Google Display Ads Vs Search Ads: Which Is Best For Limited Budgets?

Find out which one to opt for

When you’re looking to advertise services or products or increase your brand awareness, it’s important to invest in the right kind of advertising. Google offers a variety of advertising services, each one possessing its own individual benefits to businesses.

Display Ads and Search Ads are two of the advertising services Google provides, and each of them come with their own unique pros and cons. But how are you meant to decide which one is best for your business?

What are Display Ads?

Display ads mainly consist of image or video advertisements that you can strategically place on a selection of websites that are part of the Google Display Network.

This strategic approach allows you to show specific ads, to specific audiences, at the right place and the right time. This gives you two major options with Display Ads:

  • Find new customers or engage further with existing audiences – this allows you to target audiences who are more likely to be interested in your brand and the products or services it sells. You can utilise retargeting ads to help you re-engage with people who have previously interacted with your website or branch out to even wider audiences.
  • Drive more conversions – by using automated targeting, you can help to achieve more conversions by finding high-performing audiences based on your existing audiences. Eventually, over time, Google Ads can begin to learn which audiences may be best for you.

What are Search Ads?

Search advertising refers to when a user makes a search query using specific keywords.  Google will display search results pages with a mixture of organic and sponsored results.

These ads are typically displayed in text form, with sponsored entries being shown in the first few results on the page, above the organic results. You will know if you are looking at a Search Ad, as it will have a small green “Ad” symbol next to it.

You get three major options with Search Ads:

  • Increase your online or in-store sales – search ads can either prompt users to make a purchase on your online store, or even make a trip to your brick-and-mortar store, if you have one.
  • Get more leads to your website – by attracting more leads to your website, you’ll be getting extra exposure and putting your business in front of potential new customers.
  • Drive more traffic to your website – traffic is the lifeline of a well-performing website. Without traffic, your website will struggle to sell its products or services. This is when Search Ads come in.

As with anything, both Display Ads and Search Ads come with a range of pros and cons. We’ve listed some of the major ones below to help you get a better understanding of these forms of advertising and how they may or may not work for your business needs.

Advantages – Display Ads

Here are some of the key advantages of Display Ads:

  • Visually appealing – when you use Display Ads, you can get more creative and use eye-catching imagery and designs to get your audience’s attention.
  • Brand awareness – Display Ads are the perfect way to build your brand awareness. This is because Display Ads can help to create that initial interest, reaching large amounts of users.
  • Tailored targeting – when you use Display Ads, you can unlock access to further targeting such as topic and interest targeting, as well as remarketing. You can also reach a specific demographic.

Advantages – Search Ads

To compare, here are the key advantages of Search Ads:

  • Well-targeted – since Search Ads are keyword-based, you are presented with plenty of opportunities when it comes to customising your ad campaign to reach the right audience.
  • Immediate results – when users search a query, they’re shown paid ads first. This type of positioning is proven to get businesses a higher click-through rate (CTR) as well as conversions as it is a well-known fact that most searchers don’t often stray past the first page.
  • Allows for detailed analytics – monitoring your campaigns is crucial to its success. With Search Ads, you can access far more detailed analytics about your prospects and their geographical information.

Disadvantages – Display Ads

Here are the disadvantages of Display Ads you should be aware of:

  • Lower click-through rates – typically, Display Ads tend to have a lower CTR than Search Ads.
  • Lower conversions – with lower CTR’s comes lower conversions, meaning potentially smaller amounts of sales and registrations. Essentially, when a user sees your Display Ad, they aren’t actively looking for your products and therefore may not be ready to buy.
  • Ad avoidance – with ad-blocking tools being used by many users, you can’t always be certain that people are seeing your Display Ads.

Disadvantages – Search Ads

Now, here are the disadvantages of Search Ads:

  • Non-visual – the modern consumer tends to find visual content far more engaging than text alone. Unfortunately, Search Ads lack in those visual elements that might help to attract people to your ad.
  • It can be costly – when you use Search Ads, you must pay each time someone clicks on your ads. If you’re getting conversions through those clicks then this is fine, but if you’re getting lots of clicks and no conversions, this can be an issue when it comes to budget.
  • No viral quality – Search Ads are not as effective as Display Ads when it comes to attracting wider prospects beyond your chosen target audience.

Success Stats Speak for Themselves

There is evidence proving how successful each of these forms of advertising can be. For example, there is an average conversion rate of 3.75% for search ads.

When it comes to the digital age, we know most people are choosing to browse on-the-go, using their trusty mobile device. Luckily, Display Ads saw a yearly increase of 15% exposure of ads served to mobile devices.

Which One is Best for your Business Needs?

If you are a relatively new business looking to increase brand awareness and build on your online exposure, then Display Ads are an ideal choice for you. For a small cost, you can have a visual advert of your brand on a chosen website, if it is part of the Google Display Network. Display Ads may be particularly effective for a visually appealing brand too, such as clothing or beauty brands who can make striking adverts that will stand out.

If you’re looking to increase your conversion rates, Search Ads may be the best option for you. You can begin with a smaller budget as you get started, then slowly start to increase that budget once more conversions start to come through to your website. Search Ads are ideal for businesses looking to sell services.

Overall, both Display Ads and Search Ads can be adapted to suit a variety of budgets, no matter how limited they may be.

Curious about Making your Ads more Cost Efficient?

Nowadays, there are plenty of ways to adapt your ads to make them more cost-efficient and better suited to your business budget. From choosing the right channel to using bidding strategies, as well as using the strategy of going local, there are plenty of ways you can get the most out of your PPC budget.

Alternatively, you can get in touch with our expert team today.


Chester Yang is the Microsoft Program Manager at Diginius with a background in economics and quantitative research.  

At Diginius, Chester focuses on nurturing partnerships with PPC agencies and integrating marketing and sales solutions.