PPC: Search vs Display

Search and display: both forms offer their own benefits, and depending on your goals, you may find that one over the other is better suited to your needs, or you may need a combination of the two to accomplish your advertising goals.

The best way to utilise these two forms of digital advertising is to know how to best use them to your advantage. In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of both search and display ads and how they can be used together to enhance your digital marketing strategy.



You are probably more familiar with search engine marketing (SEM). These are the ads that pop up in Google search results, usually either along the side or within the first few search result entries.

When most people see your search ads, they’re at the consideration part of the buying process. They already know what product or service they’re searching for, and now they’re mostly comparing options and looking for additional suggestions. With the right message, you can encourage searchers to click to your website and check out what you have to offer.

This type of PPC can also be enhanced and expanded to other smaller search engines. Google has set up search partnerships with companies like AOL so marketers could ensure that they hit multiple points on the market.

SEM is great for giving your website listing a boost in search results. Though you could rely on your organic reach, paying to get to the top might be more effective. You can also use this form of digital ads for:

  • Working with tighter budgets. Search ads can work out cheaper – perfect for businesses just starting to really market themselves.
  • As-needed/highly competitive companies. For example, users don’t have time to mess around with search listings when you’re looking for a plumber. If you have a business like this, then SEM might be your best friend.

If you like keyword hunting and enjoy making educated guesses about where or what your audience might be searching for, then search ads are a great addition to your Adwords strategy.


Display ads

If search ads are on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), then display network ads are everywhere else. Google has partnerships with millions of different websites (2 million sites to be exact that reach over 90 percent of internet users, says Google) that allow Google to broadcast a variety of display and banner ads across their websites, which include YouTube, well-known news sites and a plethora of blogs and other recreational sites.

Display ads are best used for promoting brand awareness. Unlike search ads, display ads are shown to consumers who are usually at the awareness buying stage. They may not be actively shopping for a single product or service, but seeing your ads will better your chances of being discovered among your preferred audience.

The more difficult aspect of display ads is getting users to click on your ads. When they see your ad, they’re likely to be reading the daily news or catching up on their favourite blogs. Your ad content needs to be compelling enough to stop users from whatever they were previously doing and click over to your site. This is no easy task to accomplish, but there is plenty of ad space to be found.

Those who benefit the most from display ads have products or services that are:

  • In need of brand awareness. If you’re launching a new company, then display ads are great for getting people familiar with your brand and logo.
  • Waded down by a long sales process. Big ticket items, such as TVs or furniture, are not made on a whim. Their sales processes are usually a bit longer. Display ads can be used to remarket to website visitors who browsed through your website and then clicked away. Showing them ads for the products or services they previously looked at will keep your company fresh in their minds.
  • Eye-grabbing. Luxury cars and other items do well in display ads because they allow for an image or two. In those instances, the product tends to sell itself.
  • Already invested in a video strategy. Display ads can also play videos. If you’ve already started on a create video campaign, you can further use it on the Google display network. Don’t forget to consider YouTube advertising!

Visual products and services do the best for display ads, so use this knowledge to appeal to your audience’s visual preferences.

How to use them both

Search and display ads shouldn’t be against each other. The savvy digital marketer can work with both types of ads and use them to the company’s overall advantage.

As previously mentioned, display ads work best to promote brand awareness, and search ads target active shoppers much more directly. The good news is that both ad types are fairly inexpensive, and if you budget wisely, you can make yourself more aware to new customers and target those who are ready to buy now.

To make the most out of your campaigns, you’ll need to divide them into two separate campaigns that are network specific. This way, the data won’t be skewed. Remember, display ads tend to have a lower click-through rate in the GDN than SEM ads, so you want to keep them separate to avoid misreading your search ads.

Display ads are best shown to customers who are still researching the product or service you provide. The goal of the ad should be to make consumers more aware that your company exists by showing off your product through images or even video. Ad search ads to the mix to target those further down the buying process.

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