When you think of keyword research or keyword optimizations, your mind automatically thinks about Paid Search. An underutilized way to use keywords is also to include keywords in your Display campaigns. This is called Display Select Keywords and they are an efficient way to expand targeting options on the Google Display Network (GDN) based on search intent and likely hood to convert.

What is Display Select?

“Display Select” keywords (formally known as Search Companion Marketing) allows advertisers to show text and image ads on the Google Display Network to users based on their search intent during their search session. Google matches the keywords in your Display campaign to highly relevant pages that have been earmarked as high intent to convert based on page visitor analysis and Google’s algorithm.

So long story short, Display Select Keywords help increase relevancy for the user and conversion rate for the advertiser by showing ads to users that are more likely to convert because they are currently searching for related items on both search and display networks. Because of the high relevancy of search intent, Display Select Keywords are likely to see lower impression volume but more likely to convert based on Google’s predictive conversion algorithm. Display Select Keywords offer a higher level of control compared to broader targeting options.

How To Set Up Display Select Keywords?

Implementing Display Select Keywords is a breeze. This exists in the display campaign and you go to the targeting options and select keywords you want to add. For testing purposes, you can create a new Display campaign and only target with Display Select Keywords. After the test, you can implement these keywords in another Display campaign if you want to layer on target audiences with Display Select Keywords to narrow the size of your target users.

Adwords Display Campaign

While selecting keywords, go through your Paid Search campaigns and include the top performing keywords to test in your Display campaign. There are other options as well built into the campaign by including your website to pull keyword like in the Keyword Planner or to include the product for Adwords to suggest keywords for you to test. When adding keywords, there are no match types to worry about, just paste and save and start to collect data for your test.

How Do I Determine Successful Performance?

The question of the hour… do they work? Short answer, so far so good! While performance will vary for each account and vertical, in our small sampling below the results are positive.

Display Vs Search Companion Marketing performance analysis

For our analysis we used an ecommerce account with tightly themed generic terms in the Display Select Keyword (a.k.a. Search Companion Marketing) campaign. These terms typically have high competition (and CpCs) in the Search network but convert well. We compared the Display Select Keyword campaign to a contextual keyword Display campaign set up similarly. While the contextual Display campaign yielded more conversions, the Display Select Keyword campaign had 11% lower CPA, 94% higher CTR and 41% lower CPCs.


As with all PPC accounts it’s important to always be testing and looking for new ways to bring incremental conversions. Display Select Keywords are another way to do just that. This is another angle to target users and narrow down your potential audience size to make your display ads relevant and get in front of your attended audiences. If this technique works, layer on Display  Select Keywords with audience target to further optimize all of your Display Campaigns.

Post originally published in August 2014 and updated by Diane Chelius.