When talking to clients I regularly discuss the best way for them to achieve their goals in Adwords and whether that is on the search or display networks. The answer generally is a combination of both.

Firstly when looking at an Adwords account for the first time I usually come across one of these 2 situations:

  1. The client is just using the search network


  1. The client is using the same campaigns for both the search and display networks.

I’ll explain why both are wrong.

Just using the search network

Whilst using the search network is the most common way to target relevant traffic to your site it can lead to missing out on a large proportion of potential visitors. Couple this with the opportunity to attract much cheaper clicks and placing your ads on sites that are relevant to your business is certainly not an opportunity I feel can be ignored for very long.

Using the same campaign for both search and display networks.

Think of it this way, would you use the same advert for TV & Radio? I’m guessing not, therefore I recommend not doing it for search and display network. Each network needs to be treated different, with campaign settings and ads specific to the different platforms. I would always suggest having different campaigns for both the search and display networks.

So which one is for you?

The Search Network

This is the most commonly used and discussed aspect of Google Adwords and there is good reason for this. In general clicks from the search network are more qualified and therefore deemed to be of higher quality than that of the display network. This is due to the ad being triggered by a specific keyword or query:

Search or Display Network, which is for you

Because of this you can tailor your ads to respond to the query and attract higher converting traffic. However there are a number of limitations to the search network:

  • It’s expensive. Whilst that is a very sweeping statement its true in the fact that it can be much more expensive than the display network (how expensive depends on the search term being targeted and the desired ad position). It is not uncommon for a click on the display network to be up to 10 times cheaper on
  • It’s competitive. If you find a particular keyword or search term that is profitable chances are it will be sought after by many companies thus making it more expensive per click.
  • It’s limited. I mean that in the sense that you have a limited audience. This limitation whilst good for ensuring spend is used on relevant visitor’s means that expanding your target audience can prove to be a challenge.

That’s where the display network comes in.

The Display Network  

This network is generally overlooked when it comes to smaller accounts, however it can prove to be profitable if done in the right way. The main thing to remember with the display network is that you are trying to reach a less qualified audience and therefore you must target your ads accordingly.

The benefit of using the display network is that you can use a variety of image ads to advertise your business in a way that you cannot on the search network. It also allows you to place yours ads on relevant sites across the internet. Using the display network is great for brand awareness and to attract cheap clicks to your website from speculative visitors. There are however a number of issues from using the display network:

  • It takes time – The time spent setting up a display campaign will be significantly longer than a search network campaign. The main reason behind this is the time needed to create the various image ads required at the specified sizes.
  • It’s hard to target – Deciding where to place your ad can be a challenge. By choosing to place your ad by topic or interest you are allowing Google to choose which websites are suitable for your ad. Whilst this can save time with set up it is important that you continually monitor the locations the ads are appearing to ensure you are not showing yours ads in any inappropriate locations.

Whilst these barriers can be challenging, the potential for brand exposure and cheap traffic make the display network a very important role in a digital marketing strategy.

Within the display network you can also carry out remarketing, if you are not currently doing this I would highly recommend it. Remarketing doesn’t take much time to set up but allows you to show your ads to the most relevant people on the internet, people that have already visited your site. Now it doesn’t just need to be as general as anyone on your site, it can be specific areas of your site, goals completed or practically any combination you can think of.

So going back to the question:

“I don’t know which to use, search or display?”

Use both, they both serve a different purpose and if used in combination can be very powerful when advertising through Adwords. By only choosing to use one network in your account you could be limiting your account and potential target audience.

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