Google Ads – Search vs. Display: Which Is Best for Me?

Google PPC Ads

Leveraging your company’s digital presence can make a significant difference to return on investment (ROI), and one of the best ways to do so is via an effective advertising campaign. From attracting new customers to retaining loyal ones, implementing an effective advertising strategy can yield fantastic results.

If you are using Google ads, maximising the return of an ad campaign requires knowledge of search vs. display, and an understanding of which kind of ad is most appropriate for your business. This article will help you to establish just that.

Search vs. display ads – what’s the difference?

The main difference between search and display ads on Google is whether they respond to or create demand. Search ads are ‘pull’ advertising and will be seen by individuals who specifically go looking for your product or service. Display ads are ‘push’ advertising, and are therefore best for companies looking to expand online presence.

In other words, a display network creates customer demand, whereas a search network answers customer demand. They are both useful marketing tools, but are appropriate for different circumstances and business needs.

How do search ads work?

Search ads will appear as on Google SERPs as a result of a specific user search. They target an active searcher who has a specific search intent and need.

As such, search ads are perhaps the most popular form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertisement used by advertisers, who will ‘bid’ to have their ad appear each time someone searches for specific keywords or key phrases. Businesses will then pay each time someone clicks on the ad (as opposed to paying each time the ad pops up).

A search ad is typically made up of a headline, display URL, and description text, all of which are designed to encourage searchers to click through. Because search ads respond to user need, they typically drive greater conversions than display ads, which have very low conversion rates.

When to use search ads

To respond to an urgent or emergency need

If your business responds to an urgent need (for example, you are a plumber, emergency dentist, or vet), search ads allow you to target individuals searching for this particular service.

You have a small marketing budget

As search ads respond to a specific need, they’re more likely to generate turnover by targeting interested audiences. For this reason, they’re also easier to measure and report on overall return than display ads.

As such, if your marketing budget is limited, you’re more likely to benefit from search ads than display ads.

You cater to a local audience

If your business responds and caters to a specific local market, placing search ads can target this audience in a way that more expansive, worldwide digital ads won’t.

To supplement SEO

Search engine optimisation is a useful business tool, but it’s best to integrate SEO into a wider marketing strategy. Search ads can be a great way of directing targeted audiences to your business whilst building your organic digital presence.

How do display ads work?

As well as traditional search ads, Google allows advertisers to place their ads on a number of websites, ranging from news sites to YouTube and other social media platforms. Known as the Google Display Network (GDN), this network is expansive (with over 2 million sites) and is seen by as much as 90% of internet users.

Display ads therefore have to be visually appealing. They are not responding to specific user intent, and typically will not be targeting particular keywords or phrases. They are designed to help businesses promote and generate brand awareness and reach.

When to use display ads

If your product is visual

Display ads can include video and image, which is particularly effective for highly visual products that have an aesthetic hook. Search ads can only contain text, meaning display ads offer more of an opportunity to be visually enticing and appealing.

Your sales cycle is long

If your product or service is not likely to respond or cater to immediate demand, display ads may be worth your time.

For example, individuals aren’t likely to purchase vehicles or luxury items on a whim, but re-marketed display ads will keep those businesses who do sell these products on the top of consumers’ minds, which may result in a conversion further down the line.

You have niche customers

Display ads are typically found on sites where potential customers have particular interests, as these kinds of customers are less likely to spend time on search engines. In these instances, display ads are ideal for catering and responding to this audience segment.

To build brand awareness

If your goal is to build brand awareness – even amongst those who aren’t searching with targeted intent – then display ads are best. They can help to create and cultivate demand for your product or service, and because the GDN is so expansive, can bring new customers and audience segments into contact with your business.

So, search vs. display Google ads – which is best?

There’s no straight answer as to whether search or display ads are best, because it depends on your specific business character and circumstances. It also depends on the kind of advertising campaign that you are looking to run, which will likely vary depending on where your business is in its journey.

It can be wise to make use of both search and display ads if your company has capacity to do so. However, you do need an understanding of the difference between these kinds of ads, and a sense of which might be most appropriate, so that you don’t end up wasting your budget.

Create an optimised PPC campaign with Rapport Digital

With over ten years of experience of building, managing, and optimising PPC campaigns for accountants and accounting firms, Rapport Digital can help your business to maximise return on investment through its use of Google ads. We tailor our process to work for your business and provide comprehensive reporting so that you know your campaigns are consistently delivering desired results.

Contact us on today to discover how we can get your Google ads working for your business.

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