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5 Important Points About Real-Time Bidding

Ben Plomion
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timing-is-everythingSearch marketers know plenty about campaigns that revolve around bidding, but that doesn't always mean they know the ins and outs of real-time bidding (RTB).

RTB extends the bidding process that makes SEM so efficient to the display world. In short, it allows marketers to target users by buying display banners available in ad exchanges in real time.

Here are five critical points that every marketer should know about the RTB phenomenon.

1 RTB Has Arrived – In a Big Way

RTB will be the fastest growing digital advertising segment through 2016, according to market intelligence firm IDC. It projects that spending on real-time bidded display will see a 59 percent compound annual growth rate during this period, which would bring spending via RTB to $13.9 billion. And even this estimate might be conservative.

After all, RTB is now rapidly expanding into mobile and video. It’s only a matter of time before advertisers begin bidding for display ads on TV screens and billboards.

2. Google is Just the Beginning

Recognizing the power of bidding in real-time for keywords, Google smartly made a major push into display in 2007 with the purchase of DoubleClick.

But if Google is now one of the dominant players, it’s hardly got a monopoly. Retargeting vendors often place their bids across more than a dozen ad exchanges, including Rubicon, Pubmatic, AppNexus, and Facebook’s FBX

3. Creative Still Matters

Data is at the heart of RTB. To target the right user and make the right bid, vendors need to amass mountains of (anonymous) data about what users are doing online.

If you’re making the transition from search to display, you can’t afford to forget creative. After all, there’s no point targeting an individual if you aren't serving an effective ad.

Don’t let yourself get locked into a creative you can’t easily change. Dynamic ad units make it possible adjust your creative on the fly. Just be sure to start with a number of different units and to test and retest to figure out which ones are driving the most conversions.

4. It’s All About the Individual

Nothing’s stopping you from using RTB to target specific sites, but it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. As with search marketing, the power of RTB is derived from the ability to target each individual based on intent signals. In SEM, those signal come through loud and clear via the keywords users type into search engines, but RTB revolves around powerful signals of intent as well.

In fact, if you’re using a RTB technique known as search retargeting, you can target users with display ads based on the keywords they typed into Google and other search engines – think of it as SEM meets display.

Other ways consumers reveal their intent, and can thus be targeted, include visiting an advertisers site (site retargeting) and sharing on a social graph. Even offline transactional data can now be onboarded into online retargeting campaigns, a practice that Facebook is now using to drive more clicks.

5. The Quality Problem has Been Solved

In the early days of RTB, advertisers expressed some legitimate concerns about the sites on which their ads appeared. But, thanks to better and better content analysis technology, low-quality sites are no longer a problem.

Top RTB vendors will generally partner with brand safety systems that make sure your ad never appears next to content that can damage your brand. And it’s not as though great RTB inventory is hard to come by these days.

Just about every major publisher now sells ads via RTB – which may be the most important point of all for search marketers to know.


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