PPC Psychology 101: Adwords Search vs. Display Network

By Heather Whittington | Google Adwords
Posted March 10, 2015






Google Adwords Search vs. Display

Understanding a bit of PPC psychology will help you make the right choice between Google’s Search Network vs. the Display Network.

As you already know, not all prospects are created equal, and the way you set up your Adwords account can either fill your funnel with a boatload of potential revenue or waste your sales team’s precious time with unqualified leads.

The first choice during account set up is critical. What network should you choose – search, display, or both?  This may seem confusing at first, but if you consider who is on the receiving end of each network, the choice will be crystal clear.

Sandra is looking for secure cloud vendors to send an RFP for a large healthcare company located in San Diego. She opens Google.com, types “cloud vendors san diego” and presses the little blue magnifying glass icon. In just seconds a list of potential partners appears.

The third ad down from the top looks great! It offers a free RFP template from Acme IT that will help Sandra gather the information she needs without a lot of extra works. She clicks, fills out a short form and downloads a very helpful document. She immediately adds Acme IT to the short list.

Meanwhile, across the country in New York City, Charlie is reading the tech section of the New York Times online while he sips his morning coffee. Out of the corner of his eye he notices an attractive banner ad with a big orange button offering a “Free 10 Step Guide to Easy Cloud Migration” from – you guessed it – Acme IT.

He abandons the article in progress, clicks the button, and provides a little bit of information before downloading the PDF. “It looks like cloud migration is a lot easier than I thought,” he says to himself. “I will have to share these ideas at the next stakeholders’ meeting.”

This is what we love about Google Adwords – you can place your offer in front of potential customers at any stage of the buying cycle. With the ability to reach just about anyone in the world with an internet connection, all it takes is careful planning to deliver the right message to the right client.

Search Network – Scratch Their Itch!

The Google Search Network is about answering a question or fulfilling a need. Your customer knows what they want, all you have to do is serve up the right offer in your ad copy. Sandra had an itch to scratch – she was looking for potential vendors – so she went to the world’s largest search engine to get the most relevant answer to her query.  Acme IT‘s RFP offer more than scratched Sandra’s itch, it made her life easier. A win-win!

It is important to know that the Search Network is not limited to just Google.com. If you keep the Search Partner box checked, your ads could show up on Google Maps, Google Shopping (if you have a Google Merchant Account), as well as hundreds of non-Google sites including AOL.com, Ask.com, and CNN.com, just to name a few.

When you first setup your Search Network campaign, we recommend that you uncheck the Search Partner box and limit your ads to Google.com. Many advertisers find the traffic generated on the Search Partner sites to be less relevant with a higher cost per conversion. Once you’ve optimized your campaign you can always check the Search Partner box and test the results.

Display Network – Hey, Over Here!

The Google Display Network reaches over 90% of the websites, mobile apps, and video content on the Internet. The good news is you can target your audience based on keywords, visitors to specific websites, content of a web page, interests, age, gender, and more. You can even use the display network to target people who have visited your website – which is called remarketing.

The key difference between the psychology of Search vs. Display is the user’s disposition.

Unlike Sandra, Charlie wasn’t actively seeking a cloud vendor that morning, but it was in the back of his mind as something he should look into during the next quarter or so. Acme IT’s ad distracted him from his article, and fast-tracked his plan because of their compelling offer.

Acme IT’s ad was in the right place at the right time, because they chose to target the website placements and demographics that matched their ideal client. The reward? A new lead to nurture, though a bit cooler of a lead than Sandra.

Because of this, ads on the display network do not perform as well as ads on the search network, but this does not mean you should avoid display – quite the opposite. Wise targeting methods can help you keep your funnel full and earn brand loyalty in the early stages of the buying cycle, and find customers that didn’t even know they were looking for your service.

There is one exception to the “cool rule” of display, and that is Remarketing. It is usually one of the best performing PPC endeavors because it allows you to reconnect with people who have already shown an interest in your brand by visiting your website. We typically see a lower cost per click and lower cost per acquisition in remarketing campaigns when compared to regular search or display.

Many people do not realize that the display network can show text ads as well as banner ads, videos, and rich media. Because your goal is to interrupt the user, it is best to test all types of ads to see what converts the best.

adwords campaign settingsSearch Network with Display Select –The Identity Crisis

When you set up a campaign, the default choice in both the Adwords Editor and in the Adwords interface is “Search Network with Display Select.” While this does give you access to a larger pool in just one campaign, it does not allow you to segment your message or manage the economics of PPC.

It is wiser to segment out your campaign by search or display if you really want to offer relevant ads at the right price to the right customer. This way you can craft your ad creative to appeal to a Sandra or a Charlie, depending on network. Now that you understand the psychology of PPC, you can set your bids and expectations so they are appropriate for each network.

Set It Up Right From The Start!

Choosing the right network is just the first step in launching a successful Adwords program. If you need help developing your PPC strategy, or would like a review of your current Adwords account structure, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to help!






Author: Heather Whittington

Heather Whittington is Clickseed's Adwords Strategist, a certified Google Partner and recognized for her Adwords Video Audits and account turnarounds.

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