Display Ads vs. Search Ads: When to Use One Over the Other

By Jairene Cruz-Eusebio Google Ads, Display Ads

The two most popular types of advertising are Display Ads and Search Ads. Marketers use these different advertisements to promote their products and services, and both are equally popular. But if you want your marketing campaigns to succeed, you should understand the difference between the two and which one will best help you achieve your advertising goals.

display ads vs search ads

What are Display Ads?

Display Ads are also called Banner Ads and can appear on a webpage or an app. Companies typically use them to make their brands recognizable either by using their logo and colors for branding purposes or having the display ad carry the same message as its website.

You can also use it to make people aware of your company's specific products and services. Some types of display ads include the following:

  • Static Banner Ads

This format is the most basic display ad. It uses a still image that allows viewers to read them without interruption. It is the easiest to make and control since advertisers dictate what is shown to users without adjustments.

  • Animated Display Ads

The key feature of animated ads is that they have movement. The primary objective of an animated banner is to catch user attention by engaging them with the content of the ad and keeping users focused on the advertisement for a longer time than when shown static ads. That said, animated banners work best when they don't overwhelm visitors with an overkill of movement or sound effects.

  • Interactive Ads

These types of ads give users the opportunity to interact with parts of the ad. It is said that the longer the user interacts with an ad, the higher the chances that he'll follow it through with a click, eventually leading to a conversion. Playable display ads are the most popular type of interactive ads

  • Video ads 

Videos are the most consumed content of today as they are easy to digest, are entertaining, and can be informative. This is why video ads are becoming more popular now. Usually, advertisers often put the essential information at the beginning of a video ad to make sure that viewers stick around long enough to view it all.

Other display ads include interstitials, lightbox ads, expandable ads, and most recently, 360 video ads.


What are the Advantages of Display Ads?

Many companies use display ads because of the following qualities:

  • Brand Awareness

Display ads work best for big brands that want to convey their branding message. It also works well if a company wants to catch the attention of users who are not actively looking for a product or service and are simply browsing through a website. In short, it is excellent for brand awareness.

brand awareness

  • Remarketing

The ad type also works best for remarketing since the viewer already knows the product; he only needs a little prodding to continue with the purchase.

  • Cheaper

Finally, display ads are usually cheaper than search ads.


What are the Disadvantages of Display Ads?

While display ads sound fantastic, there are some downsides to using them, which include:

  • Low Click-Through Rate (CTR)

As mentioned above, users don't usually have any intention to make a purchase while browsing a publisher's website, except when they are reading through product reviews.

Sometimes, they are not even interested in the product you are promoting. This disinterest leads to lower ad clicks.

  • Low Conversion Rate

Although Display Ads are great at making your brand recognizable, they tend to have little effect on the actual sales of your products (except when used for remarketing). Marketing experts say that Display Ads are great for establishing brand awareness, but they are ineffective in driving purchasing decisions.

  • Ad Blindness and Ad Blocking

Banner ads are the most commonly used ads to the point that a typical user sees thousands of this type of ad on a daily basis! This has led to people developing ad blindness—a phenomenon wherein people automatically ignore a banner ad when their eyes see one in the periphery.

Furthermore, some browsers gave users the ability to altogether remove or hide display ads from websites they visit by installing an ad blocker.


What are Search Ads?

Search Ads are different from Display ads because they show up based on search keywords that users key in when searching for something on a search engine (such as Google or Yahoo). These ads catch the attention of people who are actively looking for a product or service and want to buy them immediately. In short, they have buying intent.

Search Ads appear at the top or the side of Google or Yahoo's (or other search engines) search results page. These ads show up based on keywords that you have chosen to trigger them so they can catch the attention of people interested in what you offer.

Search ads come in different forms depending on the search engines. For example, Google Ads has four types of search ads:

  • Expanded Text Ads

This is a traditional text-based ad that appears above or to the right of organic search results but with modern adjustments that allow for more room to describe what you're promoting even more.

  • Shopping Ads 

This is a paid ad for an individual product. It displays the product's image, name or title, price, and your store's name. This is one of the best converting ads when it comes to promoting products since they appear based on keywords that have buying intent.

shopping ads

  • Responsive Search Ads 

This is an improved version of the Extended Search Ads. It can appear on both mobile and desktop searches, plus the elements of the ad change dynamically. Google's machine learning determines the best combination of ad elements that would likely lead to a click or a purchase.


What are the Advantages of Search Ads?

Some advantages of using Search Ads include:

  • High Buying Intent 

People turn to search engines to look for something they are interested in, especially when looking to buy something online.

  • Targeted Reach 

A company's target market is usually defined by its geographical location, demographics, and interests, so it makes sense to use ads with this kind of targeting in mind.

  • High CTR 

Since people have buying intent when they key in a search, they would usually click on an ad that appears on their screen.

  • High Conversion Rate 

Once you find the right keywords and targets for your ads (based on the audience's interests), then it's just a matter of fine-tuning them based on user behavior and making the necessary updates. This way, you can generate better results like more conversions or sales!

  • Cost-Effective 

Companies that are just starting find Search ads to be the most cost-effective marketing medium because it provides geographic, demographic, and interest-based targeting. It's also easier to optimize compared with other forms of advertising since you have real-time data on user behavior so you can see if your ads are giving you a good ROI or not.

What are the Disadvantages of Search Ads?

Some disadvantages of using Search Ads include:

  • Tricky to Create 

Most people find the process of creating effective search ads a bit complicated compared with other types of ads because its keywords, targeting, and layout have to be just right! If you don't know what you're doing, then it would take months for you to really get the hang of it (after much testing).

  • Bid Competition 

Once your competitor finds out that you're getting excellent results from Search ads, they will try to do the same thing by competing with you. This means that you might have to increase your bid just so your ad can show up on top of other search results or in specific locations.

  • High Cost per Click

Even if you are lucky enough to find a keyword where no competitor is bidding against you, the default cost per click is still a lot more expensive them display ads (even though display ads are on CPM).


Which Should I Use: Search Ads or Display Ads?

There are several factors you need to consider when choosing the ad format you want to use.


1. Budget

The best option for a company is dependent on the type of budget they have set aside for digital marketing. Search engine marketing would be superior to display or banner advertising if the business wants targeted advertisements with a higher conversion rate.

Display advertising can be cost-effective for those who do not have any room in their budget for SEM campaigns since they are cheaper. However, display ads can end up more expensive in the long run since the conversion rate can be much lower.


2. Advertising Goals

It's important to consider all the factors involved when choosing between SEM and display advertising. However, ultimately which one is best for your company will depend on what you want to achieve, both short-term and long-term.

What do you intend to achieve? Do you want to increase brand awareness or get more sales? If you want more people to know about your products or you are looking to increase email sign-ups, then display ads would be a good choice. Display ads are better at raising brand awareness because they cost less than pay-per-click search engine marketing campaigns but may not be as targeted.

If you want to get more sales and you're willing to pay the price, then search ads would be your best bet. SEM receives more clicks and could drive qualified traffic but takes more effort (and thus money) to set up and execute.




3. Audience Targeting

The ability to target your ads is another factor when choosing between SEM and banner advertising. If you want to only advertise to a specific audience, choose SEM since it provides more targeting options than display ads do.

Display ads may be cheaper in some cases, but they do not provide targeted advertisements like paid search does, which can increase the risk of wasting money on clicks that were never intended in the first place.


4. Industry

An additional thing that might impact your choice between SEM and display advertising is the type of industry you're in and the type of product you offer. 

If your company provides a unique service or product that could benefit from brand awareness, then banner ads can be effective at offering this to users.


5. Remarketing Plans

It has been proven time and again how powerful remarketing can be as it can deliver better ROI for the advertiser. But to do that, you need to get people into your website first--which can be done by either display ads or search ads.

But when setting up remarketing ads, Display Ads is the only way to go as it somehow "follows" the user around, reminding them of your product until they end up making a purchase.


Final Thoughts

Choosing between SEM and display ads can seem like an overwhelming decision. There are many factors to consider when deciding which type of advertising is best for your company, but the main thing you need to know is that both types have their pros and cons.

If you want more clicks with a higher conversion rate, search ads would be better suited. But if you're looking for cheaper yet less targeted advertisements, display ads might provide what you're looking for.

Keep in mind that no matter which direction your business chooses there will always be some level of risk involved, so do not feel discouraged if one method does not work as well as anticipated.

If you would like to learn more about the different options for digital marketing, check out our other blog posts here. If you're not quite sure which option is right for your business, contact us today to speak with one of our experts about what the best choice maybe! You can also schedule a demo of Brax, our advertising management platform.