Search Ads vs. Display Ads: The Battle of Advertising


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In the competitive world of digital advertising, two titans dominate the landscape: Display Ads and Search Ads.

The battle of Search Ads vs. Display Ads formats has sparked an ongoing debate. Both methods have unique strengths and weaknesses. They offer marketers diverse avenues to reach their target audience.

This article presents a comparison between Display Ads and Search Ads. It explores their distinct features and understands how they can complement each other to create an impactful marketing strategy.

How do Display Ads Work?

Display Ads, also known as banner ads or graphical ads are visually attractive advertisements on websites, mobile apps, and social media platforms. They come in various formats:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Interactive media
  • Rich media banners

Unlike search Ads, Display Ads focus on brand awareness and engagement rather than direct user intent.

According to State of Inbound Marketing Trends – display ads make up 12% of total website traffic.

The number of advertisers wanting to advertise online has increased. Platforms like Google Display Network have a collection of websites, segmented by categories. They offer these sites as a package to advertisers.

Advertisers bid on these site-packages. The one with the highest bid takes out the space on their chosen sites.

Advantages of Display Ads

  1. Attractive Visual Appeal: Display Ads use the power of eye-catching visuals. This grabs the attention of potential customers, enticing them to explore the promoted product or service.
  2. Wide Audience Reach: Display Ads can target a vast audience across various websites and platforms. This allows businesses to access new user segments and expand their brand presence.
  3. Building Brand Awareness: Companies can display their logo, tagline, and visual elements. This builds brand awareness and recognition among their target audience.

Limitations of Display Ads

  1. Low Conversion Rates: Display Ads often need help converting users directly. They are primarily designed for brand exposure rather than immediate conversions.
  2. Ad Blindness: With the bulk of display ads across the internet, users have developed ad blindness. Here they unconsciously ignore banner advertisements.
  3. Ad Placement Concerns: The success of display ads relies heavily on proper ad placement and targeting. Selecting the right websites and platforms to increase the impact is critical.

How do Search Ads Work?

Search Ads appear at the top or bottom of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) in response to user queries. Unlike Display Ads, Search Ads cater directly to user intent.

According to Statista – In 2022, search ad spending stood at USD 99 billion. It accounted for over 40% of the U.S. digital ad spending. Also, by 2026, it is projected to grow to over USD136 billion.

Advertisers list out keywords that relate to their brand or products. They can bid on these keywords to rank above the organic search that users do on search engines.

In addition, this helps marketers to understand and optimize their content on their website to rank higher in organic search results.

Advantages of Search Ads

  1. High Intent Targeting: These ads effectively target users with high intent. They appear when users actively search for specific products or services.
  2. Immediate Conversions: These create direct alignment with user intent. They have higher chances of driving immediate conversions and generating leads.
  3. Cost Control: With PPC advertising, businesses only pay when users click on their ads. This allows for better budget control and a measurable return on investment (ROI).

Limitations of Search Ads

  1. Limited Visual Appeal: Unlike Display Ads, Search Ads need more visually engaging elements. This makes it harder to capture the audience’s attention solely through text.
  2. High Competition: As Search Ads target specific keywords and user intent, competition can be fierce. This results in higher bid prices for competitive industries and keywords.
  3. Limited Brand Exposure: Search Ads effectively generate conversions. They might not be as impactful for building brand awareness as Display Ads.

Finding Common Ground

Advertisers should not see Display Ads and Search Ads as competing forces. They can simultaneously capitalize on their unique features by using both strategies.

Businesses can create a complete marketing approach by integrating these two advertising formats. This will increase brand exposure, capture high-intent audiences, and boost conversions.

1. Retargeting and Remarketing

Display Ads play a crucial role in retargeting and remarketing campaigns. They can target users who have previously visited a website or engaged with a brand. This ensures that potential customers are consistently exposed to the brand. This increases the likelihood of conversion.

Search Ads, however, can capture users already familiar with the brand and actively search for specific products.

2. Brand Awareness and Lead Generation

Display Ads excel at building brand awareness and reaching a broader audience. It introduces users to a brand or product they may have yet to encounter.

Search Ads can complement these brand exposure efforts. It focuses on lead generation and drives conversions from users seeking relevant solutions.

3. Comprehensive Ad Tracking and Analysis

Marketers can use effective data tracking and analytics. This can help gain insights into the performance of both Display and Search Ads.

Businesses can monitor the metrics of each advertising format. This helps in optimizing their campaigns and allocating resources more effectively. This also improves overall marketing efforts.

4. Multi-Channel Marketing

Marketers can integrate Display Ads and Search Ads. They can enhance the customer journey by creating a cohesive multi-channel marketing strategy. Customers often traverse various touchpoints before making a purchase.

Display Ads have a broad reach and brand-building capabilities. They can serve as the initial touchpoint, introducing users to the brand or product. Search Ads can take over this journey once the customers progress and search for relevant information. They can provide precise and targeted solutions for this.

This seamless transition between channels creates a consistent brand experience. This builds trust and familiarity with the brand.

5. Using Advanced Targeting Options

Display Ads and Search Ads offer sophisticated targeting options. This ensures the delivery of advertisements to the most relevant audience. Display Ads can utilize demographic, behavioral, and contextual targeting. This helps reach specific user groups, tailoring the ad content to their preferences and interests.

Search Ads can use keyword and location-based targeting. This helps present ads to users with high intent in specific geographic locations.

Combining the strengths of these targeting methods enhances the precision of ad campaigns. This reduces wasted impressions and boosts ad effectiveness.

6. A/B Testing for Optimization

A/B testing is an indispensable tool for refining ad campaigns and optimizing performance. Marketers can identify which elements resonate most with their target audience by running A/B tests.

They can test Display Ads and Search Ads separately or in combination. This can help them understand their impact on the campaign’s success.

In addition, they can apply the insights gained from testing to improve overall advertising strategy. This ensures better ROI and achieving desired marketing outcomes.

7. Monitoring Competitor Strategies

Integrating Display Ads and Search Ads enables marketers to monitor competitor strategies closely. They can analyze their competitor’s advertising efforts in both formats. Businesses can gain valuable insights into their tactics and identify gaps in their strategy.

This intelligence gathering allows marketers to adjust their approach. This also strengthens their competitive advantage and helps them stay ahead in the dynamic digital advertising landscape.

Also Read: Importance of Programmatic Advertising

Wrap Up

The rivalry between Display Ads and Search Ads has spurred marketers. They continually explore new approaches to maximize the impact of their advertising efforts. Marketers can create a powerful synergy by understanding and harnessing the strengths of both formats. This can drive brand awareness, capture high-intent audiences, increase engagement, and boost conversions.

Integrating Display Ads and Search Ads in:

  • Retargeting and remarketing
  • Multi-channel marketing
  • Advanced targeting
  • A/B testing

This can open up possibilities for marketers to achieve their marketing objectives.

Businesses should combine the unique features of each format. This helps in navigating the ever-evolving digital advertising landscape successfully. They can create campaigns that resonate with their target audience, driving business growth.

Tejdeep Desai
Tejdeep Desai
Tejdeep Desai is an accomplished technology writer currently working at OnDot Media. With over two years of experience in the B2B industry, he has established himself as a seasoned professional with a keen interest in Marketing Technology, Artificial Intelligency. His passion for technology is evident in his writing, as he skillfully blends his technical expertise with a knack for explaining complex concepts in a concise and accessible manner. His articles provide valuable insights into the latest trends, innovations, and advancements in the technology sector, making him a trusted source of information for readers seeking a comprehensive understanding of the industry.


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