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Search vs Display Ads

When it comes to Google Ads, your ads can vary greatly in terms of their format and targeting. 

However, there are also two completely different networks on which to display your ads based on the goals of your campaign, and this will in turn affect the outcome of your campaign. 

Ads on the Search and Display networks both suit very different purposes… 

Search Ads 

Search ads are the typical PPC ads you’ll see when searching on Google – they’re the results that appear on the top or bottom of the page with the sponsored ‘ad’ symbol next to them. 

Search advertising allows you to show ads directly to people actively searching for your service or product. 

Your levels of targeting are controllable – you can decide what searches trigger your ad to show and you will benefit from nearly instant results. 

Search ads work when a user searches Google for a topic usually related to a need or issue they’re facing. They then click the ad and hopefully take an action (such as making a purchase, contacting you or perhaps downloading a brochure) – this is your conversion. 

Search ads are shown on the Search Engine Results Pages, and don’t appear in other places. 

What Should I Use Search Ads for? 

Search ads are extremely useful for instant needs – plumbers if your kitchen faces a flooding disaster and electricians if your fuses blow – and situations where people know exactly what they want.  Search ads shine in this situation as they appear in search engine results – where your customer is likely to be looking if they need a quick fix. 

Making the most of the qualified leads searching for your service or product specifically is where search ads can benefit your business the most. 

Display Ads 

Display ads are used for different purpose – it’s a form of passive marketing. These consist of either banner (graphics) or text ads shown on websites that agree to show Google Ads. So your customers will see your ads when browsing websites on the internet. 

 There is quite a few options in terms of targeting – you can choose to show ads on websites related to your service, target websites by keyword, or target demographics of users and show ads to your preferred customer type. Your ads are then shown to those users on those websites, hoping to get them interested in buying your product or service. 

Display ads are really effective when you offer a service or product that is very ‘want’ based, so something people will see and be attracted by, or indeed something they didn’t even know existed or realised that they needed before they saw it. 

This kind of advertising is also excellent for brand awareness, and is used for remarketing – to show ads to people that have already seen your website. 

What Should I Use Display Ads for? 

Display ads are great for creating demand rather than answering it – this is why they’re one of the best types of ads for brand awareness.  

By aiming at people casually browsing or those who have been on your site previously, it can help encourage people to see what your business is about or finish a purchase they didn’t complete before. 

Because there are approximately 3 million websites partnered with Google who show display ads and claim revenue through this, there’s a lot of opportunities to get your business out there! 

Determining Factors – Choosing Search or Display 

  • Type of user – consider your customer, are they likely to using a mobile when searching for your service, or on a full desktop. Will they be browsing sites or searching Google? Over 60% of searches are done on a mobile these days, will your customer be using a mobile, and if so will search ads be more likely useful here as they may not be browsing as much on a small screen? Put thought into your customer and their habits. 
  • Type of service  certain ads will be better for your ROI depending on the service you’re offering. Search ads are better for instant and urgent services, whereas display ads will be more effective for reaching those who are casually browsing for products. 
  • Search volume – if people are actively looking for your products and your keyword competition is high, search ads are a better bet. If competition is low and people aren’t necessarily searching directly for the keywords you’re using, display ads might be better to raise awareness of your business. You can use Google Ads Keyword Planner to find data on searches. 

Can I Use Both Together? 

Absolutely! But there are a few rules. 

You will want to design your campaigns to work with the different styles of marketing – active and passive. You should craft your ads in a way that reaches the user in the two different stages of the buyer’s journey. 

This could be display ads to raise awareness of your business, to your customer demographic, plus a search ad optimised for the keywords one might search when gathering information about your business. You might also run remarketing, to show ads to people that have already visited your website through your other ads, to persuade them to return and purchase. 

If you need help starting a Google Ads campaign, or need assistance optimising the campaigns you already have, get in touch with one of our experts today. 

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Heather Hirst
Currently undertaking a Communications degree at Bournemouth University, Heather is the Digital Marketing Intern at WNW Digital. She is part of the digital marketing team and here to gain industry experience and develop her skills in all elements of WNW’s expertise. You can contact her at

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