What is the difference between display ads and search ads?

What is the difference between display ads and search ads

During a marketing, advertising or branding campaign, the time will come when the agency or campaign manager will have to decide whether to use search ads or display ads.

Along with the right SEO campaign and link building strategy, these types of advertising are essential for a brand to reach the right people at the right time.

Both search ads and display ads (especially within the Google Adwords universe) offer advantages and disadvantages, and it’s imperative to know them very well in order to make the best decision and grow the brand. Let us explore these concepts! 

What is a search ad? 

Search ads appear to users when they search for something on Google. These ads appear on top or below search engine results; given that the brand, service or ad in question matches the keywords searched.

For example, if you google something like “Bookstores in Toronto”, you will get three different paid ads before you actually get to the organic search results. These ads are called search ads.

Search ads are one of the most popular forms of pay-per-click advertisement. 

What is a display ad? 

Display ads are paid ads that appear to the user based on a wide range of different parameters. They are not limited to the user’s search keywords or search results. They can appear anywhere in Google’s extensive network (subject to the target parameters) including websites, social media, email inboxes, etc.

Key differences between search ads and display ads:

  • In a nutshell: Search ads are “pull” advertising (meant to bring potential customers to the product or brand) while display ads are “push” advertising (meant to bring the brand or product to customers).
  • Search ads appear on Google’s search results page (SERP). Display ads can appear everywhere in the Google Display Network from a blog to your personal e-mail.
  • Search ads have a significantly higher conversion rate. This is search ads’ main advantage: the campaign appears only to those people who are already looking for something similar.
  • On the other hand, display ads are cheaper to place than search ads.
  • Search ads are displayed as text with a headline, a URL and a description. Display ads can take a variety of forms like banners, images or videos.

Which one is best for the brand?

It really depends on what the brand needs at a specific point in time. For example, search ads are better for increasing the brand’s website traffic (along with the right SEO strategy), improving the quality of leads, or when the product or service is meant for a very “local” audience.

Also, if your budget is limited, it is probably better to go with search ads, at least at the start of the campaign. Search ads will yield more tangible results with a smaller investment.

Display ads are recommended for branding and during the brand awareness stages. They are great for reaching niche markets with a smaller budget. They are also better suited for campaigns that need visual impact (just to name one example: the entertainment industry).

The first thing is to understand what a search ad is and what a display ad is, and how are they different. Once you understand the differences, you’ll then understand the one thing they have in common: they are very effective when implemented properly.

A good campaign manager will know that neither is better than the other; the key factor at play here is to know when, how and why to use one (or both) within the global marketing strategy.

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