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Google Search Ads vs Google Display Ads

There are a number of factors that go into online advertising. You’ve got many ad formats to choose from when choosing how to reach your target audience.  However, what if you had to only choose two when it comes to digital marketing? Google Search Ads and Google Display ads are two of the most important channels to master and consider.  

So, what is the difference and which is better? Are you able to use both to maximise your online marketing efforts? Most Google Ads Companies know that both Google Search Ads and Google Display Ads play major roles in online marketing, so it’s important know when and how to use them for your online marketing efforts.  

In this article, we will talk about everything you and your Google Ads Company needs to know about Google Search Ads and Google Display Ads, and how to use them effectively.  

Search Engine Advertising

The world of Google Ads marketing is a very competitive and difficult marketing channel to get right. It doesn’t matter if you have the biggest budget, the best product or service, or the most optimized website, it is going to be tough to show up at the top of the search engine’s results pageThis is true if your Google Ads Company is trying to rank your business for highly competitive keywords where customers are looking for specific products.  

That being said, having your website optimized for search is vital.  See our WordPress Tips and Tricks article.

Basically, search engine marketing is a type of paid advertising, also referred to as PPC. This allows your business to be found on search engine results pages (SERPS).  Search advertising is a type of advertising that Google Ads Companies will use to target your business’ audience through search engines such as Google, and allow potential customers to find products/services you offer. In some ways, you can think of the Google Search Ads like the old Yellow Pages book. 

Google search results page after having searched for something.
Google Ads Search Engine Marketing example used by Google Ads Companies


How Google Search Ads are used

Search Engine Marketing is a fairly simple process to follow. For example, as in the image above, if you owned a camping equipment business, you and your Google Ads Company would run Google Search Ads so that potential customers would be able to find your business when they are searching for things like “camping equipment”.  

Like this example, Google Search Ads gives you visibility on the search page quickly and cost-effectively! On top of that, Google Search Ads gives you a ton of added benefits: 

  • It gives you a competitive edge over your competitors,
  • and a highly detailed ability to optimize the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
  • It allows you to be highly targeted towards your audience based off of intent, interests and locations,
  • and gives you the ability to test or ascertain how effective/ineffective your website or call-to-actions are.
  • It allows you to make decisions based off of data, quickly, ensuring you are driving sales.

Google Search Ads are great for finding quick answers or solutions to problems or queries online. If you want your customers to find solutions to their problems or needs, Google Search Ads are the best.  

Should I use Google Search Ads?

But now begs the question, who should be running Google Search Ads? If you or your Google Ads Company are wondering, look at some of the things you should consider: 

  • You Have a Small Ad Budget: In general, if you have a limited or restricted budget, we highly recommend setting up Google Search Ads. This is because we feel it drives direct conversions (leads in other words) which are easily to measure.  
  • Your Organic Traffic is Non-existent: Ranking organically is difficult and can be quite costly. Google Search Ads are a great way to drive traffic to your website.  
  • You Sell an “Emergency” or “Specific” Product:  Most often, the best businesses who make use of Google Search Ads are the “when-in-need” businesses. These would be businesses such as Plumbers, Lawyers, Locksmiths or a service people need at specific times or right away.  
  • You Want to Generate Quality Leads: Google Search Ads are a great way to drive high quality leads to your website as they are in the market to buy your products or make use of your services.  

Display Advertising

When compared to Google Search Ads, Display Ads are not limited to the Search Engine Results Page on Google. They also display across different websites that your potential customers are browsing on within Google.  

They let you put your ad directly in front on your potential customer without waiting for them to find you. Google Display Ads allow you to be more active in the “discovery” phase of the sales funnel. Therefor, giving you the opportunity to introduce your product to customers before they even ever knew they needed it.  

The major difference between the two formats, is that Google Display Ads don’t look at the intent of the potential customer but rather at building brand awareness from an online perspective. They don’t just appear on other websites, but can also appear as follows:  

  • Banner – these include images and rich media, so animations and custom layouts can be used
  • Gmail – appear in personal inboxes
  • App- targets specific mobile app categories

How Google Display Ads are used

Now, before you think Google Display Ads are too complicated or not worth it, consider this example. Earlier today I was searching for dog food and other pet related items.   Throughout my day at work while browsing various websites for research, I saw ads for pet-related products and even pet insurance! The beauty of Google Display Ads is that it reminds you to re-visit the website to make a purchase or to sign up for pet insurance. One of the ads did eventually convince and now I have insurance for my pet as well as a new toy.  

Example of a well designed Google Display Ad.
Example of Google Display Ads on Vet Street That Can Be set up for your business.

That is display advertising, folks! 

Basically, when your customer is online, it’s important to keep your brand in front of them as much as possible. Not all marketing efforts need to be targeted towards people who show intent, but sometimes it’s best to reach people who are browsing around online reading the latest news or checking the latest on the sport results that took place over the weekend. Why, you ask? Well, literally everyone spends majority of their time online surfing the web not looking for anything specific, and bam! Your ad pops up on the website they are currently browsing and they find themselves clicking on it and browsing your website.  

Should I use Google Display Ads?

So, who should be running Google Display Ads? Maybe consider these points below: 

  • You Want to Build Brand Awareness: Google Display Ads are a great way to reach new customers in a short space of time, and to showcase your brand. In short, it offers a lot of places you can advertise your ads to your target audience, driving a large volume of traffic to your website. 
  • You Don’t Have an Immediate Sale Product: Sometimes businesses have products or services that take a long time for customers to make a decision on, so to get them to consider your brand for their decision, you can use Google Display Ads to stay top-of-mind for when they make that decision and have them come back to your website to make a purchase.  
  • You Have Photographic Items: One of the main reasons to use Google Display Ads is that you can use images in creative ways in your ads. This is especially great when you need to advertise products that need more visual demonstration than what a Google Search Ad would provide. Products like décor, clothing or events would be great examples.  


Knowing when to use the right advertising platform is key to any marketing success. 

Like this article, you have come to know that search and display work in vastly different ways. The power in this knowledge is now looking at how you can best put their strengths to work!  The search network excels at driving high-intent, targeted searches that are likely to convert. In contrast, display ads are building brand awareness on websites.  

Google Display ads and Google Search ads are both great for driving sales. They can work wonderfully together when used in the correct way. All you have to do is provide the right offer and creative for each. If you need help creating these types of campaigns on your Google Ads accounts, reach out to us at BaseCloud! We would love to help you segment and produce campaigns you will see success in. 

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