For many brands, search advertising is already one of the most productive marketing channels.

However testing conducted by Yahoo and Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS) found that advertisers using paid search may be benefiting even when consumers don’t click on their ads.

As reported by AdAge, consumers who saw ads for Greek yogurt brand Chobani when searching for yogurt-related terms spent 9% more on Chobani than consumers who didn’t see the company’s ads.

AdAge’s Jessica Wohl explained that the test, which occurred in 2015:

…could essentially match households from their use of the Yahoo search engine through to actual grocery store checkouts, going well beyond just tracking if someone clicked on an ad.

According to Yahoo and NCS, the test methodology allowed for the search ad sales lift to be accurately tracked without interference from other factors, such as external marketing campaigns Chobani was running at the time.

Perhaps most interestingly, Chobani found that purchases increased the more consumers were exposed to its search ads, and ”once the campaign ended there was a dropoff.”

This suggests that, not surprisingly, a sustained search marketing campaign might be necessary to realize continued sales lift.

Advances in attribution

Attribution has been a hot topic for several years. For many brands, establishing a connection between online ads and offline activity is a real challenge.

There are a number of techniques that are commonly used, but many companies aren’t joining up digital and offline touchpoints.  

For CPG brands like Chobani, attribution is especially difficult, but the testing conducted by Yahoo and NCS demonstrates that it can be done.

The pair say that they have performed eight to 10 similar tests and while they aren’t able to reveal the details of those tests at the current time, the results are similarly impressive.

According to Francine Faiella, the senior director of client consulting for NCS:

Now that we’ve got a handful of measurements under our belt, we’re starting to see some trends, and it’s becoming clear that search advertising can be very effective.

The connection to viewability

Of course, the idea that exposure to search ads could benefit brands even when consumers don’t click on them probably won’t surprise marketers, many of whom for some time have recognized the importance of view-through conversions in the display ad market.

But as these effects are better quantified, it could influence how and where marketers spend money.

While there is debate around the importance of viewability as a KPI, it’s clear that ads will have limited impact if they can’t be properly seen.

And if search ads, which are less susceptible to viewability concerns than their display cousins, become established as potent drivers of view-through conversions, it could make search marketing strategy even more important to brands.