Jan 26, 2021

Search Ads Vs Display Ads: What’s The difference?

search ads vs display ads



In 2021, creating an online marketing strategy for your business is more important than ever given the current circumstances. If you have already started working on your digital marketing strategy, then you will come across two search engine marketing options on Google; search ads and display ads. 

But what’s the difference between search and display ads on Google?  

There are several differences between the two, both in terms of benefit and potential reach

However, search and display ads have one thing in common; when implemented properly, they can yield some great results for your organization’s online marketing campaign. 

But, before you can put search and display ads to use together in an online marketing strategy, let’s take a look at the differences between search and display ads in our detailed guide:  

What Is Search Engine Advertising?

It truly doesn’t matter how incredible your business is or how great your products are or even how much your customers love products or services when it comes to online marketing. 

If you aren’t a big brand like Sephora, Zara or Ford, you’re probably not going to be able to get at the top of the search engine results page.  

This is especially true if you’re trying to rank your business for highly competitive search terms (an overcoat), where customers are looking for specific products (a “brown” overcoat), especially if you are a service provider (HVAC). 

Search engine advertising is a type of paid advertising, also known as pay-per-click (PPC), that gets your business found on search engine result pages (SERPs) like in the example below.

Search engine marketing is a great way to monopolize on your target audience through search engines like Google(majority of the time) and Bing that allow potential customers to find your products and services by typing in the search engine bar. 

How Do Search Ads Work?

Businesses or agency advertisers select a list of keywords that are highly relevant to their company or products, and place bid on those keywords to have their ad shown when someone searches for for phrases that includes those keywords. 

For search terms like “a black watch” or “buy shoes near me”, the targeted keywords would be “black watch”, “watch”, or “shoes”. 

You are not the only one in the same business and bidding on the same set of keywords.  

To decide which ads should appear on search results pages, each search engine advertising platform puts a bidding process in place. 

The higher you bid on a search term or keyword, the more likely it is for your ad to appear, and increasing the chances for your ad to appear at the top of SERP when someone triggers a search term containing those targeted keywords. 

However, with platforms like Google Ads, you don’t pay every time your ad shows up. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad.  

That’s exactly why, search advertising is also known as PPC or pay-per-click advertising.

What Are the Benefits of Search Ads?

  • If you are a small business or have a small budget for marketing, then running search ads will give you more control over who you reach with your ads. With complete control you can run a tight campaign without wasting money on people who aren’t interested. 
  • If you cater to a local market and provide services to customers who need it in your local area. Searchadvertising will allow you to show your ads to people who are actively looking for a service or product that your business provides. 

What Is Display Advertising ?

An ad, an image or a short-looped video, that you see on a webpage while reading a blog on how to bake a banana breador browsing a webpage on the internet are called Display Ads.  

The display ads have nothing to do with searching for a product or service on a search engine platform. 

While display ads do function within the Google Ads interface, they will not appear just in one place, but they will be displayed across different websites that users are browsing on the web. 

How Do Display Ads Work?

Display ads are the banners or text or videos about various products or services you see on websites that sell their space to advertisers, like in the example below. 

Google ad network take bids from advertisers, and those with the highest bids will earn space on the sites they’ve chosen. 

We’d say that one of the biggest advantages of running display ads is their flexibility.  

You can create an ad in a variety of sizes and with different images. This allows for more creativity than a search ad. Display ads have the potential to help your business stand out.  

Whereas, in a search ad, you have to capture the eyes of the customer with your words.  

However, display ads are quite easy to ignore while someone is browsing a webpage or website. Someone visiting a website might not be particularly interested in the ad they might be seeing on that webpage. 

What Are the Benefits of Display Ads?

  • Display ads are more focused on building brand awareness for small or new businesses. 
  • These are best for advertisers or businesses who want to make use or images and videos to sell their product or service rather than plain text in search ads. 

Using Search and Display Ads Together 

After going through the details above, you may have noted that your company would benefit from both the Search and the Display Networks.  

We advise many small and medium size businesses to run campaigns for both, if the budget permits. 

However, to truly reap the benefits of each Google ads network, do your due diligence and break them into separate, network-specific campaigns.  

From a strategic standpoint, this will allow you to craft your messaging based on the scenario in which your audience is viewing your ad.  

From a more logistical standpoint, this segmentation is critical. Not only does it allow you to set specific budgets and bids per network, but it will keep your data “clean” and help you to make more impactful optimizations. 

Let’s take a term out of the digital marketing dictionary: click-through rate (CTR), for example.  

Ads on the Display Network typically garner lower CTRs than their Search Network counterparts (which comes as no surprise, given the context in which they are shown).  

If the campaigns are not segmented, the CTR data can be severely skewed, making it challenging to analyze performanceand data. 


Still looking for more advice on which Google ads network to choose for your online marketing strategy or need more guidance around the differences between search and display ads?  

Contact your local digital marketing experts at Design Thinking and we will be happy to guide you through the basics and get you up and running to gain positive ROI through efficient advertising.