Search Ads vs. Display Ads: What's the Difference and When Should You Use Each?

Any advertiser may find it difficult to decide whether to employ search ads or display advertisements in their web campaigns.
It’s a critical decision to make since utilizing the wrong ad type might result in a huge waste of your paid advertising money.
So, what’s the distinction?
How can you tell which is superior?
How can you optimize your return by combining search and display?
In this post, we will answer all of your questions and go over everything you need to know about employing display advertising vs. search advertisements for your business.

What are search and display ads?

Search ads

Paid search advertising is one of the most common types of PPC advertising, in which companies pay to have their advertisements appear above and below organic search engine results when people search for specific keywords.
For example, on Google’s SERP for “online doctor,” this text ad appeared above the organic results:
A search ad’s three major components were a headline, a display URL, and description text, all of which meant to persuade people to click through.
Ad extensions can incorporate to give users more information.
The bid and Quality Score determine how frequently search advertisements show, their ranks, and the cost per click.

Display ads

Although Google displays advertising served through the Google Advertisements interface.
It performs substantially differently from paid search ads.
The primary distinction between Google search advertisements and display ads is that search ads are a type of “pull” advertising.
Whereas display ads are a type of “push” advertising.


Search advertising, on the other hand, only appears to those who are actively looking for your product or service.
Whereas display ads paid placements that appear depending on different targeting factors.
Furthermore, unlike search advertising, display ads are not confined to showing in a single area (in the SERP).
Display advertising may found across the whole GDN, with over 2 million sites reaching over 90% of internet visitors.
They can appear in a variety of places on social media, including natively in news feeds and on the side of the main feed:

Comparing the average metrics for search & display

Because the Google Ads industry benchmarks for each advertising platform differ considerably.
Two key variables to consider when comparing display ads versus search ads are conversion rate and cost per click.

Average CVR

The average conversion rate for search advertising across all industries is 4.40 per cent.
Whereas the average for display advertisements is merely 0.57 per cent:
Take note of how the greatest display conversion rate (1.12 per cent for hobbies and leisure) falls short of the lowest search conversion rate (2.77 per cent for apparel).
Search advertisements usually generate more conversions than display advertising.
Because the Search Network links marketers to consumers who are actively seeking items with higher intent, making them more likely to convert.

Average CPC

Although display advertisements have a lower average conversion rate, they also have a lower average cost per click.
Without a question, this is a significant benefit for companies looking to reduce their ad expenditure.
However, each brand has its own set of commercial objectives.
So, how do you determine when to utilize search advertisements vs display ads?

When to use each ad type

Google encourages marketers to build up both search and display ads to maximize reach.
Maximum reach, on the other hand, isn’t always a good thing, because the key to advertising is getting your product or service in front of the proper audience – not just the largest.
Reasons to use search ads

To supplement organic traffic

Some organizations cannot afford to invest the time required to relied only on SEO to get results.
While organic results emphasize comparative material, search advertisements get consumers to solutions much faster.
As a result, search advertising is an excellent short-term approach for supplementing your organic visibility.

2. To capture high-quality leads

You may use multiple keyword match types to activate your ad with search ad campaigns.
As well as negative keywords to prevent your ad from being triggered when visitors search for particular terms that are unrelated to your brand.

3. When catering to a local audience

If you provide local service and want to target a local audience, search advertising is the best option.
With such a tiny, particular target group, reaching a global audience with display advertisements will be ineffective.

4. If you have a short sales cycle

Search advertisements are great if your product or service has a short sales cycle.
And you don’t need to continue advertising to individuals who have previously connected with your brand (remarketing).

5. To promote emergency products

If you offer an “urgent” or “emergency” service (plumbers, locksmiths, tow trucks, emergency veterinarians, electricians, etc.).
You should start with search advertisements.
These are services that someone is unlikely to pay for when reading a blog post or browsing around Facebook and happen to encounter your display ad.
Instead, if a person locked out of their car or their dog becomes ill unexpectedly.
They would most likely look for a service that can assist them right away.

6. If you have a smaller budget

For a variety of reasons, search engine advertising may be the way to go if you’re just getting started or establishing a low-budget campaign.
You can choose to pay per click or 1,000 impressions with a PPC advertising campaign.
Bidding on highly relevant keywords allows you to have more control over who you target, resulting in more qualified leads, greater conversion rates, and a better ROI.
It is simpler to assess and justify PPC efforts — and if those have perfected, you may contemplate expanding to the Display Network..

4 Reasons to use display ads

1. If your product or service is more visual

One of the primary advantages of display advertisements over search ads is their ability to integrate graphics and video.
This is excellent for advertising consumer goods and services that rely largely on visual presentation, such as fashion, home décor, vacation packages, and adventure/entertainment.
Display advertisements work especially effectively with visual digital content such as video, E-books, graphics, and so on.

2. To create awareness among those with passive intent

People who visit websites and view display advertisements are not actively looking for a product or service.
They’re presumably still in the marketing funnel’s discovery or awareness stage, examining their choices with passive intent.


As a result, the display network is ideal for building demand for your product or service.
Rather than responding to demand, as the search network does.
In other words, it lets you create a want and need rather than profiting on one that currently exists.
See how LegalZoom prompts viewers with a thought-provoking inquiry and informs them that they may seek assistance.
By utilizing Google’s targeting choices and appearing on sites that are popular among your target demographic.
You can quickly establish brand recognition before moving on to more high-intent search engine advertising.

3. If you have a longer sales cycle

Display advertising is great if your product or service isn’t generally purchased instantly and thus has a longer sales cycle.
Similar to how search ads are optimal if your product or service has a shorter sales cycle that doesn’t require many touch-points or retargeting.
This is frequently the case with significant costs such as vehicles, higher education, corporate software, and so on.
In these cases, you must guarantee that your brand remains top-of-mind for prospects

While they consider making a purchase, which accomplished through digital advertising tactics such as:

Cross-channel marketing entails sending sponsored communications to prospects across numerous devices via some digital marketing channels to persuade them to buy a product or service.
Omni-channel marketing entails offering a consistent user experience across all channels relevant to the buyer’s journey, allowing them to move smoothly through the marketing funnel.
Retargeting entails presenting advertising to anyone who has previously interacted with your brand, allowing you to stay in front of them and top-of-mind even after they have left your website (this is especially useful in the e-commerce industry, for example, with abandoned shopping carts)

4. To reach niche markets

Because display advertisements typically featured on sites where potential buyers already spend their time, they help to promote brand recognition.
Google links your keywords and advertisements to relevant web pages on the GDN’s over 2 million domains.
This implies that you may quickly target a certain audience with interest-targeted advertisements and/or contextual adverts.

For example, by putting this Career Rehab ad next to an Entrepreneur post about standing out on Instagram.
Amazon Kindle is more likely to reach people who are interested in the book.

Which will it be: display ads or search ads?

Both ad types have advantages and may be highly useful in a variety of circumstances.
However, you must grasp the distinctions and when to use each one.
Even after you’ve chosen your format and created an ad, you must link your advertisements to suitable post-click landing sites to achieve the greatest results.
Conversions take place on post-click landing sites.
A Combination of Search AND Display PPC Strategies

The last option is to perform both search and display advertising.
While display advertising is generally seen as a branding play.
A well-planned attribution procedure and technological advancements aid in demonstrating the ROI of display campaigns.

Cross-device conversions

For example, can demonstrate the effectiveness of mobile advertisements by tracking when someone clicks on a mobile ad but subsequently converts on a different device and vice versa.
Both can work if you have the funds. I propose launching two distinct ads, one on the search network and the other on the display network, to accomplish this.
Combining the two campaigns might make it difficult to see analytics and, more importantly, optimize.


Metrics may be viewed side by side when your campaigns are separated.
This will help you to make a more informed decision about which one to pursue, which may mean pursuing both.
The example below shows how to conduct a search and display campaign at the same time.
As you can see, high-level analytics are easily accessible from the campaign view.
You can therefore quickly go deeper into optimizing ad groups and keywords without having to distinguish whether are from the search or display campaign.

Which is the best route for you to take?

Advertising on the display network and on the search network function in very different ways.
Knowing when to employ the appropriate digital advertising platform is critical to maximizing your return on investment.
It all depends on what you want to achieve.
If you want to raise awareness about a new product or service or establish notoriety for a new brand, digital display advertising is probably the finest online option for you.


However, if you want to increase foot traffic and reach out to those who are already familiar with your brand or are researching it.
Paid search advertising would almost certainly be a wise investment of your digital advertising budget.
If you want to raise brand recognition and produce high-quality leads, you may use both advertising methods in your campaign.
Display advertisements can establish a conscious or considered demand for a product or service by increasing brand awareness.
Because they make the brand more recognizable to customers, digital display advertising boosts the company’s trustworthiness in the search ad.


Knowing when to employ the appropriate advertising platform is critical.
Advertising on the display network and the search network function in very different ways.
Understanding the fundamental differences between them is the key to maximizing your return on investment.
The search network excels at delivering high-intent, focused queries that beg converted.
Display advertising, on the other hand, is the polar opposite.
Yes, they are useful for remarketing. But, contrary to common perception, that is not their finest use.
Display advertising is more effective at increasing brand recognition.
People are not seeking to convert when they browse Facebook and display websites for social or research purposes.

That implies your advertisements should emphasize awareness rather than conversions.

Begin by Googling your terms on Google to evaluate intent before creating better search advertisements.
This will allow you to determine which techniques are generating clicks and whether or not there is a buying intent.
Focus on brand awareness while creating stronger display advertising.
Create a bespoke funnel from awareness to purchase by building high-quality lead magnet offers on Facebook.
Both display advertisements and search ads are effective at increasing sales.
All you have to do is make the appropriate offer and be inventive for each.
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