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Google Search versus Google Display





Last year, Exsilio’s resident Search Engine Marketing expert Chris Meade released an article making the case for Bing Ads. For this article, we are taking a different approach and focusing on the maximization of the ROI on your ad campaigns by choosing the network that best helps you achieve your end-goal, whether that is more leads for your business, greater awareness of your products and services, or building brand loyalty.

With Google controlling over 67% of the U.S search market and 87% of the U.S. mobile search market share, and their vast array of web properties including blogger, gmail, apps and more, running ads on Google properties is one of the most effective ways to market your products and services.

Google Adwords has two types of networks that campaigns can run on – Search and Display. By default, Google’s settings will naturally run campaigns on both of these networks. This default setting works best with those who are less familiar with Adwords and are testing out various campaigns. By running campaigns on both Search and Display, would-be experts can compare the networks and see which one drives the most conversions. This default setting can be adjusted to only show ads on Search or Display. A conversion as defined by Google is “when someone clicks your ad and then takes an action that you’ve defined as valuable to your business, such as an online purchase or a call to your business from a mobile phone.”

What is the Difference?

Search Network is a more targeted approach where users are actively searching for specific products or services using a set of keywords. The Display Network is more visual using images or video and is commonly used to drive brand awareness. An online clothing shop owner may choose to display her ads on the Display Network as that allows for her to create visually captivating content by using images of her products which may lead to an increase in sales. Whereas, a brick-and-mortar plumbing business which is based less on visuals might want to run their ads on the Search Network to drive increased phone calls to their business.

The image below details the difference between ads displayed in the Search Network and ads displayed in the Display Network. As you can see, the Display Network ads are located on the sidebar and generally contain some type of visual. Search Network ads are on the left and tend to provide more information about the products or services offered. Depending on the type of products or services offered, the scale of your advertising budget, and the keywords you have chosen when designing your campaign, displaying ads on one network may work better for your business than the other.


A general rule-of-thumb is to design a campaign and allow it to run for one to two weeks before assessing whether or not the campaign is driving towards your intended goal. If your business is more visual such as the online clothing store example above, running your ads on the Display Network may work better for your business because you can showcase your product visually.

In the Search Network, ads are shown next to search results. The top section highlighted in yellow is where the ad will display. This area, also known as paid-search, is where you as the advertiser are paying to have your product ads shown. It is worth noting that you cannot pay to have your ads shown in the organic search results. Organic search results are those results that come after the highlighted yellow sections. Organic search results are governed by a different set of rules such as SEO, website quality, etc. Ads are matched and then shown based on the search terms (also known as keywords) entered into the search box.


In the Display Network, ads are shown in the sidebar across many Google-owned and partner properties. They are matched based on the content on the website, mobile apps, and the search terms used. Display Network ads can be customized to appear based on the advertiser’s selected topics of interest, manually entered popular sites, or specific pages. Google has an excellent chart that details how Search Network and Display Network ads work.

Don’t Forget your End Goal!

In order to achieve the most success out of Google Ad Words you want to make sure you have a clear idea on what you are trying to achieve, what your budget is, and how you are going to keep track of your results. Search Engine Marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it type of marketing. It is worth spending 30 minutes to an hour each week reviewing the data and determining what works and does not work and refining your campaign based on the results to further achieve your marketing goals.

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