Search Network with Display Select: Should You Use AdWords' New Campaign Type?


You may remember that in early November 2013 Google rolled out a new AdWords campaign type called “Search Network with Display Select.”

search network with display select campaign

For advertisers, we now have a serious option to consider when debating the merit of running a combination search and display network campaign. In the past, we were able to simply combine both the entire search and display networks into one “hyper” campaign. This presented a unique opportunity to seriously expand your reach and generate potentially valuable impressions, clicks and conversions across a broad range of web assets.

The results, however, usually were not that great. I can corroborate this. Rarely do I see accounts that actually use this combination campaign type, and when I do, I recommend splitting up campaigns based on their network targeting. (See point #5 here.) It allows for tighter targeting and cost control and also makes life much easier in terms of analyzing your performance.

Now, before we get into a little bit of marketing philosophy, let’s just clear up what this new campaign type is supposed to be.

What You Should Know About Search Network with Display Select

First things first, marketers that are running combination search and display campaigns will be prodded by Google to switch over to the Search Network with Display Select campaign type (read Google’s instructions for doing so here).

Second, if you already have a combination search and display campaign running, you can choose to leave it as it is, effectively grandfathering your campaign in despite the new campaign type.

Third, by now you are no longer able to create a combination search and display network campaign. You MUST select Search Network with Display Select if you want to pursue this strategy.

So, how should we think about this campaign type? Google states (emphasis mine):

Search Network with Display Select uses improved signals and methods of predicting when and where your ads are likely to perform best, and sets a higher bar for when to show them. That means your ads are more likely to be shown to a smaller number of prospective customers, who are more likely to be interested in your offerings.

Summary statement? Google has essentially applied the Enhanced CPC framework to the display network in order to help advertisers feel more confident that their dollars are really going to work for them.

Google continues (emphasis Google):

Compared to the old campaign type, initial tests show that advertisers, on average, could see a 35% higher click-through-rate, and a 35% lower cost-per-customer purchase on the display portion of their Search Network with Display Select campaigns.

The belief is that the application of this more selective algorithm is going to improve ROI for advertisers and help boost conversions, potentially at a lower CPA as well.

Why This Fundamental Change?

Over time, savvy advertisers likely began wondering if combining the search and display networks was an effective strategy. Most, including myself, have come to the conclusion that it is not an effective strategy. There’s simply too much ambiguity on the display network to merit combining the two in a way that is easily measurable, scalable, and primed for optimization.

Well, Google has been listening! By adding this algorithmic layer to the display network, we’re able to feel more confident as marketers that Google is working hard to serve our ads in the right places. This is an excellent step forward, and I truly believe that there is some opportunity with this new campaign format, it’s just a matter of testing the waters on your own to see if results truly reflect some of Google’s general benchmarks that they’ve laid out here.

Search Network with Display Select: Thinking Critically!

So here’s the philosophical bit, and as you may expect with most conversations along these lines, I’m not going to leave you with a completely definitive answer. In AdWords and in life, it’s typically a good idea to avoid universal statements or broad generalizations.

Here it goes…

As marketers and advertisers, we should always be focused on who we are actually marketing to. You know, the living and breathing people that may be interested in our products and services. It sounds stupid, but trust me, it takes one small slip-up, one automated email that shouldn’t have been sent to make your brand appear completely tone-deaf. It’s incredibly important to identify which advertising opportunities and/or networks will fit your desired audience and marketing goals. Making the wrong decision can be pretty damaging if you don’t catch your mistakes in time.

Naturally, this question extends into Google AdWords. Search or Display? Or both? There’s no definitive answer, but I can tell you that most experienced marketers will recommend that you separate your campaigns based on the network targeting that you’ve selected. That way you can optimize around all of the different audience segments that you are speaking to through your ads.

The Google Search Network and Google Display Network are two very different formats in terms of context. Different people have different motivations as they are moving through these unique web assets that we are able to advertise on. The oil and water analogy may be a bit of an extreme characterization here, but it may be a good way to think about things before you take the plunge and utilize the Search Network with Display Select network option.

search network with display select

Think of the haves and have-nots of each network. How do those apply to your audiences? Which audience needs to see which ads to become a lead, a customer, a raving fan? This type of analysis should force you to think critically about the opportunities that each network provides, the true context of each network, and whether or not combining forces is going to be like mixing oil and water (in terms of your audience targeting), or if the Search Network with Display Select can potentially act more like a squirt of sugar flavoring in the cool and satisfying water glass of Search.

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


Feb 06, 2014

I've not tried this new campaign type yet, but it does seem a bit like Google are just trying to make campaign management more streamlined for advertisers by putting both in one campaign, to make it appear more straight forward and get more people using display. If you look at bid adjustments making devices and locations all targetable within one campaign type, it seems like Google are trying to reduce the number of campaigns and increase the funtionality of what a campaign can do.

Feb 24, 2014

Google does a lot of great things for the internet crowd ... sometimes they frustrate with their confusing SEO tactics, but for legit internet biz people, this enhancement to Adwords will be a godsend!

Vietnam Reisen
Mar 15, 2014

In my opinion, google is trying to encourage advertisers to try Display network campaign by experiment with Search network with Display select

Mar 21, 2014

Google is trying to let us experience the best of both worlds (Search & Display).or They are trying to get our money out of both pockets. LOL

Jun 05, 2014

I followed the prompts from my "google relationship manager" and my impressions dropped from 330k a day to 14k a day.No one said this would happen and this has affected my business. The phones stopped rining..... it was errie.I have returned them to their original state now and Im waiting for a call back from my google relationship manager who i will be asking WHY?????? If you are going to make the change make sure you monitor the effects that it causes every hour. 

I don't buy it
Aug 03, 2014

I don't buy this as being advantageous as well.  There's too much slick marketing speak here.  Words like "upgrade" are used constantly and combined with a "no return" policy, whereby you can't go back to the old "Search" and "Display" model.  Google is pushing this new platform *very* hard, and it's a one-way street.Why?Because it will be better for me?  Why the "no return" policy?  Why the hard sell?  Why the carefully crafted marketing speak?  Why am I being told that my account is "missing" an "upgrade"?  This is almost as bad as Google Plus in it's spin and aggression.I'll pass.

Aug 26, 2015

Great blog and useful information. Thanks for sharing

May 25, 2016

Hi guys, I am new to this and wanting to know some information about display select. Does it offer good ROI? Or should I stay away?

Feb 03, 2017

I couldn't get the gist of this article. Apart from a briefing on Search and Display network differences, it has no solid point for actual reflections why considering Search with Display network is a gem point.

Kiril Yovev
Sep 27, 2017

I just disabled one of my mixed search network and display network campaigns - the reason was for its too high price (high CPC).

Now I will try separate (I did set this thing up ) - wish me some good luck!


Leave a comment