Digital Marketing

Search Ads and Display Ads—What They Are and What They Mean for Your Marketing Strategy


So you’re ready to enter the world of Pay-per-Click advertising—excellent choice. 😉 But how do you build a strategy that converts?  You’ve heard of search and display ads but aren’t sure where to invest your marketing budget. This article will break down the ins and outs of Google’s two main advertising networks and how they get people clicking and drive traffic to your website.

What is Pay-per-Click anyways?

A hallmark of online marketing, Pay-per-Click (PPC) refers to an advertising model where you pay every time someone clicks on your ad. Your ad will appear on prime Internet real estate—think the top of Google, popular websites, or even Your Cost Per Click (CPC) will depend on where your ad is published. Which brings us to your two main choices for advertising space—Google’s Search Network and Display Network.

The Google Search Network

The Google Search Network revolves around a pull marketing strategy that entails drawing in customers who are already looking for your products and services. It consists of a network of search-based websites and apps, the most common being Google itself.

Google Ads on the Search Network are what put you at the top of Google’s Search Engine Results Page. So let’s say someone’s basement is flooding. They type in, “emergency flooding plumber.” The top three to five spots in the search engine results will come from paid advertising. You can tell it’s a paid ad by the word “Ad” next to the company’s URL. Take a look.

SEA, emergency plumbing, SEO, Search Ads
The top local hits for emergency plumbers. Note the “Ad” next to every search result. This means that the advertiser paid for this visibility

To get in these top spots, you need to bid on your relevant keywords for your business activity. So if you’re a plumber you might pick the words “drain cleaning,” “leak repair,” or “commercial plumbing.” It’s a blind auction, so you can’t see how much your competitors are bidding. Google will rank according to the highest bidder. A web expert can help you determine the right keywords for your business and how much to bid. If all goes well, you’ll end up the star of Google Search Results. And every time a prospect clicks on your ad, you’ll pay your agreed upon Cost-Per-Click. Every month, you’ll set your maximum budget. When your budget runs out, Google will stop displaying your ads. Stay tuned for the pros and cons of the Search Network… But first, all about its counterpart, the Display Network.

The Display Network

It happens to all of us—you’ve been searching online for your next pair of running shoes when suddenly a bunch of banner ads for Nike and Reebok start to follow you wherever you go on the Internet. This is the Display Network, a group of over 2 million sites, videos, and apps where your Google Ads can appear.

Through its ingenious targeting system, the Display Network will identify your ideal customer profile by age, gender, interest, and other key factors. From there, it can make sure your ads appear where your  prospects are most likely to be surfing the Internet. As a consumer, sometimes it feels like the network is reading your mind. And that’s why it works so well!

The Display Network is an example of a push marketing strategy where you put your brand in front of people who are interested in your products and services but may still be a few steps away from making a purchase.

The Pros and Cons

So you’re probably wondering, what’s the difference between the two networks and which one should I invest in? Both options can be profitable, but let’s take a look at how they compare.

SEO, SEA, search ad, eco-friendly yoga leggings, Rose Buddha
Example of a Search Ad for Eco-Friendly Yoga Leggings


Display Ad, CBC News, SEA, SEO, search results, SERP
Example of Display Ads for the YMCAs of Quebec

While the Cost Per Click tends to be higher for the Search Network, returns and conversion rates are faster. Display Network Ads may be cheaper, but results are usually slower and less dramatic. That said, there’s a case to incorporate both types of ads in your marketing strategy.

I Need It Now versus Building Brand Awareness

At Linkeo, when our clients are making their first online appearance, we usually set them up on the Search Network. This lets them generate quality leads and gain immediate visibility as their website gradually builds up its natural SEO. The Search Network is also ideal if you have a short sales cycle, where customers are hoping to make a quick purchasing decision. “I-Need-It-Now” services—plumbing, electrician and other emergency repairs—are all excellent candidates for search network ads.

On the other hand, if you have a longer sales cycle, you may benefit from Display Network Ads. The Display Network is designed to build brand awareness and a long-term rapport with your clientele. It’s great for products and services that require more research—kitchen renos, skin care, sweaters, and appliances. While your return-on-investment may not be as obvious as with the Search Network, over time, it adds up.

Your Next Step

To make the most of what both networks have to offer, book a free consultation with the Linkeo team. Founded by entrepreneurs—for entrepreneurs—Linkeo is the web agency for small to medium-sized business. No matter your sector, we’ll set you up with an online presence that paves your way to success.

Extra Credits

Pay-per-Click photo courtesy of @Launchpresso on unsplash—thank you!

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