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Search Ads vs Display Ads: What are the differences?

Search Ads vs Display Ads: What are the differences?

It can be complicated for any advertiser to determine whether to use search ads or display ads in an online campaign. This is an important decision since the use of one format or another could mean a waste of a significant percentage of the advertising budget. If you are interested in digital marketing and want to dedicate yourself to it, make sure to know the differences between those two methods.

Search Ads vs Display Ads

Search advertising or Search Ads is one of the most used forms of PPC advertising in which brands pay for their ads to be placed at the top and below the organic results of the search engine when users search for certain keywords. Search Ads have three main components: a title, an URL, and a descriptive text. All are designed to convince users to click.

Display Ads are still created within the Google Ads interface, though, they work very differently. The main difference is that the former is a kind of “pull” advertising, while Display ads are more of a “push” advertising. This means, Search Ads only appear to those who are already searching for a product or service, while Display Ads are paid placements that appear according to different filters and parameters. But not only that, Display Ads are not limited to appearing in a single location, they appear throughout the entire Google Display Network.

What are the differences between Search Ads and Display Ads?

Reasons to use Search Ads

Search Ads vs Display Ads: What are the differences?
Search Ads vs Display Ads: What are the differences?

You should opt for Search Ads if:

  • You want to complement organic traffic: Some businesses don’t have the luxury of time to spend relying on SEO alone for growth, and while organic results focus on comparative content, Search Ads drive people directly to solutions in a faster way. This makes Search Ads a very valid short-term strategy option while still building an organic presence.
  • You want to capture qualified leads: In these campaigns, you can use different keywords in the same ad, along with negative keywords. This allows you to create an ad precisely to match a user’s search intent.
  • You are targeting a local audience: If you offer a local service and are trying to reach a local audience, Search Ads are the best option. Reaching a worldwide audience with Display Ads will not be very valuable with such a specific target audience.
  • Your sales cycle is short: These ads are ideal if your product has a short sales cycle, and therefore, remarketing is not necessary for consumers who have already interacted with the brand before.

Reasons to use Display Ads

Search Ads vs Display Ads: What are the differences?
Search Ads vs Display Ads: What are the differences?

You should go for Display Ads if:

  • Your product or service is very visual: One of the main advantages that Display Ads have is that they can include images and videos. This is great for promoting consumer products that rely heavily on illustrations, such as clothing, home decorations, tourism, etc.
  • You want to create awareness among users: People who browse websites and see Display Ads are not usually actively looking for a product or service. They are probably still in the discovery or awareness stage of the marketing funnel, researching their options with passive intent. This makes the display network ideal for generating demand for your product or service, rather than responding to demand.
  • Your sales cycle is longer: Just as Search Ads are best if your product or service has a shorter sales cycle that doesn’t require multiple touchpoints or retargeting, Display Ads are ideal if you typically don’t buy right away and therefore have a longer sales cycle. This is often the case for automobiles, higher education, business software, etc.
  • You want to reach niche markets: Part of the reason Display ads successfully generate brand awareness is that they are typically on sites where potential customers are already spending their time. Google matches your keywords and ads to relevant web pages on the more than 2 million websites in the Google Display Network.


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