How Search Ads Are Different From Display Ads

Tuesday / February 26, 2019 Syed Ahmad

Adwords is a deep wild sea in the ocean of digital marketing. There are far and wide steams flowing that can take your campaign from Far East to West. Google Adwords offer you different kinds of marketing campaigns that have different objectives, goals and placements. Search network however is the most widely used method of advertising from Google Adwords. When you are starting campaigns from scratch it is often beneficial to start campaigns from Google Search Network. Once you generate enough number of clicks from these ads you can always retarget them on display campaigns.

But here is the twist: Search ads are only available when someone searches the relevant keywords and only contain text. However, display adverts are far more advanced and can chase down your target audience on any website they are browsing. Through display advertising you can market your product through animated and HTML ads, gifs, jpegs, videos and a lot more. So how to decide what will work best in your favor? What will be the most beneficial way to market your product if your objective is to drive sales? How about a combination of both? What should you go for if your core purpose is just branding? Well, here it is:

Search and display ads both have pros and cons. They vary from each other greatly and so does the conversions generated from each of them. Knowing their difference and their impact is the key to success of your campaigns. The major points of difference between both are:

Intention of the audience:

Well when someone is searching for a specific keyword that is related to your business, that sure means that they are looking for some solution to their problem, some answer to their query. And your ad is that answer to them. On search network, audience is majorly interested in your business or what you have to offer since they opened Google and looked for that particular answer themselves. So, the actual conversion rate from search network is higher than any other medium. Matching the intention of your audience with your strategy is the key to success of any digital campaign.

Search network ads are more intent centric. As per Google Economic Impact Repot advertisers on average have a 100% ROI through Google Search Network. For every $5 spent, the advertisers have made $10 through real conversions from Search network. For example, let’s say if you are looking for dry cleaning services in your particular area, the first thing you would do is to search on Google. Hence, if as an advertiser you have planned your ad along those lines, you can find the customers that are exactly looking for you.

Intention of the audience

People who are looking for dry cleaning service cannot really wait for display ads to target them while they surf through the internet. Hence, to capture the need or query directly search engine is the best place to invest on. Hence, as an instant solutions provider, I wouldn’t recommend you to go to display alone or first.


Although display ads are fancier and have more of advanced options, search ads are pretty simple and informative. And when didn’t the combination of simplicity and information do wonders? It always does right. Same is with search campaigns. They look for it and you give it to them, in the simplest of all terms. Hence, the conversions are far more authentic.


Branding and awareness

So there is a different objective all together. When you want more and more of your target niche and audience to look at your business and understand what you provide, display ads can do wonders. When search network starts getting you cool ROI and drives you sales it isn’t easy to make up your mind for a campaign that is just branding to people that might not even be looking for you particularly. Display ads have a far higher click through rate and conversion rate than search engine network. Here is this thing, that clicks are not very expensive on display network either. Average cost per click on display network around the world is 58 cents.

Through display network you can remarket to people that didn’t convert from your search network ad. Through display you can go after them anywhere they go and keep reminding them that you exist. Display network advertising can do long term wonders for your business. Such as, when people are browsing for clothes and your shoe company’s ad appears there, they might not buy it directly but you may win a place in mind of your potential buyer which are ‘online shoppers’. Through display network you can create a vast awareness for your business. It is more of a brand building exercise that might also help your search network campaigns.

Both search and display networks have different targeting mechanisms

Search engine campaigns work on targeting through keywords and location. Your ads will be shown only to people who have searched for the specified keywords. Hence, you are tapping on the audience that is specifically looking for you or the solution you provide to them.

In display network there are a lot more options. Targeting in display network is far complex, diverse and wide. You can target your audience contextually. For example you can place your ads of website that are similar to your niche. Hence, the audience which might be interested in your business, when visits these sites has a high probability of clicking your ads.

Both search and display networks have different targeting mechanisms

Google has a registered base over 2 million sites. Hence, you have a wide ocean to dive into. When you are placing your ads contextually based on content and nature of other sites and not your audience behaviors, you are supposed to target these websites through keywords and URLs.

The second way you can target your ads through display network is behavioral targeting. Behavioral targeting lets you identify interests of your audience. Hence, no matter where your key audience is surfing on the internet your ads will haunt them. Google knows these interests of your audience based on their browsing history.

Intrests & remarketing

Another way to target your audience through display network campaigns is demographic targeting. The basic difference between demographic targeting and behavioral targeting is that demographic targeting is based on ‘Who they are’ while behavioral targeting is more about ‘What they do’. In demographic targeting you can identify key attributes of your audience, such as age, location, male, female, parents and so on.


Your budget

Your placement strategy on Google Adwords also highly depends on your budget. Always identify how much your budget is and where can you make most out of it? If you have a limited budget, then search ads work best in your favor. Since they are working on a PPC model that is, you only pay for your ads when someone clicks on them. Display network on the other hand is mostly charging you on a CPM based model that is you pay when 1000 impressions of your ad have been created.

So, let’s say if you have a limited budget then Search network is probably the best option you have even if all other indications are directing you towards display network. With a small budget you are highly unlikely to generate any ROI from display campaigns. Search engine ads have also the highest conversion rate. Hence, for every penny you spend there is a great chance of it converting into a conversion. Once you have wings to fly and you have enough budget you can escalate your campaign to digital network as well.


There is not black and white or right or wrong. It is all gray depending on what your ultimate goals are ad where your audience is. But to sum it up, display creates a better brand building platform for your business and search network gets you quick conversions. Search and display networks are way different from each other. Realizing the right place and right time is the key to get your best return of investment. Your search network audience is warm and ready to convert. While your audience targeted through display is cold and needs constant hammering to get a place in their mind.

People on social networking sites and other sites re not ready to convert. But they are pretty much welcoming to absorb the content and that is exactly where your display network campaigns come into play.

For most effective search network campaigns a proper keyword analysis is a must. You need to find out what your audience is most likely to search for. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine what you would search on Google Search if you wanted exactly the same product that you are selling. In a nutshell, your campaigns can either be search, display or a combination of both depending your goals. In a nutshell, I or nobody can twist a magic wand and tell you whether you should go for search or display. There is no hard and fast rule of thumb, it depends on a lot of factors and only can you identify them.

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