With the holiday season almost upon us, time is running out to get your festive marketing campaigns in order. November 25th marks Black Friday and the official start of the Christmas shopping period, but we know many of you still have a lot of work to do.

One question we keep hearing throughout the build up is, which platform is better for the holiday season: AdWords or Facebook? Well, the answer is neither – you want to be using both and in this post we’re going to explain why.


Search habits change during the holiday season

The first thing you need to know about AdWords for this time of year is that search habits change drastically. In fact, most Christmas shoppers have already started researching and/or buying by this stage.

So buying intent is at an all-time high for the next few months and this is what you need to target with your AdWords campaigns. Focus on real high-intent searches and create ads that play on the sense of urgency during the holiday season. These people want to buy and all you have to do is make it easier, cheaper or more tempting for them.

This may be all too obvious to you, but it’s important to make this clear before we start talking about Facebook.


Don’t miss out on the Facebook opportunities

With the buying intent behind Google searches being so high during the build-up to Christmas, it’s easy to think putting all your advertising budget into AdWords is the best way to go. If that’s really the way you want to do it, then fair enough – but you’ll be missing out one some major Facebook opportunities over the festive period.

The problem with search is you need some kind of idea of what you’re looking for. This isn’t easy when it comes to Christmas presents and we all find ourselves scratching our heads trying to think what to buy.

What we need is inspiration. That one great idea; the perfect gift for mum or aunt Sally who seems to have two of everything already.

Facebook is the ideal place to make yourself that spark of inspiration. People use Facebook every day and they’re not searching for anything in particular. They’re sitting there, scrolling for that next piece of content with something exciting to offer.

This is where your Facebook ads can solve everyone’s Christmas shopping problems. Create campaigns that build your products up as the ideal gift for [insert family member] and get that buying process started.

It works both ways too. Half the time we don’t know what we want for Christmas ourselves and all it takes is that single Facebook ad, with the right message, to help us decide.


Understand user intents during the holiday season

We’ve mentioned the key difference between AdWords and Facebook advertising enough times on this blog by now. But it’s so important we don’t mind repeating ourselves – and it’s perfectly relevant here, too.

It’s all about user intent. People turn to Google when they’re looking for something specific. They turn to Facebook when they have nothing in mind at all; they’re after content but they’re open to suggestions.

By using AdWords and Facebook this holiday season you’re covering both types of user intent. By only using one, you’re missing out on the other. Where it gets difficult is deciding how to split your advertising budget between the two.


Should I invest more in AdWords or Facebook?

Generally speaking, retailers want to put more of their ad spend into AdWords. Once again, it’s a question of intent. These people are more likely to click your ads and make the final purchase afterwards, so you want to connect with as many of these people as possible.

AdWords remarketing also let’s you chase up these high-intent leads if they decide not to buy for whatever reason. This is a vital feature at this time of year and you should be creating targeted remarketing ads for Christmas shoppers who don’t convert the first time.

As for Facebook, you’ll generally be targeting a lower purchase intent. That said, what you’re selling over the festive period has a big influence on how much you’ll want to invest in Facebook ads.

For example, high-demand products like the iPhone 7 will get huge search volume this Christmas. So investing more into AdWords for this competitive keyword and backing it up with some branded Facebook posts makes sense. But not all of us are selling iPhone 7s or other in-demand products.

What if you’re selling less obvious products or services during the festive period? Not many people will think to book a summer holiday for someone at this time of year, but they might if you inspire them with a Facebook ad, offering a discount for booking early. So check the search volumes for your different products to see which ones get enough attention in Google. For the rest of them, see what angles you can come up with to make them appealing via Facebook ads and inspire people who wouldn’t think to buy them otherwise.


We’re not saying Facebook is only good for people who don’t know what to buy this Christmas. Instead, we’re reiterating the difference between AdWords and Facebook marketing with an actionable example you can put into practice.

As always, the key takeaway is AdWords works best when it targets people who know what they want and will be ready to buy in the near future. It’s not limited to this by any means, but it’s where AdWords tends to shine.

Facebook, on the other hand, catches people by surprise. It makes them desire things they didn’t know they even wanted or reminds them about things they would otherwise forget about. You may be starting with a lower purchase intent, but playing on desire rather than need can be incredibly powerful at any time of the year. Not least the Christmas period where we’re all open to a much wider range of marketing messages than normal.