Search Ads Vs. Display Ads?

How About Search Ads AND Display Ads

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Many online advertisers continue to struggle with the decision to use either search engine advertising or display advertising. Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft AdCenter and the like, or good old fashioned banner displays. Both offer valid reasons, and each outperforms the other in different areas.

Why Not Use Both?

Perhaps you should consider using a combination of the two to truly get the most out of you campaign. There is a common belief that search engine advertising delivers a better return-on-investment, but according to Matt Lillig of the Yahoo Analytics Team, a combination is more likely to do so. He says that advertisers just aren’t measuring display ads in the best fashion. He writes on the Yahoo Search Marketing Blog:

Matt LilligSpecifically, many advertisers primarily use conversion percentage to measure the success of their display ads and search keywords. For example, if a display ad converts poorly (it has a low conversion percentage) then the advertiser typically lowers the budget for the ad, shifts the budget to another channel like search, or pulls the budget entirely.

The problem with only using the conversion metric method is that it is a “last click” metric. “Last click” means that the ad only gets credit for the last click the visitor made before they converted. For display ad and search keyword purposes, a last-click model doesn’t reveal the true value of the ad. For example, a display or search ad wouldn’t get the credit for driving conversions to other campaigns. This can be a major issue, as advertisers might end up cutting the budget on an effective display campaign that is driving additional conversions, brand awareness and increased visitor traffic to your web site.

He then goes on to discuss the "assist" metric in Yahoo Full Analytics, which measures the number of times that display ads or search keywords contribute to the conversion of another ad or keyword.

Things Have Changed

There is no question that Pay-Per-Click search engine advertising has gained tremendous popularity over the years with the rise of the services mentioned in the introductory paragraph. In their early stages, they appeared to be a fresh alternative to banner ads that seemed to be attracting less and less attention. Perhaps more importantly, they brought a relevancy to ads that was not really present in older display ad campaigns.

The fact that they were based on searches assured a targeted audience that was more likely to be interested in the products being advertised. This concept was and continues to be a very attractive one to advertisers.

However, display advertising platforms are now offering such a concept, which combines not only relevancy and targeting, but the branding power of eye-catching visuals. In addition, platforms like the Google AdWords Display Ad Builder, MySpace’s MyAds, and others allow the advertisers themselves to easily create professional looking ads without having to go through designers or ad agencies.

Google AdWords Display Ad Builder

Create AdWords Display Ads

And let’s not forget the well-targeted method of email advertising, which happens to be the preferred method of small businesses for the holidays according to Constant Contact.

Marketing Holidays


If I start getting into a whole lot of tips, this article could easily turn into a book, so I’d rather send you to a couple of resources covering both search engine advertising and display advertising, but first I will offer a couple extra nuggets:

- If you’re using personalization tactics, do what you can not to insult potential customers (see the muffin-top fiasco).

– Second, think about your call-to-action. Would you click your ad? What would it take to make you want to do so? Think about Google’s advice with the Google Checkout Icon

If you’re familiar with the search industry, you’re no doubt familiar with SEOBook and it’s author Aaron Wall. He’s got a very nice document (PDF) on AdWords and Yahoo PPC tips, and Jamie Lomas at iMedia Connection has some good ones for display advertising. Read these and get some wheels turning. Think about combo-campaigns and let your search ads and display ads compliment each other. You’ve got an ROI to think about.

Search Ads Vs. Display Ads?
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  • Matt

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for adding content about my post.  I see above that you mentioned email advertising.  That’s a great point that got me thinking.  Yahoo! Full Analytics is not just designed for measuring search and display.  An advertisers can measure assists across all sorts of different online advertising channels (search, display, email, ebay ads, Yahoo! shopping ads, google ads, msn ads, etc).  Essentially anything with a destination URL behind it can be tracked under one roof.  The benefit of course is that the Yahoo advertiser gets to measure the conversion contribution across all channels.

    Thanks again!

    • Chris Crum

      Hi Matt, thanks for stopping by and commenting with this info. I’m sure readers who are unfamiliar with Yahoo Full Analytics will be pleased to know a little bit more about its capabilities.

  • http://www.engineready.com Jamie

    I am so happy to hear Matt talk about Assist keywords and campaigns.  Although it can me a difficult thing to track, When you only optimize around conversion campaigns you can actually decrease your overall ROI… nice job MATT!

  • http://www.bigpromotions.net rich graham

    My site sells custom imprinted products, which are sometimes difficult for novice customers to buy online. Several product-specific parameters (decoration methods, file/art requirements) have to be selected, and most buyers are confused about the jargon.

    Luckily they call us on the phone to place orders, but the PPC or Display ad they clicked is no longer in the mix after the sale is made.

    We track referrals, so I have "…/product.html?=visit_source" data, but I can’t figure out how to tie that to specific order spend totals.

    I’ve considered custom toll-free numbers for different landing pages, but this would quickly become a nightmare for tracking purposes.

    Other suggestions for tracking these results would be appreciated greatly.

  • http://www.foursquareinnovations.co.uk/ Internet marketer Leeds

    makes absolute sense- display ads get your brand, product and services known and seen and there’s no reliable way of measuring eaxactly how, why and when that pays off. A great example is the web host Blue Host – they seem to have a real display ad presence online, which builds familiarity and trust. This makes them one of my very best performers for the web hosting affiliate marketing I do. But just because they convert better due to creating great brand awareness doesn’t mean that it’s easy to quantify. I also do affiliate marketing for some bigger webhosting companies, but however big they are, their display advertising just isn’t quite so prominent or distinctive and they just don’t convert in the same fashion.

  • http://www.thinkshe.com ThinkShe

    I found if you would like to display your ads online to get the great return sometimes it is not easy to make your products selling successful.

    Display your ads get your brand, product and services to the market, sometime print media is the best solution for advertisers to get their brands into the markets. 

    Our customers got online customers less than the customers like buy the products when they see the ads on the prints.   Print media is still a great channel to display your ads.  In facts, there are so many faults over the internet, some customers refuse to use their credit cards online.




  • http://www.hophunt.com Free PPC

    PPC is very expensive and you have to test your ads first with PPC and then go for Media Display. If you get higher conversions with display ads then stop your ppc campaigns.

  • http://klikmisbah.cn klikmisbah

    so far I use display ads, cos’ I think it convert much cash than search ads..

  • http://www.yain.com Edward Han

    Personally, I believe that using both will be advantage as now we can see more people are using search and if the search result is displayed with search ads then it will be more targetted. That way, it will be likely that the visitors will be clicking on the search ads to find the products or services they want. This applies to display ads when they are targetted from the search.


  • http://www.1-script.com/ Scriptster

    Here is another reson to include display ads in your campaign: you pay much less. They may not convert right away but will get your brand noticed and a view costs a tiny fraction of what you’d pay for a click even though vast majority of clicks don’t convert anyways.

  • http://www.takearticles.com Jerry

    If you want to build brand, the display ads may be more better. If you want to get target traffics, search ads is the best choice. But i think that the brand and target traffics both are need, so we can conbinate all of them.

  • http://www.thinkshe.com Jomie Leung

    Sometimes, I was disappinted to see the displayed ads that are very non-senses. Creating a good displayed ad that can drive the potential customers that are the companies want but how can they do a good creation visual that is a lot they need to catch good designers and creative directors what I believe.

    How can we get people to buy the products and services that is a knowledge when people see the displayed ads then “go to buy’.

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