Choosing Between Display and Search Campaigns
If you’re familiar with digital marketing, specifically the Google marketing platform, you’ve probably come across the two channels, Paid Search and Display. These two channels are crucial to your digital advertising strategy, but it’s important to understand the different elements and advantages of both platforms. Can they be used in tandem? Absolutely, but we highly recommend learning about the difference between them and how to leverage both for maximum impact. Depending on your business objective and industry, you will want to take into consideration which type of pay-per-click (PPC) campaign you would like to run.
While these two platforms are quite different from each other, they both have unique strengths that need to be considered by your marketing department. When deciding between these two campaigns, it’s important to be aware of your budget, organic traffic volume, target audience, customer conversion funnel, and general landscape of your respective market.
Why Choose Paid Search
Paid Search campaigns consist of ads that are listed on search engine results pages (SERPs) and are helpful for brands with audience members that are active on search engines. These campaigns allow marketers to select keywords they would like their ads to show for when someone goes to search for a related product. The main components of these ads include a headline, display URL, and description – all intended to urge users to click-through to the respective website, and hopefully become a lead.
Additional benefits of Paid Search campaigns include an opportunity to rank with the competition, control over campaign optimization, the ability to target audiences based on interests and intent, fast testing, and the ability to make data-driven decisions. Virtually everything you can think of is measured within the Google Ads platform, such as Impressions, Cost/Conversion, click-through-rate (CTR), and these metrics are imperative when making marketing decisions going forward (similar performance metrics are measured on the Google Display Network).
Brands should further consider Paid Search campaigns if they meet the following criteria: a small advertising budget, lack of organic traffic, high category keyword search volume, an “emergency” product offering (i.e., plumbing company), and a need to generate high-quality leads. These campaigns have a myriad of benefits, but we really want to drive home that they give opportunities to brands of any size. This is helpful for companies that are among highly saturated markets and competitors with years of experience.
Paid Search is a low-barrier channel that virtually any brand can partake in, as long as their audience would be able to find it from a search engine search. This channel employs a “pull” approach and is unique in how it reaches “hand-raisers”, wanting to inquire further about a product or service. And contrary to popular belief, these campaigns can reach users at virtually any stage of the consumer journey or media funnel.
Why Choose Display
Switching gears with Display campaigns, this channel has nothing to do with search engines. These campaigns list ads across various websites (and apps) across the internet and are shown to users in a much different format compared to Paid Search ads. These ads can be found anywhere from within your Gmail inbox to an animated banner on a website. For reference there are over 2 million sites within the Google Display Network (GDN), capturing over a third of the total online advertising expenditures and affirming the credibility and reach of this platform.
Display allows advertisers to cast a wide net, proactively reaching users with a “push” approach. This is the ideal media channel for upper-funnel tactics and brands with longer sale cycles. You could also think of Display as a channel for producing product demand, while Paid Search answers demand.
While these campaigns are much more “open-ended”, Google still includes many targeting options ranging from managed placements to website groupings based on audience characteristics. Display campaigns help to keep your brand top-of-mind among your audience by getting your ad in front of them as much as possible. Since users on the GDN aren’t necessarily shopping for a product online, your ad must be compelling in order to get a user to click through to your site.
We recommend running Display campaigns if your brand meets the criteria of wanting to build brand awareness, products that aren’t an immediate sale or longer-conversion funnel, products that can be captured in a photo, a need for keyword coverage help, or low keyword search volume within the category.
Lastly, remarketing is another powerful element of Display campaigns. Advertisers can target users based on numerous criteria and behaviors, such as users that have visited their website but haven’t “converted” (i.e., a phone call or form submission). Remarketing offers infinite possibilities when it comes to hyper-targeted retargeting campaigns, such as giving specific users a promotion or offer or continually pushing a product that was abandoned in their shopping cart.
What Does Success Look Like?: Search vs Display
Performance metrics look very different when comparing Display to Google Ads. Conversion rates, Average cost-per-click (CPC), and CTR are much different on the two platforms, with Display being notably lower. For reference, the average conversion rate across virtually all industries is less than one percent. Some marketers might find these statistics alarming and step back, but what this tells us as a marketer is to reset your campaign expectations and tailor your campaign objective accordingly.
What does this mean for you? Success between these two channels is going to look different and is important to callout when reporting. For example, Display campaigns tend to have high bounce rates, and therefore positively influence overall bounce rates within the marketing mix.
Ultimately, we advocate for a dual-channel strategy, especially if your budget allows. To take full advantage of both, we recommend breaking them into separate, network-specific campaigns. This will allow you to alter your messaging based on the platform and instance a targeted user is viewing your ad. As part of digital marketing best practices, we see a higher response rate and greater return on investment when employing a multi-channel strategy.
Attribution: Search vs Display
Lastly, we would like to discuss campaign attribution when employing both Paid Search and Display. Cross-device conversions help show the power behind ads that were clicked on with a mobile device and then later that same user converts on a different device, for example.
So which campaign is right for you? It really depends and the answer can change based on your current environment and business needs. Before launching anything, it’s crucial to evaluate your target audience and where you are most likely going to find them. From there you can determine which of the two platforms to work with for optimal results. Lastly, we’d like to mention that neither of these campaigns is “set and forget” – they both require ongoing maintenance and attention.