Choosing Search or Display

When starting a digital marketing campaign, the question often arises, search or display? Choosing incorrectly can be an expensive mistake. Both search and display are important components of online advertising. But which one is better and how do you choose?

Understanding how each works is the first step in selecting the right ad format. When we think of search most of us think of Google. They are far and away the largest search engine. One way to utilize search is by optimizing your website to show better organically. In some cases that is sufficient. But if you are in a highly competitive industry you will struggle. A local mortgage broker will never outrank Chase, Citi etc. When the business is competitive you will need to use paid search.

Search Advertising

Paid search (SEM) is one of the most popular ways to market a business. With SEM brands pay to have their ads appear above and below the organic listings on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The ads are triggered by keywords typed by the prospect in the query bar and bid on by the advertiser.

Paid search gives the advertiser the opportunity to rank with and above their competitors, no matter the size. A smart marketer can optimize the performance of their campaigns granularly. Because you are targeting by geography, interests and intent, ads are hyper-focused. SEM can go into effect in one day, so it can produce results immediately. And, there are many measurement tools which allow the advertiser to determine the cost-effectiveness of their spend.

Search Engine Marketing is good for an advertiser who does not have a large budget. Conversions can be driven quickly and measured for ROI. Another reason for SEM is that organic results have not been sufficient. Paid search ads can give marketing a boost. For businesses that provide “emergency” service or very specific products search is a great choice. Often, a plumber or locksmith is needed immediately. Paid search is also great for anyone looking for high quality leads. Prospects do not type specific keywords, click on an ad, and fill out a form by accident. There is clear intent. Leads from paid search tend to be of high quality.

Display Advertising

Display ads are a very different advertising form. While both Search and Display can be accessed inside the Google interface similarities end there. Search ads “pull” people who are looking for something. Display ads “push” to people. They are paid ads placed in various locations on the web based on your parameters. Search ads mostly appear on the SERP whereas Display ads can appear on millions of websites around the internet.

Display ads let you put your ads in front of prospects without waiting for them to find you. This allows you to introduce your product or service earlier in the sales process or higher in the funnel. Display ads don’t work off of intent, instead they work to grow brand awareness. Display ads come in several formats: Text ads that can appear on website sidebars, banners that include images and rich media, Gmail which appears in a person’s inbox and in mobile apps.

You should run Display ads when you want to build brand awareness. We all know the web is huge so you can reach prospects in many places and drive large volume to your site. For businesses with a longer sales cycle display keeps a brand top-of-mind while prospects research and consider. Retargeting ads work perfectly for that.  If your product or service is visual Display tells the story better than search. For audiences that are particularly niche, Display can be targeted to the sites they visit, reaching hard-to-find audiences.

Combine Search and Display

You might be thinking that while each of these tactics have strengths combining them would be the best option. We agree. But it needs to be done the right way. It is easy to lump them into a single campaign, which is a mistake. Break them into separate network specific campaigns. That way each has a separate budget. Each will have its own data, to judge effectiveness and allow you to optimize individually. Copy for each ad form must be different and that is best done in separate campaigns.

When integrating Search with Display utilize the unique targeting features of Display. Target by Demographics, Behavior and Context, to reach your prospects wherever they are on the web. Use Display to load the top of the funnel with people interested in your business. Focus on the keywords that are most associated with your product or service when creating a Search campaign. Install a separate Display retargeting effort to remind people who have visited your site to return.

Use long-tail, specific keywords for prospects in the buying phase to get them to convert. And direct traffic from both campaigns to landing pages designed for your objective. If you follow those guidelines you will not find yourself choosing Search or Display, you will use them together.