Digital Insights

Search or Display: Choosing the Best Google AdWords Venue for Your Campaign


Published: January 9, 2015

Contrary to a popular misconception held by many marketers, AdWords is actually the name of Google’s paid advertising network which primarily consists of two distinct advertising venues: Google Search and the Google Display Network.

Google Search (frequently misidentified as Google AdWords) displays text ads within the search results that are triggered by a keyword search. When a user enters a search query, Google displays the most relevant ads for that query. If a user clicks on a particular ad, he or she is re-directed to that advertiser’s landing page and the advertiser is charged a fee based on its auction bid for that keyword.

The Google Display Network publishes ads through the Google AdSense program on contextually targeted websites based on content, interests, or topics. Google displays ads on those sites it believes are relevant (automatic placement) as well as on those sites which have been chosen by the advertiser (managed placement). Advertisers are charged for their ads on their choice of a pay-per-click or cost-per-thousand impressions basis.

The Case for Google Search
The Google Search network is probably the best known and most widely used vehicle for pay-per-click advertising. Typically your text ads will appear in the Google search results as well as with “search partners” such as AOL if you choose to extend your targeting.

Google Search is a highly effective advertising medium because it laser-targets searchers who have high buying intent. Paid ads are typically more forceful and action-oriented, and can include extensions that feature additional links as well as addresses and phone numbers. Because the Google Search network targets users who are actively searching for a product to help them resolve problems and issues, search campaigns generally deliver a higher conversion rate than display campaigns.

What Types of Businesses Would Benefit From Running a Search Campaign?

A Google Search campaign is particularly well-suited for those businesses who:

  • Have a limited advertising budget. A search campaign is a great option for advertisers who need to start small and “grow” their ad budget. A well planned search campaign is more likely to drive direct conversions than display ads, and return on investment (ROI) is easily measured.
  • Sell a product of an “emergency” nature. This includes products and services such as auto repair, plumbing, heating and cooling repair, and locksmiths. Users searching for businesses in these categories need immediate help, and your search ad needs to be displayed whenever the users’ need for fast action arises.

The Case for Google’s Display Network
The Google Display Network (GDN) features over 2 million participating sites that reach more than 90 percent of Internet users, giving advertisers the opportunity to expand their online reach and increase brand awareness.

While display users are not necessarily in the same type of buying mode as search users, those who do click on your ads will be interested in hearing your story and are prime candidates for addition to your fan base. Space on the GDN is usually plentiful, and clicks are less costly than on the search network.

Who is the Display Network Best Suited For?
Advertisers who need to increase their brand awareness numbers will benefit from a display campaign. A variety of targeting options allows audiences to be customized to fit your best customer profiles.

If your product has a lengthy sales process, display advertising will help ensure that your brand stays top-of-mind until the user is ready to make a purchase decision. The remarketing option allows you to follow users who have visited your site with follow-up ads that encourage further engagement with your brand.


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