Display vs. Search Advertising: Where Should You Be Investing?

Advertising has come a long way over the past decade.
Gone are the days of ‘guess work’ advertising where companies distributed their advertising budgets across a few select channels; a few TV ads, some print media here and there, a few billboards – and wait for customers to roll in… The digital marketing industry has changed the world of advertising through one main factor, the ability to measure the impact of your investment.
Let’s start by looking at and defining the difference between two advertising formats, display and search advertising.

Advantages of display advertising

Display Advertising is a form of online advertising that conveys messaging visually using placements across the Google Display Network, also known as ‘banner ads’. Here are three reasons why you should use display advertising:

Drive Awareness

Display advertising is predominantly an ‘upper funnel’ activity. Its brilliant for creating brand awareness around a new product or company that can ultimately fuel demand. Display ads can be targeted to show to users matched by demographics, user behaviour, and previous search history.

Harnessing the Power of Visuals

Display ads are considered to be one of the most diverse forms of visual advertising on the internet. Advertisers have the reins to design ads to stand out from the crowd and can be extremely different to a plain text ad.


Unlike typical banner ads, display retargeting ads are a form of online targeting where ads are served to people who have already visited your website. If the user does not make a purchase or take action the first time they visit your site, retargeting with display ads will help your brand to remain present in your visitors’ memory, which improves your chances of a future conversion.

Advantages of search advertising

Search Advertising: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is the most dynamic, measurable and controllable way of driving highly relevant visitors to your website, with instant results. When it comes to driving hard conversions, you really can’t beat search advertising – here are three reasons why:

Generate qualified leads

A well-structured PPC account and an effective search advertising strategy can quickly generate conversions and drive suitable traffic to your website. Customers are highly qualified because they are actively searching for the products or services that you sell matching your keywords. Ads can therefore be highly relevant to users’ search queries, showcasing the most appropriate benefits and features and typically resulting in much higher click-through rates than through display advertising.

Measurement, Testing and Optimisation

Search advertising campaigns results can be measured and then tested to improve performance. This involves ongoing optimisation strategies which can continuously improve your return on investment. If you think your ads are performing well now, think how much better they could we with some testing and refinement!

Cost effective

Search advertising works on a cost per click basis, so you’re only actually paying when you get a user clicking on your ad. By bidding only on terms you want to be found for, most of the users who land on your site are highly relevant, meaning there is a higher chance of a conversion.

Search advertising vs. display advertising – who wins?

We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” and the same applies for advertising too. That’s not to say that you can’t be successful using just search or display; however, a combination of both platforms may work best in supporting your goals.

In fact, studies have shown that 27% of consumers conduct a search for a business after seeing their display ad, and there’s a 59% lift in conversion when users conducted a search related to a display ad.

When search and display advertising are used as a dynamic duo, they help you get even better results by targeting your customer from multiple angles and from different points along the customer journey, rather than just one. This combination makes it much easier for the customer to remember your business when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

Written by Rich Martin

Head of PPC

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