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Search Ads vs Display Ads – Which is Right for Your Business?

search ads vs display ads

Navigating the world of online advertising involves making smart choices, and a key decision is whether to go for Google Search Ads vs Display Ads. This guide breaks down these ad types, highlighting what makes them tick and the crucial differences between them. We’ll walk you through when to use Search Ads or Display Ads based on your goals. Moreover, we’ll discuss the challenges each type poses and share practical tips on overcoming them.

Join us as we simplify the choice between Google Search Ads and Display Ads, empowering you to make savvy decisions for successful online advertising. 

What are Google Search Ads vs Display Ads? 

Search and Display Ads are among the most popular Google advertising types that businesses us to promote their products. However, before we explore the differences between Search Ads vs Display Ads, it is pivotal to establish a foundational understanding of the unique characteristics inherent to each type of advertisement. Gaining insight into the fundamental aspects of these ad formats lays the groundwork for a more comprehensive analysis, so let’s get started!

Google Search Ads

Search Ads are one of the PPC (pay-per-click) online advertising that appears in the search results pages of search engines like Google. They are typically text-based and are designed to appear in response to a specific keyword search.

Google search ads

The goal of search ads is to provide users with relevant information or products that match their search query. By using Search Ads, you can attract your potential customers by targeting those actively searching for products or services based on their search history. It will boost not only your website traffic but also draw visitors to your physical store.

Google Display Ads

Display ads, appearing on websites, apps, or platforms, utilize banners, videos, or native formats to visually engage users. Aimed at prompting clicks and encouraging exploration or purchases, these ads offer a cost-effective alternative in the PPC advertising landscape. We can say that using Display Ads is for budget-friendly plan, with lower costs and reduced competition compared to Search Ads, reaching over 90% of site users for maximum impact.

Google display ads

Differences between Google Search Ads and Display Ads

Let’s dive into the distinctions between search ads and display ads and provide valuable insights into their respective mechanisms and performance metrics. We will unpack how these advertising avenues function and the metrics they prioritize are essential for businesses looking to enhance their online visibility and connect meaningfully with their audience. So that to elucidate the nuanced strategies needed for each platform, empowering businesses to make informed choices in navigating the realm of digital advertising.

Comparing how they work

Based on our understanding of their definitions, we’ve observed several distinctions between these two ad types. Let’s now explore a comparison of how search ads and display ads work to enhance our comprehension of them.

differences between search ads vs display ads

Comparing their average metrics

When comparing the metrics of Search Ads and Display Ads, two key factors to consider are the Conversion rate (CVR) and Cost-per-click (CPC). The industry benchmarks for these collected from our customers can differ significantly between the two advertising platforms.

Average conversion rate (CVR)

Search Ads generally have a higher conversion rate, with an average of 4.40% across all industries. This is largely due to the nature of the Search Network, which connects advertisers with individuals who are actively searching for products. This indicates a higher intent to purchase, increasing the likelihood of conversion.

average cvr

On the other hand, Display Ads have a significantly lower average conversion rate of 0.57%. The highest conversion rate for Display Ads (1.12% for hobbies & leisure) still falls short of the lowest conversion rate for Search Ads (2.77% for apparel). This indicates that Search Ads are more effective at driving conversions.

Average cost-per-click (CPC)

In terms of cost, while the average conversion rate for Display Ads is lower, the average CPC for Display Ads is also lower. For Search Ads, the average CPC is $2.41, while for Display Ads, it is only $0.59. This means that Display Ads can be a more cost-effective option for brands looking to save on ad spend.

average cpc

However, each brand has unique business goals, and the choice between Search Ads and Display Ads should be based on factors such as the target audience, advertising objectives, and the nature of the product or service.

In summary, while Search Ads generally have a higher conversion rate, Display Ads can be a more cost-effective option. The choice between the two should be based on the specific needs and goals of the brand.

When do we use Search Ads or Display Ads? 

The choice of when to use between search advertising and display advertising is pivotal, contingent upon your business objectives and target audience. Selecting the right ad type that suits your business situation and aligns with these factors ensures a personalized approach, maximizing the effectiveness of your advertising strategy.

When to use Search Ads 

Google Search Ads are most effective when you want to reach users actively seeking information or products. For instance, if you’re a travel agency, utilizing search ads allows you to target users searching for travel deals or specific destinations. This type of ad ensures that your message reaches users with immediate intent, increasing the likelihood of engagement. To measure the performance of your search ad campaigns, tools like Google Analytics come in handy. Keep an eye on essential metrics such as click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate, and return on ad spend (ROAS) to assess and enhance the effectiveness of your campaigns.

When to use Display Ads 

Display ads are effective when you aim to capture the attention of users actively browsing content on Google. For example, if you operate an e-commerce store, deploying display ads allows you to showcase your products to users exploring your site. Beyond that, display ads serve as a valuable tool for building brand awareness and promoting content or products outside of search results. This versatility extends to platforms like social media and within apps, providing an excellent way to reach your audience in various online spaces.

Pros and Cons of using each type of ads

While both Search ads and Display ads have their unique benefits and limitations, understanding when to use each option, how much to invest in each, and how to optimize them for success is key to a successful Google advertising campaign.

Search Ads

Diving into search ads reveals both perks and challenges. They excel in precise targeting and measurable results, but the trade-off may be a narrower reach. To begin with, we will explore their advantages with your business.


  • Budget control: Search ads are suitable for businesses with smaller monthly budgets, providing more control over targeting and timing.
  • Targeted keywords: Focusing on specific keywords helps capture users actively searching for your product or service, reducing wasted ad spending on uninterested individuals.
  • High-quality leads: Since these ads are displayed to users who are actively searching for products or services related to the targeted keywords, they are more likely to convert into paying customers.


  • Ad scheduling and automated rules: Managing ad scheduling for multiple search engines and accounts can be challenging. Automating global ad scheduling can help, but it requires the use of enterprise search advertising solutions.
  • High cost-per-click (CPC): One of the limitations of Google Search ads is their higher cost-per-click (CPC) compared to Display ads. Since Search ads are highly effective in capturing high-quality leads, the competition for certain keywords can be stiff. This drives up the cost of advertising.
  • Less effective in building brand awareness: Search ads may not be as effective in building brand awareness as Display ads. While Search ads can be impactful in driving conversions, they may not be as effective in building brand recognition and loyalty.

Display Ads

In regard to display ads, using them sometimes brings forth a mix of advantages and considerations. While they excel in capturing attention through visual appeal, potential challenges lie in measuring direct conversions.


  • Visual appeal: Display ads prove to be a powerful strategy for visually-oriented products like clothing, cars, beauty, and pet care. These products can be easily summarized and visually showcased with a single image, making Display ads highly effective.
  • Building brand awareness: Build brand recognition with Display ads. Drive top-funnel traffic and establish brand equity. Use simple slogans or flagship product images that align with your website’s homepage for effective brand awareness.
  • Wider audience reach: Since Display Ads can appear on millions of websites within Google’s advertising network, brands can reach a broad audience without having to consider specific search terms.
  • Lower cost-per-click (CPC): Display ads are less expensive because they have a lower conversion rate. However, they can still be an effective tool for digital marketing campaigns 


  • Technical glitches across multiple devices: Display ads can appear differently on different devices and browsers. Ensuring that your ads look good and function well across all platforms can be a challenge.
  • Consumer perception: Many consumers find ads annoying and intrusive. Advertisers need to focus on quality over quantity and offer personalized experiences to improve consumer engagement.
  • Lower conversion rate: Since Display ads are more focused on boosting brand awareness, they may not be as effective in driving conversions as Search ads, which are designed to capture and convert high-quality leads.

How to overcome these challenges?

Mastering digital advertising means overcoming challenges in both Google Display ads vs Search ads. It’s about using smart strategies and creativity. Let’s explore how to tackle these hurdles and boost your ad game.

how to overcome challenges

Collaboration with Partner Databases

Establish collaborations that offer access to demographic data from trustworthy databases. Incorporating this external information into your strategy yields valuable insights, aiding the refinement of display ad campaigns through a more profound comprehension of your target audience.

Impression share optimization

Enhance impression share by strategically adjusting bids, budget allocations, and ad quality. This optimization can result in increased impressions and click volume, contributing to a higher conversion rate and improved Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

Ad scheduling and automated rules

Integrate automation for ad scheduling and consider employing enterprise search advertising solutions. Automation streamlines the management of multiple accounts and facilitates global ad scheduling, ensuring a more efficient and effective advertising strategy.

Streamlining ad tracking workflow 

Implement tracking templates to customize URLs and gain additional insights into the performance of your ads. For streamlined global search advertising account management, consider adopting a single tool that simplifies the workflow of setting up tracking templates, thereby enhancing efficiency and consistency.

Advanced analytics tools  

Using advanced analytics tools such as NestAds, a GA4 alternative that is designated as an advanced ads analytics tool. It enables a comprehensive analysis of performance and identification of trends.

By tracking and analyzing the customer journey, NestAds helps you identify your top advertising channels, providing a deeper understanding of your customers. This knowledge not only helps you make decisions about which type of ads to focus on whether it be Search ads or Display ads, but also offers insights into your customers’ needs and preferences. 

Ready to make the most of your ad performance? NestAds is the key to unlocking the full potential of your digital campaigns. Elevate your strategy, overcome challenges, and embark on a data-driven and successful advertising journey with NestAds. 


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