Search vs Display Ad: Which is better?

Search and display advertising are probably two of the most widely used online ad formats. Used by all types of business, big, small, b2b, and eCommerce, both search and display ads are useful for standing out among competitors and reaching a more comprehensive range of customers online.

But what is the difference between the two? Is one better than the other? And which one should you use for maximum results? This article discusses everything you need to know about both search and display ad and which ads networks you should invest in to receive the best results.

Search Ads

Search advertising is the primary ad network and is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of PPC or paid advertising. This type of advertising involves getting your business found on the search engine result pages (SERP). It is an excellent way to allow your potential customers to find your business and the products or services you are selling.

So, how does it work?

Let’s say you are a small business selling hand-poured candles. To launch a search ad for your business, you will need to bid on a relevant keyword. For a hand-poured candle business, you may want to bid on keywords such as home-made candles, natural candles, or hand-poured candles.

When users search the terms you are bidding on in search engines, your ad will appear. If the text in your ad is compelling and showing what your potential customers want to see, they will most likely click on the ad, visit your website, and make the purchase. 

Tip: Keyword research is vital when it comes to ensuring that you are bidding on the right terms. Find more about keyword research and match types here.

Search ads should appear with a headline, descriptions, call-to-actions, and a URL at the top of the search result. However, these standard text ads can be enhanced with ad extensions. Ad extensions are additional information you can include with your standard text ads such as location information, phone number extensions, additional site links from your website, and store ratings.

Display Ads

In contrast to search advertising where the aim is to appear in search engine platforms, drive high-quality traffic and generate leads, display ads are different in a way that they do not appear in SERP and used mainly to drive brand awareness.

Display ads appear across different websites, emails, social networks apps, and youtube in a visual format with images, animations, and videos. These ads are placed directly in front of customers without them having to search for you, meaning they will help you reach a more extensive or even an entirely new type of audience than you would through search advertising.

How does display ad work?

One key difference between search and display ads is that display ads use audience targeting, meaning your ads are not just shown to anyone and placed on any random website. Display ads can be targeted towards your ideal audience depending on their demographics, habits, interests, and intentions. Similarly, you can use placement targeting to ensure that your ads only appear on certain kinds of sites.

You can learn more about placement targeting here.

Another great benefit of display advertising is that you can create remarketing display ads. These types of ads can be used to retarget audience who have previously visited your website or pages. It is a great way to remind and recall your past visitors.

Types of Display ad formats

  1. Simple text-based banner ad
  2. In emails
  3. In-App
  4. Image or Rich Media Ads with interactive elements

Display Ad vs Search Ad

The main difference between the two ad type is that a search ad is a form of "pull" advertising, whereas a display ad is a "push" advertising strategy. Which type of advertising you chose to employ will depend on the type of audience you are aiming to target, the type of products or service you have, and your business goal.

When to invest in search ads?

  • If you are working with a limited budget, a search ad is the most straightforward and less costly way to advertise. Where display ads include the cost of creating creative assets such as images, animations, and rich media, search ads only requires texts and landing pages.

In most instances, businesses start with search ads and slowly introduce display ads mostly to retarget.

  • Search ads are great for businesses who don't gain a lot of organic traffic and requires more visibility on the search engines. 
  • If you are looking to capture high-quality leads, search ads are a great way to attract customers with high purchase intentions.

When to invest in display ads?

  • Display advertising is a great way to spread the word about your business and drive brand awareness. There are numerous Google search networks, including more than 2 million websites and apps. Meaning your ad will appear in a lot of places and to a wide range of audience.
  • If you have great visual products, display campaign may be the better choice. Often for eCommerce businesses, display advertising works well as you can showcase the images of your products and offerings better.
  • Suppose you want to remarket and call back potential customers who have lost their way. You can use retargeting display ad, which allows businesses to remind their previous website and landing page visitors.


Both search and display ads are useful so that they both help businesses drive sales; however, they work very differently.

Search network advertising is excellent at capturing users with high intent, whereas display network ads are a great option if you are looking to build brand awareness and retarget.

To find success with either one of these, it’s crucial to understand how they work, and when you should invest in them. Clearly defining your business and marketing goals and understanding your audience, how they buy and make purchasing decisions will help you determine which ad network is best suited for your business. Additionally, having the right offer and being creative with the ad copies, images, other rich media, and landing pages will ensure your advertising efforts' success. 

Are looking to broaden your advertising methods through a search or display campaign? Look no further!

We have a vast range of experience creating campaigns in different platforms, including Google Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft Ad, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Call us now at +44(0)1227 68 68 98 and talk to one of our lovely team members about how online advertising can help your business grow. 

Friday 26th February 2021

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