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This collection of resources from 9 Clouds helps you build your business and community.


Advertising with Google AdWords: Search or Display Network?


If you run an online business, brick-and-mortar store, or a combination of the two, chances are you have jumped into the world of online advertising. If you haven’t, you probably should.

Why? In a 2012 global study, Fleishman-Hillard and Harris Interactive found that 89 percent of consumers visit a search engine to find information and reviews before making a purchase.

89 percent!

You know what this means: if you aren’t showing up online, you’re missing out on a lot of potential customers.

The leading option for pay-per-click advertising is Google AdWords, which allows you to create and run ads for your business on Google search or on the display network, which is a group of more than a million websites, videos, and apps where your ads can appear.

Learn what the difference between the search and display networks is and which you should be using in this post.

Search vs. Display Network  

Google AdWords offers a few different types of advertisements. We usually talk about search ads, which show up on Google search results pages, because that is the type many of our clients and 9 Clouds Academy members use. As you can see below, search ads are text ads that are displayed on top of and to the side of organic search results.

google search results


Another type called display network ads are displayed on sites other than search engines. These ads work well for building brand awareness by promoting your business to the most relevant audiences online. More specifically, display network ads use the keywords from your ad groups and pair them with websites that are also using those keywords.

Display network ads sound like they could be handy, right? Here’s the thing: If you’re running search ads on Google AdWords, chances are you’ve already opted in to display network ads without knowing it — and it could be using up your budget.

However, as we explained above, display network ads can actually be very effective if you are primarily interested in boosting awareness versus getting clicks. The key is to narrow down where you are spending your money and what for. Once you do so, your budget will be just fine. In fact, you’ll likely get more

Display Network Ads

Why use display network ads? It’s the ability to target users in a variety of ways that makes the Google Display Network such a potentially lucrative platform for advertisers.

Search ads are meant to garner clicks, display network ads are best for building brand awareness and visibility. Because of this, ads run on the display network usually have a very low click-through rate. This can actually be to your benefit if you’re running display ads because you only pay when people click on your ad, meaning you can get a whole lot of looks for just a little, if any, dough. It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but a viewed but non-clicked ad can be a great brand booster.

While it’s great to get exposure and visibility via display network ads, you don’t really want to waste your ads on non-relevant sites. That’s where targeting options come in.

Whereas search ads are always keyword-based, display network ads are not always keyword-based. There are a variety of options available for you to target the right audience online.

Targeting with Display Network Ads

The display network’s goal is to deliver your message to the right people wherever they may be online. A variety of contextual and audience targeting tools make this possible. Below, I break down the different targeting options and explain exactly what they accomplish.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting matches the content of your ads to website content, allowing you to show your ads in the right place, to the right people.

Placement Targeting

If you already know what sites your customers or prospects are visiting, placement targeting might be the best option for you. This option lets you decide which sites your ads will show on.


You’ve likely experienced remarketing ads in your online travels. With remarketing ads, people who have visited your site see your ads as they browse other websites on the display network.

Interest Categories

This option is pretty simple. Interest categories target users based on their common interests, and show your relevant ads to them as they browse other sites online.

Topic Targeting

Topic targeting is very similar to interest categories, but it is based on site topics instead of user interests. Think competitors’ websites.

Geographic and Language Targeting

This targeting option allows you to display ads by language, region, address, etc., delivering your ads where your customers are.

Demographic Targeting

Demographic targeting shows ads to users based on their gender or age. This option works best as a supplement to another targeting option to hone in on the perfect target audience.

Others Options

There are a handful of other tools that allow you to refine your audience even further, arming you with everything you need to find the people you want to talk to online.

…And More Options!

Contrary to popular belief, static image ads are not the only ad format that can be run on the display network. In fact, the display network offers four different formats: text, static and animated images, rich media, and video ads. These multiple formatting options allow you to stand out in the way that works best for your brand.

To wrap up, they key thing you should be asking yourself is, “where do I want to show up in search and where do I want to gain visibility?” Once you can answer this, you can choose your online advertising plan of attack: search ads, display network ads, or a combination of the two.

To learn more and get started with display ads, visit Google’s Display Network Ads homepage.

More tips and tricks to come! 



Photo: Keso s