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Search or Display Advertising - Which Provides the Biggest Return?

Factors to consider when deciding which is ideal for your business and which would result in the most conversions.

Search or display advertising - Which Provides the Biggest Return?


Determining if display advertising or search advertising would be best for your marketing campaign is a complex decision. The maximum success of your entire campaign can be potentially ruined by using the wrong channel.

Thankfully, there are factors to consider when deciding which is ideal for your business and which would result in the most conversions.


Search advertising, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, is a simple, inexpensive way to reach the correct audience. You have the ability to control who views these ads and the results are almost instant. After a keyword or phrase has been searched for on a search engine website the PPC ads are directly displayed.



When a PPC campaign is performed effectively, traffic to your website is boosted and higher conversions are generated. This is due to potential customers actively searching keywords that match your product or service which results in seeing your pay-per-click ads. Pay-per-click ad campaigns typically generate click-through rates that are higher than display ads due to qualified leads. 


In addition to the best location to set up your businesses search advertising campaign, Google AdWords allows you to easily track how effective your PPC marketing campaigns are performing. To see how good potential customers are responding to the chosen keywords and phrases, simply open up your AdWords account, select the Campaign tab, and select “keywords.”


A PPC campaign is possibly the more affordable method for those who are on a lower budget or are just starting out. As the name suggests, with a PPC campaign, ads are not paid for unless they are clicked on by a user. Meaning, these users are likely qualified leads if you choose and bid on keywords and phrases relevant to your businesses product or service, leading to higher conversion rates.

A pay-per-click campaign is an ideal way to learn what works prior to moving on to marketing strategies that are more time-intensive such as content and SEO.


Display advertising is anywhere and everywhere you look online. Every website you may visit showcases ads for products on sale. You may have noticed you continually see the same ads located on your social media feeds. This occurs because display advertising tracks the behavior of users to ensure the right ads are placed in front of the right customers. Banner ads are another term used for display ads.



You must first understand the purpose of display advertising to ensure proper usage. In short, a great driving source of brand awareness is display ads because these types of ads are located in places where a potential customer can be possibly found.

A notable example would be an advertisement showing up for a health food store on a website dedicated to vegetarian recipes. Customers on this website may be unaware of this kind of store, but the display ad drives awareness. Generally, this information is gathered by marketers by studying customer demographics, behaviors, as well as previous search history.


Assume a user has not converted even though they have visited your website. With display ads, you are given the opportunity to retarget these users and pull them back in. Users are reminded of your brand with your display ad; thus, increasing the chance of conversion.


In addition to promoting your brand to the correct people, display ads have high visibility, as well. When using display ads, customers who may not have considered to check out your products or services are also shown your advertisements. This includes customers who are not part of your demographic.

An audience sees your business in front of them even when they are not a target.


Now that you understand the major differences in display and search advertising, consider the following factors prior to making a final decision:


Consider what potential customers of your business are searching for. Are the products you are selling actively searched for already by potential customers? This is where Google AdWords can be helpful. This tool can determine if keywords you are using for your marketing campaign are high volume.

Your best choice is, to begin with, a pay-per-click campaign if relevant keywords for your business show as high competition.


Another determining factor to consider is brand awareness. First, ask yourself how many people are already aware of your brand. If your intention is to increase your brand's awareness, the ideal choice would be display ads. However, brand awareness can also benefit from a search campaign, particularly if brand-specific keywords are a focus of your campaign.


Depending on what type of service and/or product your business is offering, the highest ROI may not be immediately received by the use of certain ads. Services such as doctors, locksmiths, and towing are examples of services a user specifically searches for, and need swiftly. Advertising by way of a display ad may not the most beneficial for services that potential customers might need immediately.

This does not mean, however, that a display ad will not be beneficial for your services. It just will not be as beneficial to the customers time of need.


Approximately sixty-percent of searches are performed on a mobile device. Usually, mobile searches are better handled with a search ad campaign rather than display.

For example, while searching for a service on a mobile device, the user will not be scrolling through a website. They will likely choose the first ad that comes up in their search, which is generally a PPC ad.


Is not always simple to identify which type of advertising to use when you are starting a new marketing campaign. Factors like your search volume, your main goal, and your budget are only a few things you must consider prior to choosing one.  

In some cases, using both platforms to maximize your ROI may be in your best interest. Utilizing both at once means you are able to reach customers at different points of their journey, which can possibly result in a large payoff in the end for you.

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