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22 September 2020 by Samantha Swanepoel

Google Display Ads vs Search Ads: When & How to Use Them

Google Adwords has become a ‘must’ in digital marketing over the past few years. With the world becoming so Internet-driven, there is a need for businesses to make their mark on the Internet and one of the ways in which they are able to do so is with Google Ads.

Google Ads offers two different advertising networks: the search network and the display network.

Both networks are viable for advertising but the key behind a successful Google Ads campaign is knowing when to make use of the search network or display network for your business.

If you want to receive higher impressions, clicks and conversions, then it is important to know the difference between these two networks and when and how to use them.

Using the Search Network

Search adverts are displayed at the top and bottom of the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). They are triggered by specific keywords that are typed in by searchers search queries.

The goal of the search network lies within its name: when searchers are searching for a specific product, service or solution they are going to type their search query into Google.

In a nutshell, the search network is used to capture search intent.

For example, if you are searching “fibre deals” to get fibre installed for your home, the first three results on Google SERPs are three ICT companies offering fibre packages in the area.

If the searcher was set on installing fibre in their home, they will now use the search ads to do research on the best package for their needs.

It is for this reason that search ads have higher impressions and conversions – the searchers already know what they want to search for; it is only up to you to choose the correct keywords to grab that search intent.

Using the Display Network

Display adverts can be found on Google Ads partner sites which have allowed Google Ads to display adverts on their page.

Using your stored Cookies, that track your search behaviour, Google Ads will show a Display Ad that is relevant to your recent search behaviour.

Using the same example above, if you recently searched for “fibre deals” then it is likely that while browsing you will come across a display advert for a fibre company on a partner site.

The key takeaway from this is that the display network is better for creating brand awareness.

If you are a new company, it is unlikely that a customer will want to purchase from you with little-to-no knowledge. But if you use display ads to create brand awareness it could lead to search intent.

It is for this reason that the display network drives lower conversions – people using the search network already know what they are searching for but with the display network they are been newly introduced.

In short, people do not convert as often as they had no intention of searching for the product or service – it was placed before them by Google which is why the display network is more effective for brand awareness.

What Does This Mean?

At the end of the day, this is not about ranking one advertising network above the other – it’s about understanding when and how to use the search and display network to their full potential.

For example, as a lawyer, your services are classified as “emergency services”. This means that searchers will not search for your services on Google unless they need to make use of them.

In this scenario, the search network would be the better network to advertise on so that you can compete with the other lawyers trying to grab leads from searchers.

However, if you are starting a new line of clothing it is unlikely that you will be able to compete with the large brands currently in keyword bid-wars in the search network.

By creating brand awareness with display ads you can make use of attention-drawing images, promotional offers and other clever pull tactics to encourage new customers to visit your website.

Once searchers become more aware of your service or product offering, they will become more inclined to convert over time. It is at this point that they will head to the search network where you can reel the searchers and the conversions in.


In conclusion, both the search network and display network are excellent tools for driving sales. The crunch comes down to using them correctly to accomplish the goal you have set out to achieve.

Want to start marketing your business with Google Ads? Contact the digital marketing team at Online Innovations for assistance in Google Ads marketing.

Call us on 041 365 4919, email [email protected], or visit our website at www.onlineinnovations.com to find out more.

Can't decide on a Google Ads Strategy?

The Digital Marketing Team at Online Innovations can help you make the right digital marketing decision.

If you’re interested in our services, please give Bronwen a call or email her for more information.

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