Google Search VS Display Campaigns

One of the first questions we get asked around Google PPC Ads is which ads work the best? Would display or search give me the best ROI, or would it work better to run the two ad types in conjunction with one another?

We wish the answer was simple, but there are various factors to consider when deciding which ads would best suit your marketing objectives. Whether you are a startup or a well rounded, experienced service provider, the same set of variables would apply when deciding which ads to run on through Google Ads.


Considering your marketing objectives, would it be in your best interest to push your brand in front of your target audience while they go about their usual online business? Or do you need to capture a user’s attention when they are actively searching for a product or service that you are offering?

Effectively the difference between the two approaches is defined by two simple objectives: brand awareness (Push) and lead generation (Pull).


Efficient brand awareness gets achieved through a high volume of ad views by online users. Display ads provide you with the option to place your brand in front of thousands of users by using a combination of premium website placements and target audience browsing habits. What does this mean? Simply put, you are reaching the right consumer in a trusted online environment, which gives you both credibility and brand familiarity.

We tend to use the example of a “virtual highway” – in modern times, a display ad on Google can reach a lot more users than placing a massive banner next to the highway. For this very reason, it’s advised to push your brand awareness efforts through the Google Display network.

Google Display ads do, however, struggle to deliver a positive return on investment, and should only be used when you have a sizable media budget. Ad availability on premium websites are highly competitive and can become fairly expensive, in some cases, it can cost more per click than a search ad would. It would, however, be more affordable to run Google Display ads over having a banner next to the N1 highway or a voice ad on your local radio station.

Ad features on the display network include being able to showcase online store items with their price. You can customise your ads to have different content slides within a 30-second loop, or even embed a live HTML based contact form within the ad.



If lead generation is your sole objective, then capturing users while they are looking for a similar product or service versus what you are offering is the way to go. Search ads are directly linked to the key terms users search for when using Google. What this means is, if you are a plumber based in Cape Town, you can have your ads appear on Google when a user is searching for a plumber in the Cape Town area.

The ideal campaign structure behind search ads would focus on very specific key phrases to collect conversions when users are in the process of booking a service or making a purchase online. Keep in mind that many other businesses, similar to yours, are competing for the same online ad space. Due to this, you are looking at a cost per click that scales up or down, based on how many other businesses are competing for the same ad space.

The reach around search ads is a lot more narrow compared to display, purely because you can focus on a few select search terms. That doesn’t necessarily translate to lower cost per clicks, but it does limit your exposure and maximum spend per day.

Search ads allow you to add a phone number and office location, which potential customers can click and dial or GPS coordinate to you, without the need to get information from your website’s contact page. You can feature your eCommerce products on the search result pages as well, placing your products right next to the biggest online store names such as Takealot and Amazon.


They say that you need to spend money to make money and with Google Ads, this rings very true. When you have a sizable budget, it is advised to use a combination of Google Ads to get the most out of your online campaign.

The basics would include a general product or service terms, featured through search ads, in combination with branded display ads to create brand awareness. To compliment these two generic ad types, you can explore remarketing and competitor targeting.

Remarketing is a feature that exists within the Google Display Network and allows you to track and follow your website visitors around on the web. For example, a customer might have selected a product in your online store, added it to his cart, but left your store without purchasing anything. With remarketing, you can track the user’s journey across your website and display a unique ad which offers him free shipping. By doing this you can effectively get more return users and improve your monthly sales figures.

With competitor targeting, you can use the names of your biggest competitors and enter them as keywords. When users search for your competitors, you can have your branded search ad appear above your competitor’s Google listing. Doing this might not necessarily translate to more affordable leads, but it will disrupt your competitors lead generation capabilities and would give you the chance to compete with them more aggressively.


Everything comes down to budget. The bigger the budget, the better your chances of becoming a leading brand in your respective industry.

Generally speaking, and depending on your business model, the most affordable and most rewarding channel would be Google Search ads. Since you can limit the number of targeted search terms, and the user base that’s exposed to your ads, you can generate leads at a much lower monthly expense. Remember, the primary goal for search ads is to draw a user’s attention with a search ad that almost exactly reflects the search terms the user made on Google, and because you are offering exactly what the user is looking for, the chances of a conversion is much higher.

As your budget grows, you can add more campaign variations. The second campaign type we would add is remarketing. From there you can look at mass reach based campaigns to maximise your online exposure.

When it comes to advertising online, paid search should definitely be in your arsenal. Instantly target the right prospects for your business and dominate your industry competitors. Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you!

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Having been established in 2005, in Cape Town, South Africa, Elemental is primarily focused on providing web development services and digital marketing campaigns.