Display ads vs. search ads: how are they different?

Display ad campaigns feature an image as the central focus of the ad. But the difference between display ads and search ads is more fundamental: their placement, function, and reach.

Billboards were different from The Yellow Pages

Display ads contain images and are shown in apps, and on ad network properties. They are shown in places and at times when the targeted audience may not be expecting them.

Display ads are smart billboard-style ads that functionally are advertisements, whereas search ads are a form of a direct marketing offer.

Search ads are shown on search engine results pages, in response to a search engine query. So there is a specific “search intent” at the time the ad is seen. Search ads function more like a lookup directory – a modern ‘Yellow pages” listing. This makes a search ad impression more valuable than a display ad impression, in aggregate.

A classic reference on advertising is Claude Hopkins’ The Science of Advertising – published in 1923 and just as applicable today.

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