Marin Software's official blog

Search Ads vs. Display Ads

The buyer journey is complex and digital marketers need to be able to connect with the right customers through the entire process. Different ad formats and placements can help brands make consumers aware of their product, push them into consideration for that product, and ultimately drive them to purchase it. Two key ad types to consider are search ads (served on search engines like Google, Bing, etc.) and display ads (served throughout the internet on various websites).

The main difference between display and search ads is that search ads are considered "pull" advertising while display ads are considered "push" advertising. So, search ads only appear to consumers actively searching for the required product or service. In contrast, display ads are considered paid placement and can appear anywhere on the web that a user may be navigating. These advertisements are based on several targeting parameters. Search and display advertisements are set up and run using various ad networks, from Google Ads to Amazon DSP, Criteo, and many others.

If your company's marketing budget is substantial enough to support various ad types, then you can (and should) test both search and display ads in your advertising strategy. But keep in mind that these ads are not interchangeable. Depending on the product or service type, you may have better click and conversion performance with one or the other. Think through the customer journey and how customers find your products. Is your product something that people need to seek out actively when the need for it arises, or maybe your product is something buyers might not know they need until they see an ad and the potential use case of your product? 

Advantages of Search ads

There are a lot of advantages of search advertising or search engine marketing (SEM). The first of many factors to consider is budget. If the available engine spend of the company is on the smaller side, say less than $10K per month, then SEM may be the best tactic for your business, as it allows more control over who finds your business and at what time. Targeting the right keywords is paramount in SEM for capturing users seeking your service or product. Getting focused and intentional in keyword targeting means that the business doesn't have to waste money on people that are not interested in the industry or are not yet ready to make a purchase decision. 

Another benefit is that businesses can easily cater to a local market via search engine marketing. Many targeting options can be paired with keyword targeting, so you end up with more niche and specific audience segments. Geographic, language, gender, age, and affinity (or interest) targeting are all available segments on Google Ads, for example.

In SEM, the sales cycle is typically short, and you are seeking to capture users at the bottom of the funnel or close to the point of purchase. Therefore, there is no need to continue advertising to individuals that have taken action or converted on-site unless remarketing is an essential tactic for your business. This strategy keeps audiences fresh and malleable. 

Advantages of display ads

Display ads are an effective tactic for any product that is visual in nature. Clothing, cars, beauty, pet care, and more are all excellent candidates for display as the customer offering can be summarized quickly and visually with a single image. 

In less visually friendly industries, like SaaS, insurance, education, or many B2B services…display can still be an effective ad type but with a different approach. In these sectors, short impactful phrases or statements, a key value proposition, or some kind of explanatory graphic (like illustrations) is the better way to quickly reach a display ad viewer. If the CTA and key message cannot be grasped in under 3 seconds on a display ad…your messaging is ineffective and needs to be revisited.

Another advantage of display advertising is that it provides unique access to niche or luxury buyers. With many demand-side platforms (or DSPs), segments can get as granular as a limited website list where you believe your potential customers would visit. Data mining paired with display advertising is also an effective method of getting your message to the right person at the right time, but be cautious that your data provider follows all privacy guidelines in your target geographical region.

Another technique for utilizing display ads is to focus on building brand awareness. If you want to build brand equity or get more top-funnel traffic to your website, consider display advertising a suitable medium. Simple company slogans or flagship product images ought to be utilized. If it looks like it belongs on the homepage of your website, it probably belongs in a brand awareness display ad.

Search ad considerations

We’ve established that display ads are shown on websites across the internet, but search ads only appear in search engine results. Therefore, the advertisers selecting a list of keywords relevant to the product or service must be incredibly judicious and strategic in identifying the right keywords to target. Suppose you are new to this exercise or working with the wrong advertising experts who don’t have enough know-how to develop effective keyword lists. In that case, your costs can become prohibitive quickly, and your overall ad account performance will suffer.

For search ads, each search engine advertising platform requires the advertiser to put a bidding type in place for each campaign. Identifying the right bidding type and optimization techniques for each campaign can be nuanced and sometimes a difficult task of trial and error. 

Display ad considerations

The primary consideration with display advertising is that the number of businesses using this method to advertise their business has increased. Due to this, for site owners, it becomes difficult to choose the right advertisers; from a competitive perspective, many verticals are pretty crowded. Expect higher CPMs (cost per 1,0000 impressions) or CPVs (cost per view) than what was once acceptable. 

Platforms like the Google Display Network make segments through categories and then offer them to advertisers as a package. Moreover, the ad networks are involved in taking bids from advertisers and working with the highest recommendations that will help them earn space on their chosen site. 

How MarinOne can improve display and search ad performance

Using a campaign management platform like MarinOne can help you automate mundane tasks associated with display and search ads. Our team has experts available to consult you on the most significant opportunities for improvement. And with machine-learning and automated bidding built directly into the software, we make omnichannel advertising as simple as possible. See how your PPC campaigns across all platforms are doing in a single place, and change bids or budgets according to performance with our all-in-one solution. Our advertising team is standing by today to give you a demonstration and get you on the path to easier advertising management.

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