Let’s get this out of the way first. The display network and the search network are both helpful in increasing brand awareness. Both tools can reach target audiences. But the question is, which one is better in branding campaigns? Is it the display network or the search network? 

You can achieve massive success in brand awareness without using google’s advertising networks. There are social media to help you anyway. But if you plan to shell out a big chunk of your advertising budget in Google, it makes sense to ask which of their two networks should you allocate your money and time.

To help you out, let’s first understand that there are two kinds of advertisements (Google or not): search ads and display ads.

Display ads are advertisements on the page of a website. It can be in the form of a rectangle or a square box that contains videos, images, even audio of the brand. Google’s display network enables you — again, the advertiser — to “display” your branded messages on Google-registered websites. 

Source: Thesaurus

Search ads, on the other hand, are advertisements you see on a search engine results page. It can appear at the top or at the bottom as well as left and right. Search networks — such as Yahoo, Bing, and the most famous Google — lets you, the advertiser, showcase your brand on their search engine results page. 

Source: Google results page

Search ads appear when people use specific keywords related to the brand. So if I search for “iPhone 13 for sale,” an ad will appear right before me. If we base our answers on this premise, we might already assume that the search network wins. Why? User intent. 

People who use the search engine are already on to something. These people are at the last stage of the buyers’ journey. So they are more inclined to click on your search ads. They are now ready to purchase a product or avail a service. 

Whereas the display ads are scattered across websites. They don’t appear when you search for them. In fact, they appear when you least need them. That’s why most people are very much unlikely to click on display advertisements. 

But again, our main goal here is to achieve brand awareness, not brand engagement. 

Sure with the search network’s capacity to show ads on search results, potential customers are more ready to pounce on them and click on them. It has higher click-through rates, in other words. But we’re not after more clicks — but awareness. The question now becomes, “Is the search network still better than the display network in terms of brand awareness?”

To answer this, let us first understand what brand awareness is.

Brand Awareness Means Popularity

Branding campaigns appeal at the first step of the buyer’s journey: awareness. How do you think people will buy your products if they are not aware you exist? With the help of branding campaigns, people will get to know your business, its products, or its services.

A high level of brand awareness, like Nike’s and other notable brands, are achieved through many things. Primary factors would be the quality of the products, the credibility and reputation of the company, the owners, or the workers, most importantly and perhaps the next most expensive — advertising.

This is where Google advertising networks reign supreme. With over 35 million websites registered under their advertising system and with a 92 percent market share in the global search engine market, advertising on google’s assets is ultimately essential and incredibly helpful for maximum brand awareness. 

Circling back to the search network vs. the display network dilemma. Honestly, you don’t need to choose. If you have the budget for both placements, then you’re off to a good start.

But to help you maximize the capability of both networks, it would still pay to know their unique characteristics so you could tailor your marketing campaign to whatever goals — whether it’s brand awareness, engagements, customer acquisition, lead generation, or customer loyalty.

And since this article is about brand awareness, here is what you have to know when choosing either or both of the options.

Google Search Network: Specific and Higher CTRs

The search network is better for a more targeted ad. If I search for “most comfortable running shoes” on Google, and there are ads on top of the results page about a shoe company’s newest product, then I might click on it to see if they can offer something I’m interested in.

What’s more, the search network now displays images of products from eCommerce sites. So if I specifically type “espresso machines” on Google, I will see a carousel of machine products with their price and website information. And because I searched for them, I am more likely to click on those product images. 

Source: Google results page 

This is where the search network defeats the display network by a mile. A person who has made an effort to type a keyword on the search bar is also more likely to make an effort to visit the top ads. 

In short, the search network dominates the display network when it comes to “user intent.” User intent is the capability of the search engine to understand what the searcher is looking for. 

Search ads show up when the searcher needs them. This is why it’s a top choice for higher leads and sales because many people click on these types of ads. More clicks equal more engagements. More engagements mean more sales.

But before you decide that because of this ability, the search network already wins, let me tell you that the display network also uses targeting technologies. Just in a different way. We’ll talk about the display network later in this article. 

Moving on, because the search network is so powerful in its ability to show your brand to those who actually searched for it, it is also relatively limited and expensive.

Ad spaces are very few. Usually, only one to four search ads appear per keyword. In this case, you’ll be competing with other businesses vying for the same slot. In other words, you have to bid higher for your ads to show up instead of your competitors’.

If budget is not your problem, the search network can be an incredibly powerful advertising tool to spread brand awareness. But here’s the caveat: search ads run primarily on text. It’s not as visually appealing as the display network option. 

This means if a consumer encounters a search ad, they have no idea how the brand looks nor how it sounds. This is where the display network comes in handy.

Google Display Network: Broad and Visually-Engaging

The google display network is one of two ad networks run by Google. All advertisements placed on this network are shown on specific website pages registered under AdSense, Google’s advertising program.

You might have encountered this type of ad if you casually browse the Internet.

For example, you’re scrolling on the Britannica website. As you go down the page, you encounter images that are slightly different and irrelevant from the website. It features something that you might have purchased before or have tried to search on Google.

Source: Britannica

That is an example of a display ad. Boxed images and videos, sometimes with sound effects, showcase a branded message — brand logos, slogans, colors, stories, words, products, services, and all. 

Note that advertisements you see on social media such as Facebook, Reddit, and YouTube are also considered display ads.

Google Display Network uses targeting technologies like the search network. But they work a bit differently. While the search network uses only keywords to pair up the ads per search query, the display network uses the website visitors’ characteristics to show relevant ads, i.e., demographics, location, and buying behavior.

The display network employs a broader filter as opposed to the search network. This is why the display network is a stronger branding tool than the search network. Not only that, the number of websites registered under AdSense is immensely huge. With more websites to place the ads, more people will know the brand message.

While the search network aims to answer a user, the display network’s primary goal is to spread information to a broader audience as possible. Branding campaigns don’t care about lead generation or click-through rates. What matters most is the impression.

Branding campaigns go after views. The more people see it, the better. And since there are thousands of websites to place your ads, as opposed to very limited keyword numbers, then there are potentially more views. 

Another reason why the display network defeats the search network is its ability to be visually engaging. It is packed with visual aids, such as different letter styles, images, animations, sounds, videos, and much more. 

Not only does it attract more customers, but it also helps build positive brand perception through the help of visuals and stories. Because of this, display ads, no matter the size, are more likely to retain attention for long periods than the boringly wordy search ads. 

Lacking high-quality images, search ads are weak in promoting a positive brand perception. Customers will not associate your logo, color, and slogan with your products and services because they don’t easily see those visual inputs on the search results page.

Lastly, it targets broad and diverse types of people. We thought that specificity is a strength where the search network clearly wins. But again, we’re talking about brand awareness. And building awareness through smaller groups of people won’t get you far. 

The display network shows your ads on millions of diverse websites that are accessed by a wider audience. This way, you attract not only your target buyers but also potential customers and market.

Wrapping It Up

These two Google advertising placements are effective depending on your goals. If you aim to acquire more conversions such as clicks, product purchases, and engagements, the search network is your best bet.

With a specific budget and a specific group of people using exact keywords on the search engine, you are bound to get more website visitors and ultimately turn to higher sales.

But if your goal is to spread awareness about your brand, then the display network is the clear winner. Your customers can see your ads whether they’re just casually scrolling a website or actively looking through eCommerce sites.

Since this happens regularly, people will slowly recognize your brand. Visually, they will get to know more about your business with the help of logos, slogans, images, and colors, and ultimately your products and services. 

Go on, try it out. Either way, Google provides you with metrics and indicators to see how your ad campaigns perform. Happy ad placing!