Understanding the Difference: Google Ads Search vs Display Ads

Understanding the Difference Google Ads Search vs Display Ads

Navigating the world of online advertising can often feel like a confusing maze. Did you know Google Ads offers two distinct choicesSearch Ads and Display Ads? This article will provide an in-depth comparison between these two options, helping you make an educated decision for your marketing needs.

Let’s dive right into understanding the difference and discovering which ad type could supercharge your business growth!

Key Takeaways

  • Google Ads offers two distinct types of advertising: Search Ads and Display Ads.
  • Search ads are text-based campaigns that appear within search engine results based on specific keywords, targeting high-intent users who are actively seeking information or ready to make a purchase.
  • Display ads use visual elements like images and videos to promote products or services, focusing on creating brand awareness by reaching a wider audience across the Google Display Network.
  • Search ads have higher intent and relevancy, limited visibility, and higher cost per click compared to display ads. Display ads offer wider reach and brand awareness but typically have lower click-through rates (CTRs) and conversion rates.

The Difference Between Search Ads and Display Ads

Search ads and display ads are two distinct types of advertising on Google with different purposes and formats.

Definition and purpose of search ads

Search ads, a form of online advertising, are text-based campaigns shown directly within search engine results. As part of Google’s Advertising Network, they appear when users perform searches that include specific keywords advertisers have bid on.

This “pull” form of advertising targets high-intent users who are actively seeking information about particular products or services. Consequently, these ads serve a dual purpose: to engage potential customers at the precise moment they demonstrate interest and drive them to convert by making a purchase or taking an equivalent action.

The central goal is conversion-focused; thus, putting your product in front of people ready to buy enhances your chances for successful transactions.

Definition and purpose of display ads

Display ads are a type of online advertising that uses visual elements, such as images and videos, to promote products or services. The purpose of display ads is to create brand awareness by reaching a larger audience across various websites within the Google Display Network.

Unlike search ads which appear on search engine results pages based on specific keywords, display ads can be placed on relevant websites that align with the target audience’s interests or demographics.

With their visually appealing nature, display ads have the power to capture attention and engage users through compelling visuals and creative messaging. By leveraging the reach of display network placements, businesses can effectively increase their brand visibility and attract potential customers who may not have been actively searching for their products or services.

Pull advertising vs push advertising

Search ads and display ads can be categorized as pull advertising and push advertising, respectively. Pull advertising refers to marketing strategies that aim to attract customers who are actively searching for a particular product or service.

In the context of Google Ads, search ads fall under this category as they appear when users enter relevant search queries. On the other hand, display ads are considered push advertising because they reach out to potential customers without them actively seeking them out.

Display ads are shown on websites that are part of Google’s display network, increasing brand visibility and awareness among a wider audience. This fundamental difference in approach allows businesses to implement different strategies depending on their goals and target audience.

Benefits and Limitations of Search Ads

Search ads offer higher intent and relevancy, making them more likely to drive conversions. However, they have limited visibility compared to display ads and can be more expensive in terms of cost per click.

Higher intent and relevancy

Search ads offer higher intent and relevancy compared to display ads. This is because search ads are targeted towards users who are actively searching for specific products or services.

When a user types in a search query, they have a clear intent and are more likely to convert into customers. Additionally, search ads allow advertisers to bid on specific keywords that directly relate to their business, ensuring that the ad is shown to the most relevant audience.

This targeting based on intent and relevancy increases the chances of driving high-quality traffic and achieving better conversion rates for businesses advertising on Google Ads.

Limited visibility

Search ads have limited visibility as they only appear within the search engine results page (SERP) when users enter relevant keywords. This means that your ad will only be shown to users who actively search for specific terms related to your product or service.

While this can be beneficial in terms of targeting high-intent users, it also limits the reach of your advertisement. Unlike display ads, which can be shown on various websites across the Google Display Network, search ads are confined to the SERP.

However, despite their limited visibility, search ads tend to have higher conversion rates due to their direct relevance to user queries and intent.

Higher cost per click

Search ads typically have a higher cost per click compared to display ads. This is because search ads target users who are actively searching for specific products or services, which makes the intent behind these searches much higher.

Since there is a greater likelihood of conversions with search ads, advertisers are willing to pay more per click to secure those valuable leads. On the other hand, display ads focus more on brand awareness and reaching a wider audience, resulting in lower costs per click.

It’s important for advertisers to consider their budget and goals when deciding between search and display ads in order to optimize their advertising spend effectively.

Benefits and Limitations of Display Ads

Display ads offer a wider reach and brand awareness, but they typically have lower click-through rates (CTRs) and conversion rates compared to search ads. To learn more about the benefits and limitations of display ads, keep reading!

Wider reach and brand awareness

Display ads offer a wider reach and are highly effective in building brand awareness. By utilizing the Google Display Network, which encompasses millions of websites and apps, display ads can be strategically placed on platforms that align with your target audience.

This allows you to showcase your brand to a larger pool of potential customers, increasing visibility and recognition. In addition to reaching more people, display ads also have the advantage of being visually engaging, allowing for creative messaging through appealing images or videos.

With the ability to capture attention and make a lasting impression, display ads play a crucial role in brand-building efforts.

Lower click-through rates

Display ads typically have lower click-through rates (CTRs) compared to search ads. This is because display ads are more passive in nature and often serve as a way to create brand awareness rather than driving immediate actions.

Users may see display ads while browsing websites or using mobile apps, but they might not always click on them.

According to industry data, the average CTR for display ads is around 0.05%, whereas search network ads tend to have higher CTRs ranging from 1-2%. It’s important to note that these numbers can vary depending on factors such as ad placement, targeting options, and the overall quality of the ad creative.

Despite having lower CTRs, display ads still provide value by exposing your brand to a wider audience and improving overall brand recall. They help build familiarity with your products or services over time, ultimately influencing purchase decisions even if users don’t click on the ad immediately.

Lower conversion rates

Display ads generally have lower conversion rates compared to search ads. This is because display ads are more focused on raising brand awareness and capturing the attention of a wider audience, rather than driving immediate conversions.

While display ads can attract potential customers and generate interest in your brand, they may not directly lead to as many completed actions such as purchases or sign-ups. It’s important to keep this in mind when planning your advertising strategy and allocate resources accordingly between search ads, which are more conversion-focused, and display ads that work better for building brand recognition.

When to Use Search Ads

Use search ads when targeting high-intent keywords, running direct response campaigns, or working with a limited budget.

High-intent keywords

Search ads are particularly effective for targeting high-intent keywords. These are search terms that indicate a strong likelihood of conversion, as they reflect users who are actively searching for a specific product or service.

By bidding on these keywords and creating compelling ad copy, businesses can reach potential customers at the exact moment when they are ready to make a purchase decision. This allows advertisers to maximize their return on investment by focusing their marketing efforts on reaching the most valuable prospects.

Direct response campaigns

Direct response campaigns are a key use case for search ads on Google. These campaigns are designed to get an immediate response from potential customers, whether it’s making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or filling out a form.

With search ads, businesses can target specific keywords that indicate high intent and tailor their messaging to directly address the user’s needs. This targeted approach often results in higher conversion rates compared to other advertising methods.

By using search ads for direct response campaigns, businesses can maximize their return on investment and see tangible results from their ad spend.

Limited budget

For businesses with limited budgets, search ads can be a more cost-effective option compared to display ads. With search ads, advertisers have the ability to set a specific budget and only pay when someone clicks on their ad.

This means that advertisers are only spending money when there is actual engagement with their ad, making it a more efficient use of funds. Additionally, search ads allow for keyword targeting, meaning that advertisers can choose to show their ads specifically to users who are actively searching for relevant products or services.

This helps ensure that the advertising dollars are being spent on reaching highly interested and potential customers.

When to Use Display Ads

Use display ads when you want to create a visually appealing and creative message that targets specific audiences and builds brand awareness.

Branding and awareness campaigns

Display ads are highly effective for branding and awareness campaigns. These types of ads allow businesses to showcase their brand through visually appealing images, videos, and interactive elements.

With display ads, companies can reach a larger audience on websites that align with their target market. This wider reach helps build brand recognition and visibility among potential customers.

Additionally, display ads offer more control over the ad size and format, allowing businesses to create captivating creatives that resonate with their audience. By utilizing display ads for branding and awareness campaigns, businesses can effectively promote their brand message and increase top-of-mind awareness in the minds of consumers.

Visual and creative messaging

Display ads allow for more visual and creative messaging compared to search ads. With display ads, businesses can incorporate eye-catching images, videos, and interactive elements to engage their audience.

This visual appeal helps create a strong brand presence and draws attention to the ad, making it more likely for users to click through.

Studies have shown that people tend to respond better to imagery than text alone, as visuals are processed faster by our brains. By leveraging creative messaging in display ads, businesses can effectively showcase their products or services in a visually appealing way that captures the attention of potential customers.

Moreover, display ads also provide flexibility in terms of ad size and format. This means that businesses have greater control over how their message is presented on websites across the Google Display Network.

By using captivating visuals along with compelling copywriting, businesses can create memorable advertisements that leave a lasting impression on their target audience.

Targeting specific audiences

To effectively target specific audiences, display ads can be a powerful tool. With advanced audience targeting options available through Google Ads, advertisers have the ability to reach their desired demographics based on factors such as age, gender, interests, and even browsing behavior.

This level of precision allows businesses to tailor their messaging and creative content to resonate with a particular audience segment. By reaching the right people at the right time, display ads can help drive brand engagement and conversions among those who are most likely to be interested in what you have to offer.


Understanding the difference between Google Ads search and display ads is crucial for creating effective online advertising campaigns. While search ads focus on driving conversions through targeted searches, display ads are more about building brand awareness.

By understanding their respective benefits and limitations, advertisers can make informed decisions about when to use each type of ad format. Ultimately, a well-rounded digital marketing strategy will utilize both search and display ads to reach a wider audience and achieve different campaign goals.


1. What is the main difference between Google Ads Search and Display Ads?

The main difference between Google Ads Search and Display Ads lies in their placement and targeting. Search ads appear on search engine results pages when users search for specific keywords, while display ads are shown on websites within the Google Display Network based on audience demographics.

2. Which type of ad should I choose for my business?

The choice between Google Ads Search and Display Ads depends on your marketing goals. If you want to reach potential customers actively searching for products or services like yours, search ads are more suitable. On the other hand, if you aim to create brand awareness or showcase visually appealing content to a broader audience, display ads can be effective.

3. How do I target specific audiences with each ad format?

With Google Ads Search, you can target audiences by selecting relevant keywords that users might use in their searches. This ensures your ad appears when those keywords are searched for. With display ads, you can utilize demographic targeting options such as age, gender, interests, and even remarketing to show your ads to specific groups of people browsing websites within the network.

4. Are there any differences in cost between Search and Display Ads?

In general, the cost per click (CPC) for Google Ads Search tends to be higher than that of Display Ads due to its higher intent-driven nature. However, it ultimately depends on competition and various factors unique to each campaign. It’s recommended to strategize based on your budget allocation and expected return on investment (ROI).

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