Social Media

Facebook Releases Search Ads in Newsfeed and Marketplace

It’s official. After a five-year hiatus, Facebook is resurfacing its involvement with search advertising.

On December 11th,  Facebook began Alpha testing ad inventory in the app’s native search results with a small group of select U.S. advertisers in retail, automotive and e-commerce. Dependent upon initial results, the social giant could expand this offering to a larger number of Beta advertisers for further testing.

Currently, Facebook Search ads are designed for both Newsfeed and Marketplace search results. Creatively speaking, it will mimic the same features of a standard link ad or carousel, including a headline, image and body text. No video creative is supported at this time. In terms of buying inventory, search ads are only available in a fixed cost model. If Facebook decides to implement search ads on a larger scale standard auction, buying will be available and the inventory will be added as an additional placement within Ads Manager.

The big question: how this will compete with traditional Google search ads? Although Facebook search ads will only appear within the app itself, they could inevitably compete for the same advertising dollars as Google CPCs have been on the rise. If Facebook search ads prove to drive lower CPCs, marketers will have to see if it will be more beneficial for their ads to show up in the SERP for Google or Facebook. Although there are plenty of similarities between Facebook and Google search ads, there are a few differentiators. Unlike Google ads, Facebook does not have an option to bid on specific keywords. Instead, Facebook search ads will appear in searches related to the business’s general offerings. It’s up to the platform’s algorithm to match a marketer’s search ad to its appropriate keyword or phrase. Search inventory is no stranger to the paid social channel, either. Platforms like Pinterest, Amazon and Yelp have proven to be serious competitors. It’s only natural that Facebook would develop its own version.

What It Means for Marketers

Since 2017 iProspect advertisers have been testing search placement inventory with Pinterest and the performance results have been fairly strong. So far, early adopters have reported 20-30% more efficient CPCs when comparing search feed ads vs. home feed ads, with 2x lift in traffic volume. If initial testing goes as planned, Facebook could see similar success.

On the other hand, releasing search ads on Facebook could open the door to enhanced ad performance efficiencies and allow for extensive cross-channel learnings as social and search worlds collide. This would ultimately prove the need for more cohesive measurement strategies for brands and create a common theme for the digital customer journey.

Opportunities for Marketers

  • Facebook search ads could be a powerful way for brands to drive increased awareness, allowing advertisers to utilize the most utilized feature on Facebook to expand overall reach and visibility to prospective audiences.
  • Additionally, it could provide a new take on competitor conquesting. If bidding capabilities become more advanced, this could allow advertisers to bid on competitors’ key words to redirect competitor traffic to their brand site instead.

Challenges for Marketers

  • Although promising in its beginning stages, Facebook search ads may not be as effective as anticipated. When users search for something on Facebook, they’re typically looking for something or someone specific and ads may end up negatively impacting their experience.
  • Targeting abilities may also prove to be challenging for marketers since this relies so heavily on Facebook’s algorithm to determine who actually sees a search ad. It’s still unclear if custom or site retargeting audiences will be an option for this placement.

All challenges considered, Facebook search ads should be viewed as an alternative tactic within the paid social channel. Once Facebook shares more data on performance and allows more keyword targeting capabilities, advertisers should consider reallocating budgets with other search partners i.e. Google.

In a world where brands are constantly evolving their omni-channel strategy, Facebook search ads could aid in bridging the gap between paid search and paid social efforts. This could not only benefit the advertiser but also the entire buyer experience.

Cody Faldyn, Manager, Paid Social and Sammie Anagnostis, Associate Director, Paid Search also contributed to this blog post.