What is the Difference Between a Search Campaign and a Display Campaign?

You know your retail business has many potential avenues for spending marketing dollars, but determining which digital advertising tactics will most effectively support your business objectives can be challenging.

Search ads and display ads are two ways to improve your brand’s visibility and drive sales, but is one approach superior to the other?

Display ads vs. search ads: how do they work?

Paid search and display ads are digital marketing strategies that aim to put your products in the eyeline of consumers. The main difference between them is a matter of push vs. pull.

Display ads are more like traditional push advertising. They appear as banners, images or text (or dynamic combinations of the latter two) on third-party websites and apps. Behavioral, demographic and geographic parameters can be put into place to ensure the ads are served to your target audience.

Alternatively, search ads are pull advertising. With this digital marketing strategy, brands pay search engines to rank their most relevant content above top-ranking organic search results. This is accomplished through keyword bidding, most commonly using the Google Ads platform to run Google PPC ads (pay-per-click advertising), with the ultimate goal of giving a particular brand an advantage in a category the user is already researching.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see how both search campaigns and display campaigns can help meet your marketing objectives in different ways.  

Search Ads Display Ads
Pull Push
Creates visibility over competing brands Creates awareness of brands and products
Good for conversion Good for reach
Works well with shorter sales cycles Works well with longer sales cycles

Are search ads or display ads better for my marketing strategy?

As with all of marketing’s great questions, the answer lies in the head of your target audience. If your consumer sits down at their computer intending to purchase a leaf blower, they are much more likely to be attracted to one that ranks high in their search results. For brands vying for visibility in competitive categories, search advertising presents serious advantages.

But what about brands that are blazing a trail into brand-new product categories or trying to rise above the ranks in crowded categories? Display ads are fantastic for brands who recognize that consumers won’t know how much they need their products until they see them. Remember, your audience owns your brand, and conversion starts with awareness. Display campaigns are an excellent way to ramp up the visibility of your brand within your target market.

Do search campaigns or display campaigns offer a better ROI?

The oversimplified answer is that display ads offer superior reach while search ads provide superior conversion rates. That being said, it would be incorrect to imply that one comes at the expense of the other.

Because search ads are directly responsive to a consumer’s expressed need, this advertising strategy typically results in higher click-through and conversion rates. It is important to keep in mind that, however, clicks are not sales and that both clicks and sales begin with awareness. To improve your overall click volume, your brand must be visible to your target audience.

Both search and display offer advanced targeting capabilities that allow you to focus your marketing spend on specific audiences. And while display campaigns once fell in line with the traditional push tactics’ “throw all the spaghetti at the wall” strategy, display ads can now be served solely alongside relevant content, as well. In a world that is so saturated with advertising, marketing tactics must be more helpful than intrusive, or they will likely be ignored. Strategic execution of display campaigns results in, well, results.

Is a search or display campaign better for my small business?

Depending on the kinds of products or services your company offers, both display and search advertising can boost brand awareness and close sales. Businesses that mostly serve their surrounding community can benefit tremendously from using search advertising to support their SEO efforts so they rank high in search results that include their city or town or phrases like “near me” as a keyword. On the other hand, companies looking to expand far and wide may opt for a strategy that focuses on building brand recognition.

Search ads or display ads: which is better for my sales cycle?

As a general rule, paid search campaigns and display advertising campaigns speak to different stages in the buyer’s journey. Someone who is utilizing a search engine to research products and compare features and prices is closer to a purchase than someone who interacts with an intriguing banner ad.

For this reason, search campaigns can be more effective tools when your target audience is already aware of their need, particularly when the need is urgent or when they’re looking for a product or service nearby.

By contrast, the best display ads are the ones that make compelling suggestions to consumers that live in their heads until they’re ready to make a purchase. This advertising strategy can be a longer game, but it is the foundation of brand loyalty.

How do I choose a marketing strategy?

Though search and display campaigns may seem antithetical, they work best when used together.

Most brands don’t offer just one kind of product, and no brand serves just one kind of customer. Diversifying your marketing strategy is the best way to extend your reach and get the most from your efforts.

The most effective plan of attack depends on your business’s unique challenges and goals.

Connect with a strategic partner who is ready to learn everything there is to know about your brand, product category and target audience–and guide you toward a winning marketing mix.

Want help with your digital advertising strategy?

Want help with your digital advertising strategy?

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