Whether you’re a newbie or a marketing professional, determining if you should use search engine marketing or display advertising for your marketing campaign can be difficult.
It is not always easy to identify which type of advertising to use. Factors such as your budget, your search volume, and your main goal are only some of the things you should consider before choosing one.
Sometimes, it’s in the best interest to utilize both platforms to maximize your ROI. Using both at the same time means you’re reaching customers at different points in the customer journey, which may be a huge payoff for you in the end but we’re focusing on the difference between the two for now.
Use the wrong channel and you potentially ruin the maximum success of your whole campaign.
There are several differences between the two, both in terms of benefit and potential reach. However, search engine ads and display ads have one thing in common; when implemented properly, they can yield great results for your marketing campaign, regardless of the campaign’s goal.
The main difference between search engine ads and display ads is that search ads are “pull” advertising while display ads are “push” advertising.
This means that search ads only appear to those who are already searching for your product or service; while display ads are paid placements that appear based on a number of targeting parameters.
It’s also worth noting that search engine ads and display ads are set up and run through different ad networks – a search network vs a display network.
Management of each will be slightly different, as we discuss later. If your marketing budget is large enough, you may choose to use both display and search ads in your strategy.
However, the two aren’t interchangeable, and some campaigns are more suited to one type of ad than the other. Believe it or not, when done correctly, the two can work together to get better results than you can get from doing either one alone.
But, before you can put search and display together in a marketing strategy, it is best to know how each of them works to reach your target audience.
Below we will talk about the unique strengths each has and how you can use that together for your benefit. Let’s take a look:
Search engine marketing
Search engine marketing is a type of paid advertising, also known as PPC, that gets your business found on search engine result pages (SERPs).
This type of advertising is a great way to monopolize on your target audience through search engines like Google that allow potential customers to find your products and services. Search engine marketing is an easy, low-budget way to reach the right audience.
You’re able to control who sees the ads with nearly instant results. The PPC ads are shown directly on search engine websites after a keyword or phrase has been searched.
Paid search engine marketing is one of the most popular forms of PPC advertising. Brands pay (using an auction-based model) to have their ads displayed above and below organic search engine results when users search certain keywords.
So, why Search Engine Marketing?
Search advertising, or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, is an easy, low-budget way to reach the right audience. You’re be able to control who sees the ads with nearly instant results.
This is because customers are actively searching for keywords that result in seeing your PPC ads, so long as their keywords match your product or service.
PPC ad campaigns generally drive higher click-through rates than display ads because of qualified leads.
One of its uniqueness is that it makes it easy to track how well your PPC campaign is doing. Simply pull up your AdWords account, choose the Campaigns tab, and choose “Keywords.”
This shows you exactly how well customers are responding to your keywords and phrases which makes one work easier and faster.
Therefore, in essence, the search engine marketing is more budget friendly than the display advertising.
Search advertising is like having quick answers to quick problems or questions online. Search engine ads have three main components — a headline, display URL, and description text — all designed to convince users to click through.
Ad extensions can also be included to provide users with additional information. How often search ads appear, their rankings, and the cost per click — all depend on the bid and Quality Score. This advertising gives you visibility on the search page quickly and cost-effectively!
On top of that, search advertising gives you a ton of added benefits:
- It gives you a competitive edge to rank with competition
- It gives you granular ability to optimize the effectiveness of your marketing
- It allows you to hyper-target audiences based off of intent, interests and locations
- It has fast testing to quickly ascertain how effective (or ineffective) your website and calls-to-action are
- It allows you to make data-driven decisions, quickly, ensuring your marketing dollars are driving revenue
On the flip side, while search ads are all about Google, the display network has nothing to do with searching on a search engine platform. Display advertising is everywhere online.
Every website you visit has ads that showcase products for sale. But have you ever noticed you keep seeing the same ads on your social media feeds and the like?
That’s because display advertising tracks a user’s behavior in order to put the right ads in front of the right customers. They track your searches and activities online to give related products or services to those interested and this is a major advantage of this type of advertisement and a major difference from the search engine marketing plan.
Display ads are also sometimes known as banner ads. While Google Display Network ads operate within the Google Ads interface, display ads work very differently from their paid search counterparts.
Almost every website you visit has ads that showcase products for sale(though many of them are annoying).
Re targeting is one of its unique characteristics. For example, a user has visited your website but hasn’t converted. Display ads give you the opportunity to pull those users back in with retargeting. Your display ad reminds the user about your brand; thus improving the chance of them converting.
High volume is another major difference between these marketing advertisements because display ads may promote your brand to the right people, but they also have high visibility.
When you use display ads, they’re also being shown to customers who may not have thought to look for your products or services (even if they’re not part of your demographic). Even if you’re not targeting an audience, they’ll still see your business in front of them.
The biggest difference is that your ads won’t be limited to appearing in one place but will be displayed across different websites that users are browsing on across the web. Although Google display advertising still originates within the Google Ads interface, display ads perform very differently from their paid search counterparts.
Not only that, display ads aren’t limited to appearing in only one location like search ads (in the SERP). Display ads appear across the entire GDN — over 2 million sites reaching over 90% of online users. They can show in multiple places on social media, such as natively in news feeds or on the side of the main feed
So, why display ads?
Display ads let you put your ad directly in front of customers without waiting for them to find you. It lets you be more active in the discovery stage of the sales funnel, introducing people to your product even if they never knew they needed it.
When your customer is online, it’s important to keep your brand in front of them as much as possible. Not all advertising needs to be targeted towards intent, sometimes it’s best to reach people when they are piddling around online reading celebrity gossip and checking sports stats!
Why? Well, most people spend their time surfing the web not looking for specifics but it also is a soft push to explore your business brand. With that said, it’s important you take advantage of their time
The difference is that display ads are not working for intent, they are working to grow your brand awareness online! Display ads aren’t just for websites, and can appear in the following formats:
- Text – headline, two lines of text, and a URL; often appear in website sidebars
- Banner – these include images and rich media, so animations and custom layouts can be used
- Gmail – appear in personal inboxes
- App- targets specific mobile app categories
Search Engine Marketing vs Display Advertising Comparison
Now that you’re aware of the major differences between search and display advertising, consider some of the factors that you should take into account before making a decision.
What are your potential customers searching for? Are they already actively looking for the products you’re selling? Here’s where Google AdWords helps yet again.
Use this tool to determine if the keywords you’re using are high volume. If relevant keywords for your business are showing as high competition keywords, your best bet is to start with a PPC campaign.
Brand awareness is another determining factor when deciding. The first question you should be asking: How many people are aware of your brand already?
If you’re looking to increase brand awareness, display ads are your best bet. However, a search campaign can also benefit from brand awareness, especially if your campaign focuses on brand-specific keywords.
Type of services or products
Certain ads may not bring you the highest ROI right away depending on the type of product or service you’re offering. For example, services like towing, locksmiths, and doctors (also known as “urgent” services) are all services that users will specifically look for, and need, quickly.
Using a display ad to advertise may not be the most beneficial if your service is something potential customers may need immediately.
However, this doesn’t mean your services wouldn’t benefit from a display ad—it just won’t be as beneficial to the customer in their time of need.
Did you know that almost 60% of searches are done on a mobile device? Typically, search ad campaigns are better equipped at handling mobile searches.
For example, a user may search for a service on their mobile device, which means they won’t be scrolling through a website. They’ll choose the first ad that comes up, and that’s generally going to be a PPC ad.
When to use each ad type
Google encourages advertisers to set up both search and display campaigns, as this will provide the most reach.
However, maximum reach isn’t necessarily a good thing, because the key to advertising is getting your product or service in front of the right audience not just the biggest.
Reasons to use search engine ads
1. To supplement organic traffic
Some businesses can’t afford to spend the time to rely solely on SEOcus to pay off. While organic results focus on comparative content, search ads bring people directly to solutions much faster. This makes search advertising a great short-term strategy while continuing to build your organic presence.
2. To capture high-quality leads
With search ad campaigns, you can use different keyword match types to trigger your ad, along with negative keywords so your ad isn’t triggered when users search for specific keywords that are irrelevant to your business. Doing this allows you to create your ads precisely to match a user’s search intent
3. When catering to a local audience
If you offer a local service, and are trying to reach a nearby audience, search ads are the better option
Reaching a worldwide audience with display ads won’t be of much value to you with such a small, specific target audience.
4. If you have a short sales cycle
Search ads are ideal if your product or service has a short sales cycle, and therefore, you don’t need to continue advertising (remarketing) to people who have previously engaged with your brand.
5. To promote emergency products
If you’re someone who provides an “urgent” or “emergency” service (plumbers, locksmiths, tow trucks, emergency veterinarians, electricians, etc.) it’s a good idea to start with search ads. These are services that someone likely won’t pay for while they’re reading a blog article or scrolling Facebook and happen to see your display ad.
Instead, when someone gets locked out of their car, or their dog suddenly falls ill, they are likely going to search for a service to help them immediately
Note: These emergent, when-needed services are most likely going to be searched for on a mobile device. To make it simple for the searcher in need, use call extensions as shown in the ad above.
6. If you have a smaller budget
If you’re just starting out, or creating a lower-budget campaign, search engine marketing may be the way to go for several different reasons.
- With a PPC advertising campaign, you can either pay per click or pay per 1,000 impressions.
- Bidding on highly relevant keywords gives you more control over who you reach, producing more qualified leads, higher conversion rates, and better ROI.
- It is easier to measure and justify PPC efforts — and then once you’ve mastered those, you can consider expansion to the Display Network.
Reasons to use display ads
1. If your product or service is more visual
One of the main advantages display ads have over search ads is that they can include images and video. This is great for promoting consumer products and services that rely heavily on visual demonstration, such as apparel, home decor, vacation packages, adventure/entertainment:
Note: Google has made it increasingly easy for advertisers to create video campaigns, especially for those who can leverage existing video creative. This can be an extremely powerful display advertising option since people are more likely to engage with video content than text or even image ads.
2. To create awareness among those with passive intent
People browsing websites and seeing display ads aren’t actively searching for a product or service. They’re probably still in the discovery or awareness stage of the marketing funnel, researching their options with passive intent.
This makes the display network great for creating demand for your product or service (even if people don’t know they need it), rather than answering demand like the search network. In other words, it allows you to cultivate a feeling of want and need, instead of immediately capitalizing on one that already exists.
By using Google’s targeting options and appearing on sites that are popular among your target audience, you can quickly build brand awareness before moving onto more high-intent search engine marketing.
3. If you have a longer sales cycle
Just like 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 your product or service isn’t typically purchased immediately and therefore has a longer sales cycle. This is often the case for large expenses such as automobiles, higher education, enterprise software, etc.
In these situations, you must ensure your brand stays top-of-mind for prospects as they consider making a purchase, which is done through digital advertising strategies like:
- Cross-channel marketing — disseminating paid messages to prospects across multiple devices on a variety of digital marketing channels, to usher consumers toward purchasing a product or service
- Omni-channel marketing — providing a seamless user experience across all channels relevant to the buyer’s journey, allowing them to progress through the entire marketing funnel without friction
- Retargeting — showing ads to anyone who has interacted with your brand in the past, so you can stay in front of them and top-of-mind even after they have left your website (this is especially useful in the ecommerce industry, for example, with abandoned shopping carts)
4. To reach niche markets
Part of the reason display ads successfully drive brand awareness is because they’re generally found on sites where potential customers are already spending their time. Google matches your keywords and ads to relevant web pages across the over 2 million websites on the GDN. This means you can easily cater to a niche audience with interest-targeted ads and/or contextual ads.
Both ad formats have their benefits, and both can be extremely useful in different situations. However, you must understand the difference and when exactly to use each one. Even after you select your format and create an ad, you must connect your ads to relevant post-click experiences for the best results. Post-click landing pages are where conversions happen.