When you begin venturing into the world of paid advertising online, there are a lot of options at your fingertips. It’s like a virtual candy store, but the “candy” is a little more than 25-cents a pop and the options won’t rot your teeth. However, it can be difficult to know which type of ad is best in a given scenario.

While search and display ads seem similar on the surface, they’re actually quite different and can be complementary.

So, let’s talk about the differences between search and display ads and when it’s best to use each type of advertising.

What Are These Two Types of Ads?

Let’s start with the basics: a definition of search and display advertising. Search advertising is the term to describe the ads you see mixed in with organic results on search engines, like Google and Bing. There are now a variety of search ad types, including some that incorporate images, ratings, and other information to catch consumers’ eyes.

Display ads, on the other hand, are ads appear alongside other content on your favorite sites. These are the banner ads at the top of websites or the ads that run along the margins of the page as you scroll down.

So, the biggest difference between these ad types is where they’re located. One is on search engines and the other is on sites across the web.

Now that you understand the differences between the two ad types, let’s take a look at the best way to utilize each one as a part of your broader marketing strategy.

Use Display to Build Awareness

Display advertising is a great way to introduce your brand to new consumers or keep your brand top-of-mind with prospects. Because you’re placing your advertising on existing websites, you can select the advertising locations that make the most sense for your brand.

For example, if you’re a local store in Naples, Florida, that sells baby clothing, you might choose to advertise on a popular parenting blog online, plus place ads in the Naples Daily News. Both of those audiences are likely to have an interest in your product; those reading a blog for moms and dads probably have young children, and those located in Naples are your neighbors!

A few specifics to keep in mind with display advertising:

  • Be bold. Because this audience isn’t actively seeking out the product or service you offer, you want to create something that’s sure to catch their eye.
  • Include your branding. This audience might not be familiar with your business. Be sure to incorporate your logo and brand colors into your advertising so that you can begin to build brand recognition.
  • Take things slow. Don’t expect this new audience to become customers overnight. It’s a well-known marketing fact that a consumer usually needs to see an ad seven times before they take action on it. Your display ads should be about building awareness. If you are going to make an offer (within the call to action on an online ad, for example), make it an offer to learn more, rather than an offer to buy something specific.
  • Get on the right network. You want to make sure your display ads are getting seen (obviously, that’s why you’re paying for them). So, make sure you’re working with a partner who can get your ads in front of a network (like the USA TODAY NETWORK) of online users.

Search Ads Speak to Intent

Whereas display ads are great for building brand recognition with a broader audience, search advertising is perfect for targeting consumers who already have a certain topic on the brain. With search ads, you can dictate the keywords you’d like your ads to display for.

Let’s say you run a plumbing company in Georgia. You can run ads for searches like “plumbers in Atlanta” or “emergency plumbers open late near me.”

Having your ad display for search terms like that will help you get your business found by those who need your services right away! If someone’s searching for an emergency plumber, they likely have a leaky pipe or sink geyser that needs immediate attention. They don’t have time to research their options, so you want to be one of the first names they come across.

You can even run different ads for different keywords or phrases. Returning to the plumber example, those ads that you run for the emergency plumber queries can tout your speedy service, and the ad can direct consumers to your 24-hour appointment scheduling hotline.

Meanwhile, you can also run ads for those a bit further off from making their initial purchase. Running ads for keywords like “bathroom redesign” can get you noticed by consumers who might need a plumber in the future for a bathroom renovation. These ads can direct consumers to a landing page that showcases your work on previous home improvement projects. While these consumers aren’t in desperate need of your services, it’s good to build brand recognition and get your name in front of them early in their research process.

How Search & Display Work Together

We’re all about a multichannel marketing approach. We know that it helps businesses reach the widest net of potential customers and improves brand awareness. Search and display advertising are a natural pair. It all comes down to consumers’ online behavior.

I’ll use myself as an example: Say I’m scrolling through my local news site, the Naples Daily News, and I see a display ad at the top of the page for your dog training facility. I have two dogs, and one of them is in desperate need of some training, but I haven’t really started looking. I look at your ad, and it interests me. It reminds me that I really need to get this dog trained. I open up a new browser and search for your business ““ what do I see? A search ad at the top of the page with an offer for buy-one-get-one training classes. I click your search ad, fill out the form on your landing page, and in a month, my fur baby is now a perfect angel thanks to you!

This is an example of something that happens all the time. When you’re running brand awareness campaigns, you might see a spike in the number of people searching for your business, so it only makes sense to ensure your business is showing up there, too.

When it comes to search and display ads, it’s not an either-or proposition. You need both types of ads to build an effective marketing strategy that speaks to consumers are various stages of the customer journey. To learn more about how we help businesses manage their advertising, check out our targeted display advertising and search marketing services.

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