When it comes to creating your first ad, it can be a daunting experience, especially when selecting whether to advertise on Google’s Search or Display Network. However, not to worry, help is at hand! So, here are our top tips to consider as well as the benefits of each network for your ad campaign.

Search Network

Firstly, for the newcomers to Google AdWords, Google’s Search Network is a ‘group of search-related networks in which your ads can appear’ and this includes search partner sites such as YouTube and AOL to name a few.

When advertising on the Search Network, your ad will show in the search results when keywords you have set in your ad groups, match the search query. However, with the ability to select a variety of match types, advertisers have the ability to decide which keywords ads will show for as well as the ability to set negative matches. It’s important to note, when adding negative keywords to an ad group, be particularly careful that these do not counter other keywords specified as this can result in an ad not displaying for the keywords set. For example, in setting the exact match keyword “flower delivery” whilst adding the negative keyword “flower delivery glasgow” would result in an ad not displaying. In this case, you’d want to add “glasgow” as your negative keyword.


In selecting the Search Network you are faced with the option of ‘Standard’ whereby you can set basic location and language targeting, budget and bid settings as well as basic common ad extensions. However, ‘All Features’ can also be selected including all of the above with the addition of ad delivery methods and further ad extensions.

When should you select the Search Network? When creating a new campaign, you will be asked to select a campaign type which determines where an ad will display. During this stage, it is essential to consider your business objectives to ensure the best network is selected. For best practice, the Search Network is recommended in the following instances - if you are new to AdWords, if you want your ads to appear next to the search results on Google and if you are looking to target specific audience groups with your product or service.

Display Network

If you have decided the Search Network isn’t suited to your needs, let’s see if the Display Network would be better. The Google Display Network is ‘a collection of websites which show AdWords ads’ and includes both mobile sites and apps as well as desktop sites. If you have ever noticed ads down the side of web pages and wondered why they were there, now you know.

Reaching 90% of Internet users worldwide and including more than 2 million publisher sites, the Display Network is a perfect way of reaching new customers. As well as the ability to reach new customers at different parts of the purchasing cycle, an advertiser can select specific sites on the Display Network they want the ads to appear and engage customers through a range of different ad formats inclusive of text, image, video and rich media formats.

Differing from the Search Network where your ads are served based solely on keywords searched by a user, ads on the Display Network can be placed in front of potential customers at the right place and time through many methods which we’ll discuss below:

  • Contextual targeting: based on your keywords, AdWords will locate relevant sites and display your ads on these sites with the aim of reaching customers who have an interest in this area.
  • Managed placements: if you would rather not leave your ad placement in Google’s capable hands, you can manually select the sites you wish your ads to display on through managed placements. Using this option, you can block any sites you wish your ad not to appear on, such as competitors.
  • Remarketing: a key advantage of using the Display Network instead of the Search Network is advertisers can reach out to customers who have previously visited the site through a remarketing campaign. Targeting them whilst they browse relevant sites on the Display Network acts as a reminder of the products and services you offer, potentially leading to conversion.

When should you select the Display Network? If you are interested in attracting new customers and delivering a compelling message then the Display Network is likely to be the best network for you with a multitude of ad options from text and image to rich media. Reaching out to customers who have previously expressed an interest, increasing brand awareness, build loyalty and selling more products and services are just a few advantages of advertising on the Display Network.

Search Network with Display

Despite having the option to run an ad across Google’s Search and Display Network, this is generally not best practice. Typically, as the Display Network is image heavy in comparison to the text heavy Search Network, we advise running two separate campaigns as this is more beneficial. It’s important to note, if there is an under-performing ad on the Display Network, this will not have a negative impact on the Search Network ad or Quality Score.

After delving into the differences between the Search and Display Networks, you should have more of an idea over which network is best for your ads. If you would like further advice on selecting a network or developing your paid search strategy, get in touch with our digital marketing experts today.