Display Network vs. Search Network: Choosing the Right Advertising Strategy

aanchal November 13, 2023 0 Comments

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative,” once said by David Ogilvy, reflecting the essence of today’s digital age. Nowadays, online advertising isn’t just about being seen; it’s about being noticed and remembered. 

And with Google controlling a massive 85.44% of desktop search traffic, the need to be on top of your advertising game has never been more crucial. 

This blog focuses on the two big players in Google’s world: the Display Network and the Search Network. By the end, you’ll know the difference and where each fits in your plan.

Understanding Google Ads

When you think about online ads, Google Ads might be the first thing that pops up in your mind. It’s like the high street of online advertising. Within the vast Google Ads world, two networks stand out: the Display Network and the Search Network. 

Picture the Display Network as colourful billboards on the digital highway – it’s where your visual ads live on different sites. 

The Search Network, though, is like a newspaper’s classified section, but online. It shows text ads based on what people are looking for. Both have their spot in the limelight, depending on what you need.

Search Network Advertising

Imagine you’re looking for a new pair of running shoes. You type into Google, “best running shoes for marathons,” and right at the top, before the usual list of websites, you see some ads. Those are Search Network ads.

Search Network Advertising

These are like the guides at a shop, showing you directly what you’re looking for. It’s what makes the Search Network so powerful: it appears right when someone expresses a need. The place where these ads show up is called the Search Engine Results Page, or SERP for short.


High Intent: 

The true strength of the Search Network lies in its ability to meet high intent. When people search, they have a purpose. It might be a question, a need, or a product they want to buy. 

By placing your ad on the Search Network, you’re reaching people at the exact moment they’re looking for what you offer. It’s timely, and it’s relevant. 

Targeted Keywords: 

Search Network advertising is like having a map to people’s thoughts. You can hone in on specific words or phrases people use. So, if you sell handmade leather boots, you can target terms like “quality leather boots” or “handmade boots UK.” 

This way, your ad only appears to those who are more likely to be interested, making every penny of your advertising spend count.

Display Network Advertising

Now, think about when you’re browsing your favourite blog, watching a video on YouTube, or checking emails on Gmail. Suddenly, an ad catches your eye – maybe it’s for those running shoes you were searching for. 

That’s Display Network advertising at work. It’s less about answering a direct query and more about creating brand awareness. It’s like seeing a billboard on a busy road or a poster at a bus stop.


Brand Exposure:     

The Display Network casts a wide net. Your ads have the potential to be seen by folks across various platforms, from websites they browse to YouTube videos they watch. It’s about making sure people know your brand. 

Even if they don’t click the ad today, they’ll recognise your name tomorrow or the next week. It’s the modern version of putting up a billboard in a busy area.

Visual Appeal: 

Here’s where you can get creative. Display Network advertising isn’t just text. It’s colours, images, and even animations. It grabs the eye. Whether it’s a vibrant banner on Blogger or a catchy video on YouTube, the visual aspect ensures that your brand isn’t just seen; it’s remembered. And in a world filled with information, being memorable is a massive plus.

Key Differences

Online advertising is a vast field, and one of the primary choices businesses make is whether to go for Search Network or Display Network advertising. While both are tools of Google Ads, they have distinct features and uses.

Search Network Advertising

Search Network, as the name suggests, is all about appearing on search results. When someone types a query, you want your ad to be there, answering their need. But what do these ads look like?

1. Expanded Text Ads: Think of these as the classic format. They’re clear and to the point. A business gets three headlines, with a limit of 30 characters for each. Below these headlines, there are two descriptions, each having a space of up to 90 characters. It’s structured, so whatever order you type them in, that’s how they’ll show.

2. Responsive Search Ads: These are the flexible cousins of Expanded Text Ads. Here, you’re allowed to input up to 15 headlines (each 30 characters) and up to 4 descriptions (each 90 characters). Why so many? Because Google, with its tech magic, rotates and selects the best combination, ensuring the ad matches the user’s intent closely.

3. Dynamic Search Ads: If you trust Google to know your website well, this is for you. Google auto-generates headlines and landing page URLs from your site’s content. However, you’re still in control of two descriptions, giving you a say in the message.

Display Network Advertising

While Search Network is about the moment of the search, Display Network is about visibility everywhere else – on blogs, news sites, YouTube, apps, and more. It’s like putting up banners in a digital town. 

1. Responsive Display Ads: These ads are chameleons. Depending on where they’re placed, they adjust. One time they might be just text, and another time, a big, attractive banner. They even match the style of the website or app, making them blend seamlessly.

2. Uploaded Display Ads: For businesses who love creating their content and visuals, Uploaded Display Ads are ideal. While they adapt like Responsive Display Ads, the catch is the business needs to provide the imagery in various sizes. It’s a bit more work but offers more control.

3. Engagement Ads: These are interactive. At first, they might be a simple image. But if someone hovers over them for a couple of seconds or taps on mobile, they come alive, expanding or even playing a video. It’s excellent for businesses wanting to provide a richer experience.

Other Differences:

Ad Format: Search Network mainly deals with text ads, while Display Network includes text, image, interactive, and video ads.

Targeting Options: In Search Network, ads target keywords. In Display Network, ads target demographic groups or interests.

User Intent: Search Network caters to active searchers looking for answers or services. Display Network aims to capture potential interest, reminding users or introducing them to a brand.

Both networks have their strengths. It’s about picking the right tool for the job, understanding where your audience is, and how best to reach them. Whether you’re after the immediacy of the Search Network or the wide reach of the Display Network, there’s something for every business.

When to Use Search Network Advertising

In the digital world, businesses want to be the first thing people see when they’re looking for something. This is where Search Network advertising steps in. Let’s dive into the best times to use this:

Urgent needs: Imagine your computer breaks down. You’re likely to search for a nearby repair shop. Companies that offer on-the-spot services, like computer repairs or urgent dental appointments, get a lot of customers this way.

Big decisions: People spend a lot of time searching before they buy something big, like a house or a car. If you’re a car seller or a property agent, being at the top of these search results can be very good for business.

Local services: Whether it’s a bakery or a gym, if you offer a service in a certain place, you want locals to find you when they search online.

Special items: For businesses that sell unique things, like handmade gifts or rare books, being on the Search Network helps them stand out.

Clear goals: Think about someone searching for “holiday deals to Spain” or “best yoga classes near me”. These searches show they know what they want. Businesses offering these services should be there to meet these clear needs.

When to Use Display Network Advertising

The Display Network is more about being seen widely, even if people aren’t searching. It’s perfect for those wanting to make a mark or remind people they exist. Let’s see when it’s best to use:

Getting known: When you’re starting, or have something new, the Display Network tells a lot of people about it. A new brand of shoes, for example, can show pictures of their range to a wide audience.

Reminding folks: Sometimes, people check a product but don’t buy it. The Display Network can show them ads for that product again. Like, if someone looked at a pair of jeans but didn’t buy them, they might see an ad for those jeans later.

Pretty things: For businesses selling things that look good, like clothes, art, or jewellery, the Display Network lets them show off with pictures.

Wide interests: Let’s say you’re selling gym equipment. The Display Network lets you show your ads to people interested in fitness, diets, and health – not just gym equipment.

Telling a story: For those wanting to share a message or event, like a charity run or a music gig, the Display Network can use pictures and words to get the message across.

Knowing what you want to achieve helps you pick between the Search and Display Network. Both have their strengths, and with the right approach, businesses can make the most of them.

Combining Strategies

Today, businesses are aiming for more robust online advertising, seeking ways to reach potential customers at different stages. The strategy of combining both the Search and Display Networks seems to have found its footing in this regard. Here’s why.

Using both networks in tandem offers an edge. Think of a user who stumbles upon a Display ad of a chic handbag while browsing a fashion blog. It catches her interest, but she moves on. Days later, she decides to look it up and types “leather handbag” on Google. 

Boom! The same company’s ad appears in the search results. This isn’t just coincidence; it’s the result of an integrated approach using both networks.

This dual approach ensures a brand gets visibility, first creating a soft imprint with Display ads, and then reinforcing it when a potential customer actively searches. It’s like gently nudging the customer at first, then offering a helping hand when they decide to make a move.

Measuring Success and ROI

It’s one thing to run an ad campaign, and another to understand its impact. Every penny counts in business. Hence, knowing if the ads are delivering value becomes critical.

For campaigns running on the Search Network, the emphasis is mainly on actions. A business might want to know how many people clicked on their ad after searching for a related keyword or how many went on to make a purchase. 

Metrics like Click-Through Rate (CTR) and Cost Per Conversion are often used to gauge this. For instance, if a shoe store gets 50 clicks for every 1000 times their ad is shown, that’s a 5% CTR. It’s a direct insight into how relevant the ad was to the searchers.

On the flip side, Display Network is more about visibility. It’s about getting the brand out there. While clicks are good, here, it’s more about how many people saw the ad or how long they lingered on the website after clicking on a display banner. The idea is to measure engagement and interest.

ROI is the big picture. It’s the compass that guides future campaigns. By comparing the campaign cost with the revenue generated from it, businesses get a clear picture. If a company spends £200 on ads and ends up with sales worth £1000 from those who engaged with the ad, it’s evident the campaign was worthwhile.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Ah, the world of digital ads. Full of chances, but also pitfalls. Here’s a quick list to steer clear:

Missing Your Crowd: If you don’t know who’s listening, how can you talk? So, get to know your people before you start.

Letting Ads Run Wild: Just throwing up an ad and hoping? Not the best plan. Keep an eye on them, and if they’re not pulling their weight, shake things up.

Not Watching the Pennies: Keep a close watch on where your money’s going. Too much here or too little there can throw things off.

Sticking to Old Ways: Digital ads are always on the move. Stay nimble, be ready to change, and don’t be scared to try something new.

Dodging these slip-ups can make your ad game strong.

Final Thoughts 

So, here’s the wrap-up. Online ads, be it Search Network or Display Network, have their shine. Knowing which to use boils down to two things: your business goals and where your folks hang out. 

Be smart, avoid the common trip-ups, and spread your money wisely. The online world’s big, but with the right moves, you can make your mark.

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