Display Advertising or Search Advertising?

As we surf the internet, sometimes we can see video ads before the actual video plays. We can also see colorful banners on a lot of sites. These ads are called display ads. Display advertising, one type of online advertising, relies on images, videos, audios to interact with audiences and impress them with these rich media. Marketers can target audiences by locations, interests, and other dimensions to show their ads. The advantage of display advertising is that the ads are very eye-catching. They show audiences directly what the product or service is, how it looks like and how the user experience is. Audiences usually have a relatively deep impression about the product or service.

search-ad-or-display-ad


Unlike display advertising, search advertising relies on text. Search ads show up when people search queries that are related to the business. For example, when someone searches “flower delivery”, a lot of ads from the local flower delivery businesses may show up on the top of the search results, on the bottom of the first page or other pages. Marketers can set up their search ads in Google with Google AdWords, list queries that their ads will pop up with, choose their bidding strategy and budget, and put together the headings, descriptions and even extension links.

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The quality of traffic from display ads and search ads are generally different because people’s intents are different. When audiences see a display ad, they may have never heard of this product or service but they may be interested in it. Then they click on the ad and come to the website of this ad to discover more. They will probably look around and most of them will exit the website. However, when people search for “flower delivery”, they may have the need of flower delivery so their intents are very strong. At this moment, they click on the search ads and they are very likely to choose one of the flower delivery services. In other words, people who see the display ads are not ready to buy the product or service yet, they are just doing online window shopping. On the other hand, people who search for a product or service are intent-driven. They are looking for the specific item and ready to buy it. Therefore, traffic from search ads is likely to have higher conversion rate than display ads. Also, for physical retailers, traffic from search ads are usually local because the retailers are generally targeting the local customers.


So, are display ads useless?

Imagine that a new video game is coming up, people won’t search for it if they don’t even know it. In this case, display ads can make some impacts that search ads can’t bring. The game company may create a short video to show how this game looks like or create banners to show some of the fantastic characters. Then they can target general gamers or people who have played similar games before, and deliver their ads to attract these people’s attention. Moreover, display ads usually cost less than search ads so it is ideal for new businesses to improve brand awareness instead of looking for conversions.
Therefore, the question is not whether you should invest in display ads or search ads. It is what your current marketing goals and objectives are. Since display ads and search ads serve for different marketing goals, marketers should combine the advantages of them and show them for different purposes. If the marketing goal is to improve brand awareness, gain more exposure from the target customers, or improve loyalties of current customers, display advertising will be a good choice. However, if the marketing goal is to catch the intent-driven moments, remind searchers about their business during the shopping consideration process, and increase conversions, search advertising will be the perfect option.

Take the example of flower delivery business again. They can deliver banners and videos on Google site networks, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to tell people what their business is and how good the service is. At least people may be able to remember their name. When people do have the need of flower delivery to their friends, they may search it in Google and may be able to recall the name of this business. Then they may be able to remember the ad or simply think that it could be a good service because they remember this brand name.


In conclusion, when people attribute the success of conversion, they usually give full credits to search ads because these traffics bring conversions directly. However, search advertising is just the last step of the whole marketing campaign but they won’t work without display ads, which introduce the business and deliver the brand value. For startups and new businesses, display advertising is a cost-effective option for brand awareness campaigns. As the business gets more and more exposure, they can take advantage of the search ads and push potential customers forward to close the deal.

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