Search vs. Display Advertising: What’s the Difference, and Which is Right for You?


While online advertising provides opportunities to reach your audience in ways that traditional advertising never could, even seasoned marketing pros might struggle to understand what kinds of ads are best to employ.

Advertising options in the digital space are plentiful, but two types of ads typically provide the best results: search ads and display ads. Ads in both categories offer their own unique benefits and challenges, but both can help to reach your audience when implemented correctly.

To understand the differences between display and search advertisements and to narrow down which type might work well for your business’s particular needs, let’s examine each option in detail.


What are Search and Display Ads?

The main difference between search and display ads are how the ads are presented to the audience. Search ads will appear to people who are actively searching for a product or service that matches your ad, while display ads are paid placements that target an audience based on several predetermined metrics.

The Benefits of Search Advertising

  • Search ads blend into a user’s organic online experience, with your ads displayed near search engine results when users enter certain keywords.
  • Search ads are great for making the most of your advertising dollar. Since search ads are targeted to those already interested in your products and services, you won’t waste money advertising to the indifferent masses.
  • Because they use keyword matches to trigger your ad, search ads are an invaluable tool for capturing high-quality leads.
  • Search ads are the ideal means of targeting a specific local audience vs the global reach of display ads.
  • When offering urgent or emergency services (locksmiths, veterinary ERs, etc.) search ads are the way to go. In an emergency, people are more likely to engage with an ad targeting their need in the moment vs taking the time to do thorough research.
  • If the product or service you’re offering has a short lifecycle, search ads will help to target interested parties in the nick of time.
  • Search Ads typically have a much higher conversion rate vs other online ads.

The Benefits of Display Advertising

  • For new brands or any company trying to increase brand awareness, display ads can help to increase visibility in the digital space.
  • Display ads are useful when a more robust visual campaign is necessary. Unlike search ads, which usually only display text, display ads give the option to include images and video along with your message.
  • If your offerings have mass appeal, display ads are a great way to reach a global audience opposed to the more targeted approach of a search ad.
  • Display ads can also help reach a niche audience through placements on websites that those groups are already visiting.
  • A benefit of display ads is the ability to remarket and reach users who have previously viewed your site but haven’t yet been converted.
  • Brand ads can help to increase brand awareness, gaining large reach for relatively low advertising cost.

Which Type of Ad is Right for You?

There’s no simple answer when it comes to selecting the right style of online campaign for your business. In reality, the needs of your brand could include many of the bullet points outlined above in each category. Though there are advantages to running both search and display ads simultaneously, the last thing you’ll want to do is blow your ad budget on unnecessary spending.

Thankfully, the team at TriAd has the experience and expertise to help guide you through your digital advertising options. Contact us to help build an online advertising strategy that is tailor-fit to the unique needs of your business.

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