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The Difference Between Contextual Ads and Search Ads

If you want to advertise online, knowing the difference between contextual ads and search ads can help you get better results. Learn more about each and their benefits.

The Basics

Contextual ads and search ads are displayed differently. Search ads appear after a user searches for a specific keyword. Contextual ads, on the other hand, are displayed on a web page while the user is reading the content. They are relevant to the information on that page.

Although both types of ads can be effective, it’s important to keep in mind that the people who see search ads are always looking for information related to the keyword on which the ad is based. Contextual ads are more reactive and tend to be less urgent.

Businesses with a large marketing budget use both contextual ads and search ads to get their message across. But smaller businesses often have to choose between the two.

So, which should you use? It depends on what you’re selling.

The Sales Cycle

People usually do some research before buying things online. Depending on the type and cost of the product in question, that research might take anywhere between a few minutes and a couple of weeks, even more sometimes. The sales cycle for an online music store can be as short as 15 minutes, while that for a B2B retailer, say an industrial equipment seller, can take a whole month.

Knowing the average sales cycle for your business makes it easier for you to choose between contextual ads and search ads. While search ads are more immediate and direct, but contextual ads can increase familiarity faster.

But you must always keep in mind that the content of the page determines the relevancy of your contextual ads. Without good content, your ads won’t be too compelling, either.

Specificity or Generality?

Usually, the more specific search ads are, the higher the conversion rate. But the contextual ads that generate the most clicks tend to be more general in intent. They target people who are interested in buying products or services related to the topic discussed on the page, but who don’t try to solve a specific problem.

For businesses that want as much traffic as possible, contextual ads are often the best choice.

The Bottom Line

If you want to advertise a specific product, service, or website and expect fast results, search ads are for you. Contextual ads are excellent if you want to increase brand awareness and generate a steady stream of traffic by building familiarity over time.

Good marketers find a balance between search ads and contextual ads and use them together, focusing on one or the other depending on their goals.