Search vs display - choosing the right Google Ads approach

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Date: 4 February 2020

A marketing teams discuss the performance of and ROI from different types of Google Ad.

If you asked Google whether you should use search ads or display ads through their network, you would probably receive the answer: use both.

As a digital marketing agency, we think that’s just a little convenient. Using both means you spend not once, but twice - meaning more money in their pockets.

The two schemes do work synergistically, so it’s not ridiculous to think about investing in both. But not every business or business owner has a big enough budget to go after two birds.

We’re here to help you pick which type of Google Ad you want, and which can be left for another day.

What is the difference between search ads and display ads?

The key difference between search ads and display ads is that search marketing picks up people who are actively searching for your products or services, whereas display will pick up people who are passively browsing the internet who have interacted with your business before.

Typically, you will reach more people with display ads, compared to search ads. But the quality of your visitors will be poorer.

If you were to compare the two to a campaign on Facebook Ads, Google search ads would be the super-targeted conversion campaign, while display ads would be the reach campaign.

Where do Google display ads show?

The collection of websites that form the Google Display Network (GDN) are generally:

  • blogs;
  • video sharing sites;
  • news sites.

Google says that GDN reaches over 90% of internet users, and encompasses 2 million sites. Keep in mind that the majority of that 90% will not be actively shopping, but passively browsing the internet - reading the news headlines or watching cat videos on YouTube.

You should use GDN when you are focusing on brand awareness, This is your top-of-funnel marketing where you're introducing people to your business and getting them familiar with what you offer.

GDN is perfect for this because your adverts can be seen on multiple sites, and follow people around different sites while they browse. Creepy? Yes. Helpful? Yes.

If you have money to burn, then you can look at spending some of it on Google Display. Don't expect anything drastic though - unless you’re spending thousands a day.

Where do Google search ads show?

Google search ads appear on the search engine results page (SERPS). They will show just above the organic searches, at the bottom and sometimes on the sidebar.

Most of the time they will be relevant, and searchers are unlikely to see ads which don’t link to the keyword they’ve used... although a few do slip through the net.

You can even take your ads one step further with Google remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA). These are a form of remarketing which you can use to retarget people who have been on your site already or interacted with your business.

Expect them to bring down your ad costs, and to also be super-relevant to the person searching.

Should you use search or display?

We said we'd give you a definitive answer, and here it is: Use Google search ads if you have to choose between the two.

Because most businesses don't have time or money to waste, you're really risking your arm if you decide to go all-in on GDN. This is particularly important for people with limited budgets such as small business owners, because this can cause your business to either sink or swim.

Please do not use display if the success of your business and your last few pounds are dependent on Google Ads.

Using search and display ads together

There are a few lucky people out there who have the financial power to use both. If that’s you, you can combine Google search ads and display ads together to turn your ads into a revenue-driving machine.

Do this by targeting people via search ads with keywords related to your niche and getting to visit your site, enter a competition or download your lead magnet.

After this, you can create a remarketing list that contains the people who downloaded your lead magnet and remarket to them with display ads.

That way, you can create a funnel where your top-of-funnel marketing is via Google Search and once a customer has signed up to your lead magnet, you know they're familiar with your brand and the info you've included. You can then retarget them with the next stage of your funnel using display remarketing ads.

You could look at reversing this strategy, but with Google display ads having such low CTRs and not being that accurate, you're setting yourself up for less-than-optimal results.

Copyright 2020. Featured post made possible by Tom Welbourne of The Good Marketer, a marketing agency in London which drives more traffic, generates conversions and increases sales for small- to medium-sized businesses

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