Key Differences Between Display Ads and Search Ads

How many times have you seen an ad for a product or service and asked yourself, “Where have I seen that before?” The answer: probably in another advertisement. It is common knowledge that marketing has become saturated with advertisements. People are bombarded with ads every day, especially if they live in a city. Even if consumers see a product on TV or social media, they will still see other ads for the same products. However, savvy businesses know that not all ads are created equal. Because of the glut of advertisements, marketers need to make their advertising as effective as possible. There is no better way to do that than by choosing the right type of advertisement at the right time and place.

Display Ads

A display ad, also known as a banner ad, is a type of marketing whereby publishers, often websites or apps, display an ad on their website or mobile app. These ads are designed to be highly visible and are typically a rectangular shape that takes up a significant portion of the screen. Display ads are typically sold on a cost-per-impression (CPI) basis. 

CPI means that advertisers pay each time their ad is served to a display network. The rate is calculated in terms of impressions. For example, if an ad network offers $10 per 1000 impressions, an advertiser might pay $10 for the ad to be seen 1000 times. There are a few types of display ads: banner ads, rich media ads, native ads, and video ads.

Search Ads

A search ad is an advertisement that appears on search engine result pages (SERPs) when someone types in a keyword or a phrase related to your business. You can buy a spot on search engine results pages (SERPs) from companies such as Google and Bing. 

These ads appear at the top, the side, or the bottom of a SERP page. Search engines charge you for the space you occupy on these SERPs. You pay a specific cost-per-click (CPC) amount each time someone clicks on your ad to get more information about the product or service you are advertising.

What’s the Difference?

Display ads and search ads both utilize online advertising and are geared towards driving sales. Like display ads, search ads also show up on various online platforms, including websites, apps, and social media platforms. The main difference between the two is that search ads are based on a user’s search term, while display ads are based on a user’s browsing history.

Display ads appear on a publisher’s website and are pulled from a publisher’s user base. Once the publisher chooses to run an ad, the ad appears on all of the publisher’s website pages, regardless of the content of those pages. 

The placement of search ads, on the other hand, is based on what a user types into a search engine. Because search engine ads are driven by keywords, it is important for advertisers to pick the right keywords for their ad campaigns. Keywords should also be specific to the product or service you are advertising.

Why Is It Important to Know the Difference?

The biggest difference between display ads and search ads involves the way they are used. Display ads are used to direct viewers to a specific landing page, while search ads are used to direct viewers to your main website. Since each has different uses, knowing the difference before you implement ads could save you time and money. It could also help you target customers more effectively.

Which Should You Choose?

Display ads are better suited to brands that are just getting started with advertising. Display ads are easy to set up, and they are often cheaper than search ads. However, display ads also have their limitations. They are reliant on the publisher to publish them and display them properly. The product or service you are promoting may also appear on inappropriate pages, which could hurt your brand.

Search ads are more complex and expensive to create, but they are often more effective. They are controlled by the search engine and are dependent on the keywords you select. Search engines have strict guidelines for what works and what does not, so using keywords that are relevant to your business is extremely important.

How to Use Display Ads effectively

  • Choose your platform carefully – You can choose from Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, or other social media platforms. Make sure to choose a platform where your target audience hangs out.
  • Choose the right image – The image is the first thing a potential customer sees. It could turn them off your ad or keep them interested. Be creative and use the right images to get the most out of your ad.
  • Test and analyze – Once you’ve created your first ad, you should test it with real audiences. If the results are not what you expected, make changes to your ad and try again.
  • Bookend your ad – Bookending involves adding text or images to either end of your ad. This is a great way to direct potential customers and keep them interested in your ad.
  • Use the right call-to-action – Make sure to use the right call-to-action for your ad. You can try “click here,” “shop now,” or “get more information.”

How to use Search Ads effectively

  • Choose the right keywords – The first step to creating successful search ads is to choose the right keywords. A keyword is a term or phrase that people type into search engines when they are looking for something.
  • Create compelling ads – Once you have selected keywords for your ads, you need to create compelling ads.
  • Send people to the right landing page – Once someone clicks on one of your ads, they are sent to a landing page specifically dedicated to that ad. This is your chance to convert a potential customer into a paying customer.
  • Measure and improve – The best way to make sure your ads are successful is to measure and improve.
  • Monitor the SERPs – The search engine result pages are constantly changing. You need to stay on top of them and make sure your ads are still appearing where you want them to appear.

Pros of Search Ads

  • Control – The most important thing about search ads is that you control what your ads are about. You decide what keywords you want to use, what your landing pages are, and what your ads look like.
  • Cost – The biggest advantage of search ads is cost. You pay only when someone clicks on your ad, which means you don’t have to pay for impressions.
  • Focus – You have the ability to focus on a specific audience with search ads. This is especially useful if you want to focus on a specific region or age group.
  • Automation – Setting up your ads and campaigns is relatively simple and easy to automate. You have access to all the necessary analytics, including conversion rates and click-through rates.
  • Coping with seasonality – Seasonality, or a strong season-based demand, can sometimes negatively affect your display ads. However, it doesn’t affect your search ads.

Cons of search ads

  • Limited creativity – With display ads, you can be creative and show off your brand personality. Search ads are more about keywords, which can be a bit of a letdown if you are looking to get creative.
  • More difficult to track – It can be more difficult to track your search ads. Display ads are more visible and can allow you to track your conversion rates more easily.
  • Time Consuming – Creating effective and engaging search ads is time-consuming. You need to research the right keywords, write interesting ads, and create landing pages that convert.
  • More difficult to scale – It can be more difficult to scale search ads. If you expect an increase in sales, you may not be able to scale up your ads quickly.

Bottom Line

Display ads are an effective tool for businesses of any size, but they can sometimes be unreliable. Search ads, on the other hand, are more expensive but much more reliable.

Businesses that use display ads need to be careful. If a publisher decides to remove your ad, your reach instantly shrinks. With search ads, you are in control. You decide when to run your ads, for how long, and where you want them to appear.

With search ads, you can also change your ads quickly to reflect changing trends and customer needs. The most important part of trying to decide which type of ad is best for your business is to think about your business goals. Visit to discover more about different ad types and the best ways to determine which type of ad would best meet your goals.

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