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AdWords Display v Search – Why it pays to know the difference

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For effective, efficient and relevant AdWords management, it’s important to know the difference between a Search campaign, a Display campaign and an integrated campaign.

Watch out for Settings

By default, Google will display your ads on the Display Network. If you haven’t switched it off, you’re advertising to an audience you know little about, and you’ll find it difficult to measure and manage the results that you’re getting from your whole account.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the Display Network is a bad strategy, far from it. But remember that to be successful you need to test, measure and refine what works and what doesn’t, and mixed together in one campaign, you’ll find it tough to understand where keywords are generating clicks and turning in to sales.

Google search is simple; it’s Google. You type something in to it, you get results, plus sponsored links across the top and bottom. The audience here is specifically searching for a solution to a problem or to fulfil a need. If it’s a product or service, they probably have a budget and are ready to part with it.

Search Partners

The Google Search Network is a little different. The same principal applies; someone has a need and they are actively searching for a product or solution and have already identified their budget. But search network partners include Amazon and e-bay, Sky.com, Orange and many others, no doubt. A different audience, right? Firstly, you’ll appreciate that ads are shown in a different way on these sites, in different positions on the page. Secondly, this is a different audience: yes, they are searching, but a searcher on e-bay isn’t compelled by the same messages in your ads as a searcher on Google. Ditto for Amazon.

Let’s put it this way: identical products are sold in some swanky boutique in London and in your local car boot sale or market. They will be sold for a vastly different price. I appreciate the argument about overheads, but that isn’t the driver here – if your market trader could sell for the same price, he surely would! The audience’s perspective and expectations are different, and so is the surrounding competition.

Display Network

Thirdly, there’s the Display Network, also known as AdSense. AdSense is an easy program to sign up to for any blog publisher or site owner to monetise their web site through displaying and generating clicks on Google ads. You’ve seen them all over the place, and probably ignored them, mostly.

The main principal is the same though, you bid on keywords (much broader ones) and Google matches your ads to pages that feature those keywords. So the mere fact that Suzie reads Helen’s blog about Helen’s friend who bought a Prada bag at the weekend means that Google might just match your keyword bid on ‘Prada bag’ and show your ad.

That’s OK? Sure, it’s OK. Will Suzie click on your ad? Well, perhaps, but unlikely. That doesn’t really matter, Google doesn’t measure your CTR here or judge your overall campaign performance on it either. What does matter though, is that what compels Suzie to click your ad will be a different message to that which compels someone to click it on Google Search, or its Search Network. It will achieve a different CTR, and more importantly, a different number of sales, or conversions for the cost of the clicks.

Even if Suzie were to click your ad when it appeared on Helen’s blog, do you think she’d be more, or less likely to buy than our friend who searched on Google?

The best way to tackle this is to split your campaigns. You’ll then be able to test, measure and refine what works for each audience, what you’re spending and what’s converting to sales. Depending on your product, service or market, you might want to split it three ways for each media network, or perhaps just Search and Display.

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