretty social already right?

Search is intent-driven and social media aids distribution, content also finds you. For some marketers the two are separate, but they cannot live in silos forever. Social will have a search feel and search will get more social.

SEO insight and social media campaign management used together allows presents marketers, advertisers, and PRs (PR and social media) a vast array of opportunities. Social media content can be optimised to enhance marketing efforts and engagement. Distribution of content through social media platforms increases direct and indirect links to site.

In addition, if an issues breaks on social networks on a certain topic then paid search is the quickest way to get in front of people and address issues as and when/even before they arise. BP being a good example of this even though it was a little late.

Google was 12 yesterday - Happy Birthday Google!!

Today, they have a large search event, surrounded in mystery, but with some subtle hints projected via the interactive logos on the homepage this week.

I think there will be more than just one announcement. Relevant to this article - I think it will introduce streaming results as you type to provide faster and more interactive results.

Other topics may include updates to the user interface and AJAX powered search results (but that's a whole, and very big, other article!)  

Real-time bidding, the convergence of search and display

Search marketing has always been at the core of digital. Much research and comment about its relationship with display has been well published over recent years, many of this is old news.

What is new though are the advances in technology that allow simplified campaign management and allow the benefits of display to be more closely aligned to those used in  search. This has presented new ways of managing display and providing clear metrics, and predictable results. Did I mention that social media, regardless if you view it as separate or part of search, has a role to play in this via Facebook?

Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) allow improved performance and ROI for an online display campaign by creating a single system that connects to multiple ad exchanges and other media suppliers. Advances in technology allow people to aggregate and bid on inventory of multiple publishers and ad networks. This happens in real-time, on a per impression basis. This is called real-time bidding.

Traditional display has always focused on delivering the right message to the right customer. However, real-time bidding (RTB) now allows advertisers to target display audiences directly. It allows bidding (much like search auction markets) on impressions based on key factors such as demographics and behavioural profiles. The result is that the advertiser can target customers with the right message, to the right customer, at the right cost, and at the right time.

The ‘silver bullet’ that real-time bidding (RTB) provides is that, when used in conjunction with remarketing data, it enables real insight into behaviour. This allows the retargeting of users across a multitude of platforms.

Maybe we should add another point of convergence here that sits between search and display, remarketing and retargeting ?

Advertisers have better transparency, efficiency, and accountability and greater control over targeting and managing their online media campaigns. The efficiency can be very similar to a search campaign and natural synergies are highlighted by many a search professional.

Display can learn a lot from search and much debate has arisen as to when, how, and if true convergence will occur. It’s easy to see search influences on display. However, there is a high level of complexity in bidding across multiple ad exchanges and gaining knowledge of individual publishers, not to mention learning and enhancing creative skills, could cause problems for the search marketer who wants to run display. A DSP combined with paid search management technology will help solve this right?. Time will tell.

What we do know is that display combined with search management platforms presents opportunities for centralised digital platform developments.


Real-time search (as an indication of search and social media convergence) and real-time bidding (RTB) through DSPs are creating a new digital marketing ecosystem and a movement away from siloed search, social and display.

Real-time search is just one indication on the inevitable convergence of search and social media. Real-time bidding and demand side platforms (DSPs) allow search and display to work more closely together. Facebook integration into DSPs further shows how social merges with search and display. Marketers can now bid on paid and performance display media via one platform, per impression and in real time.

This heralds the dawn of digital optimisation. Some may say there are significant shifts in the market, others say three as social (i.e. Facebook) connects with search and display.

Either way, if you are not looking into this, then you need to 'get real'...


Published 8 September, 2010 by Andy Betts

Andy Betts is a digital marketing strategist working with agencies and direct advertisers. He blogs here, and can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn

16 more posts from this author

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Comments (3)


Volker Ballueder

Hi Andy,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Agree with most points mentioned.

Coming from a strong search background myself, I totally understand your concerns, ideas and thoughts regarding the use of RTB for display, the use of DSPs and of course the similarity of PPC to “bidding across multiple ad exchanges”.

Similar to 2001 in search marketing, it is in my opinion far too early to put a black box (namely a DSP) in front of a market place (namely multiple ad exchanges) that is in its infancy. The technology is still changing on a weekly basis, so developing and relying on a technology without human addition can be a very dangerous undertaking.

What display of course can learn from search is the “no pre-committed budgets”, e.g. turning campaigns on and off as you like. Also the auction based, real time, CPM bid strategies in the exchanges. And, last but not least, we can learn about measuring KPIs, e.g. user engagement (view time (TM)), CPA etc. .

However, search cannot ignore the importance of the knowledge of each individual publisher market in each individual country for display. Just compare the US market to the UK, the UK to any market in Europe. That is a fundamental, “human learned” knowledge. IASH compliancy plays a role and brand safety which cannot be replaced by technology (yet).

Whilst advertisers have a better transparency, efficiency, and accountability, the control over some of those issues shouldn’t solely be left to a “black box” but one should rely on expertise. Hence, again very similar to search, DEMs (a new acronym for Display Engine Marketing Agencies) are entering the space (or have done so since 2008) who offer a full service, full price transparency, and do all the work for the advertiser – at the same price (or actually cheaper as you won’t need a person working on a DSP on a daily basis).

Depending on the DEM there are various models of working very closely with agencies/advertisers, giving back some of the control. What most DSPs lack is the knowledge and experience only a few DEMs can offer! So to really make display similar to search, and what display can learn from search and vice versa, the advertiser/agency should consult a specialist rather than relying on black box technology.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


almost 8 years ago


Andy Betts, Managing Consultant, Business and Digital Strategist at Bett-zi

Thanks for the detailed response Volker.

Your talking about using DSP technonolgy with an human element right?

At the end of the day, the market moves how the market moves. You either fight against it or adapt and flow with the movement. If that means 'Digital Optimisation Services' (the human element) is added then, of course, your right.

You mentioned similarities to search in 2001 - I dont think companies then, and now, EVER rely soley on pure black box technonolgies. PPC Director, Account Managers, Bid Managers and so forth?? - People and Technology has long been the search slogan and that won't change with the convergence of search and display.


almost 8 years ago

Chris Hyland

Chris Hyland, CCO at 4Ps Marketing

Good post Andy... it is certainly all about integration if you want to achieve maximum results!

over 7 years ago

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