Search & Display Advertising: What’s the Difference?

search advertising & display advertising differences

When I was little, I wouldn’t even touch peanut butter. I was a jelly kind of gal. Little did I know, adding crunchy peanut butter to my jelly-only sandwich would change my world. Peanut butter and jelly. Together. My lunches were so much better with both of them than just with one.

THAT’S how you should view search engine advertising and display advertising. Because when this dynamic duo works together, you get even better results than by doing each one alone. But, before you can put them together, you need to know how each of them works to reach your target audience– and the unique flavor each brings to your online advertising. So, what’s the difference between these two digital advertising types?

What is Search Engine Advertising?

Search engine advertising is a type of paid advertising, also known as pay-per-click advertising or PPC, that gets your business found on search engines. Search advertising is a great way to compete in the online space and directly target folks in your area who are using a search engine to look for your products or services.

The way it works is simple. Say you have a shoe shop. You were smart and placed a huge order of red, white, and blue sandals just in time for the 4th of July, and you want to advertise on Google. When someone searches for a keyword you’ve bid on, like “red, white, and blue sandals,” their search term will trigger your text ad, which shows up in the sponsored section of the search results page. This gives you visibility on the page quickly and cost-effectively. Then, if your text ad is compelling enough, the searcher will click your ad, visit your website, and ultimately contact you.

The beauty of search advertising is that you have a chance to compete with the bigger competitors in your local market without spending an arm and a leg in advertising costs. It also gives local business owners like you a way to directly target searchers based on their geography so your search engine ads only show to people who are around your store or service area. Search advertising is like having a billboard online, but your targeting is much more effective because it is only being shown to people in your local area who are actually looking for your products or services.

What is Display Advertising & How Does It Work?

Speaking of billboards, let’s talk about display advertising. Digital display advertising is a way to grow your brand’s awareness online. Display ads, also known as banner ads, are shown to your target audience whenever they are surfing online, but not searching for your product or service.

When your customer is online, it’s important to keep your brand in front of them as much as possible. Think of your own online behavior. How much time are you spending doing real, honest research for a specific service, and how much time are you spending just piddling around reading sports stats and barbecue recipes? We all spend much more time consuming information on our favorite websites than we do searching for something specific. So, it’s important to put your business in front of consumers when they are surfing the web because that’s where they spend the majority of their time.

Have you ever ordered a sandwich from Jimmy John’s? They make my other favorite kind of sandwich – and they’re also my favorite example of successful display advertising. Throughout my day at work, it seems like every website I visit has a Jimmy John’s banner ad somewhere on the site. That’s because Jimmy John’s wants me to remember their brand when I get a craving for a fast, yet delicious, lunch. And that’s display advertising.

Search Advertising vs. Display Advertising: How Do They Work Together?

We’ve all heard that saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” and it’s true in in advertising, too. The most successful advertising campaigns are the ones that utilize multiple forms of media. Small businesses should mimic that same strategy when implementing their advertising online to make the most of their advertising dollars.

When Sally searches for the perfect pair of red, white and blue sandals, she might see and even click on your text ad, but she may not make a decision right away. So you still need a way to reach her when she isn’t searching— with display advertising. The truth is, both of these tactics work to help you get more sales.

Harvard Business School’s Sunil Gupta says that because clicks lead to purchases, search advertising usually gets the credit for the sale because you can track the exact behavior of the customer from the impression, to the click, to the purchase. What gets lost is the awareness you have created by running your display campaign and helping that consumer remember your business in the first place. In fact, studies have shown that 27% of consumers conduct a search for a business after seeing their display ad, and there’s a 59% lift in conversion when users conducted a search related to a display ad.

Peanut butter is complemented by jelly and vice versa, which is the same with search and display advertising. You can be successful using just one or the other; however, when search engine advertising and display advertising are used together, they help you get even better results by targeting your customer from multiple angles rather than just one, making it easier for the customer to remember your business when it’s time to make a purchasing decision.

What are you doing in your online advertising to make sure you get discovered where people are searching and where they are surfing? If you aren’t doing it on your own and don’t know where to start, at ReachLocal we specialize in helping small- to medium-sized businesses get discovered online. Learn more about our search and display advertising solutions and see what else we have to offer.

Originally published May 18, 2015. Updated April 17, 2019.

Whitney Antwine

Whitney Antwine is a Digital Marketing Expert at ReachLocal in Dallas. Her experience is rich in local store marketing and social media for small businesses to increase brand recognition on the local level, and genuinely connect with their communities using a grassroots approach. Whitney has helped create multiple strategic campaigns for small businesses including social media, experiential marketing, traditional advertising, email marketing and promotions for local and national brands. Whitney enjoys spending time with her family and cooking for friends.

View all articles

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>