Marketers have a million choices when it comes to online advertising. Arguably some of the most effective advertising happens right on a search engine results page (SERP). And display advertising can be found almost everywhere. But when should you use each, and why? In this article, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of search vs. display ad campaigns to give you some ideas for creating your own strategy.

There are valid reasons to use search advertising and display advertising—and, savvy marketers combine the two. The decision about when to choose one or the other depends on the goals you want to achieve with your advertising. Let’s dive in.

Paid Search Advertising Basics

Search advertising is also known as pay-per-click, or PPC advertising. It’s a simple, budget-friendly way to reach your audience. You choose specific keywords related to your business that you want to target. Then, when someone enters your keywords into a search engine, they see your text ad displayed alongside search results and click through to your website or landing page.

Pros of Paid Search Advertising

Campaigns are Highly-Targeted

Paid search ads are focused. Campaigns can be highly targeted because they are keyword based. In addition, platforms with paid search advertising have additional settings to help you plan how and when you want your ads viewed. For instance, you can choose to show ads only on certain devices, or only show ads to people in a specific region.

Results are Immediate

Paid search advertising is also great if you want to generate immediate results. Unlike display ads that may be targeted to people who simply browsed your website, search ads can be targeted to people who are ready to make a purchase now. More conversions will occur when on the first SERP, as many searchers won’t venture past page one. Ads at the front of the SERP builds a real-time online presence even if the ad isn’t clicked on.

Generating Traffic is Simple

It may take you a while to climb up the ladder of organic search results and land on the first page of SERPs. However, with paid search ads, you can simply pay to be listed at the top of search results. As a bonus, if you’re already listed organically, paid search ads can get a significant ROI boost.

Metrics are Easy to Track

Paid search advertising is a very attractive option for marketers because of conversion tracking and detailed data analytics. You can get detailed information about where your leads and customers originate from, like their location, type of device, and page viewed. These details can help you adjust your campaigns and marketing strategy to increase the ROI of paid search ads and other channels.

Marketing Budget Can Be Capped

With paid search ads, you have complete control over your marketing budget. You want advertising funds to be spent effectively, and you can customize budget-friendly campaigns. To remain within budget, monthly and even daily expenditures can be created.

Cons of Paid Search Advertising

Competition Can Become Costly

The top ad slots on the first page of search results get the most clicks – and as a result, the most conversions. If industry competition is fierce, the cost per click of ads in those top spots can become quite high. And, on the flip side, if you don’t compete for those top spots, you’ll have a much slimmer chance of converting any paid search traffic.

It’s Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Unlike your efforts to build organic traffic to your website through SEO (search engine optimization), once you stop paying for search ads, traffic stops coming to your website. So, if you’re only investing in paid search, and not SEO, your efforts won’t be sustainable over the long term.

Display Advertising Basics

Have you ever searched for a product and later saw ads on websites all over the internet showcasing the same or similar items for sale? If so, you’ve experienced display advertising. User behavior drives display advertising. As a quick example, let’s say you do a search to find out if your dog can safely eat avocado. Later, you see ads for nearby pet supply stores. In this case, your search history—your user behavior—showed you an ad you might be interested in. Since most people who have dogs need pet supplies, the ad is likely relevant to you.

Pros of Display Advertising

The biggest advantage to display advertising is that it’s image-heavy, therefore building awareness of your brand among a large audience. As your audience continues to see pictures of your products and services, it can entice them to click to learn more—or, ultimately buy. Here are some additional pros of display advertising:

Lower Cost Per Click

The CPC is typically 30% less for display than search, which can also translate to a lower cost per conversion. And, with specific targeting related to audience behavior, geography and demographics, you can be sure that your budget is well spent.

Opportunities for Remarketing

With display ads, you can benefit from remarketing, which serves targeted ads to people who have interacted with your website. This means that if they aren’t ready to buy today, they’ll still see your brand as they browse the internet, keeping you top of mind when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Increases Conversions

With display ads, you can track conversions metrics that include view-through-conversions. You can see how your display ads are helping to boost conversions across all of your channels, even if a user didn’t actually click on your display ad.

Cons of Display Advertising

Online display ads can appear on multiple internet sites and are great for brand awareness. But, they aren’t perfect. Because they are easily recognizable as ads and do not blend in with native content, display ads usually have a lower click-through rate (CTR) than search ads. This also means lower conversions (purchase, registration, etc.).

Here are some of the drawbacks to display advertising:

Getting Stakeholder Buy-In

The benefits of display advertising are not necessarily one-to-one, meaning there are benefits to getting exposure for your brand that cannot be easily measured in clicks and conversions. Because of this, convincing the client or supervisor why a low Click Through Rate (CTR) is beneficial can prove difficult.

Building Eye-Catching Creative

Creating display ads is a little more complicated than writing copy for search ads. You’ll need a unifying concept, brand guidelines, access to design tools, and even the help of a graphic designer to create memorable ads. This also means that you may need to invest more in display ads to start with than you would with simple, text-based search ads.

Ultimately, the right mix of display and search ads can help you reach more potential customers within the constraints of your marketing budget. It’s up to you and your strategy to determine how many parts brand awareness to bottom-of-the-funnel searches your business needs.