Almost 90 percent of advertisers say PPC text ads still outperform social advertising in a new report from Hanapin. According to the survey, 89% percent of participants cited paid search text ads as the most effective PPC strategy.

Despite the rise of social advertising – and the fact markets say they plan to invest more in social – the classic PPC text ad still appears to get the “best” results. And this doesn’t say anything bad about social advertising; paid search should always outperform it.

Paid search text ads still most effective

According to the Hanapin survey, text ads get the top vote from advertisers with 87% saying it’s the most effective PPC strategy. Remarketing comes next with 66% of marketers electing it as the second best performer and mobile taking the third spot (60%).

Social comes in at fourth in the report (53%) – so what does this tell us about the paid search vs social advertising scene?

It’s all about user intent

A quick look at the figures in reports like these can make social advertising sound like an inferior option, but that’s not the full story. Paid search text ads on AdWords and Bing should be more effective in terms of conversion rates and various other metrics. If they’re not, you’re doing something wrong with your paid search efforts.

The users who click these ads have turned to search because they’re looking for something. They’ve typed a query into Google, Bing or whatever and seen an ad that appears to offer what they’re looking for. These users are already geared towards taking action.

Social advertising is different, though. Only seven percent of marketers in the survey aren’t using Facebook, confirming what we already knew: Facebook dominates the social advertising scene.

The thing is, your typical Facebook user isn’t searching for anything. Yes, there are search functions on the network, but your average session involves scrolling down a feed, occasionally hitting the like button when something jumps out from the mundane. Facebook users aren’t geared towards taking action; they’re passive.

Where social advertising beats AdWords

AdWords brings buyers to your website; users who are in the market and ready to buy now or in the near future. Social advertising can’t match AdWords in this regard, but you don’t need it to. Social ads play an entirely different role and it just so happens to be one AdWords isn’t so great at.

With AdWords you’re targeting users in the final stages of the consumer journey – and this is why those ads perform so well. Your AdWords leads are relatively close to converting and your goal is to guide them in the right direction. But what about consumers who aren’t actively looking to buy?

Social advertising has been used as a branding tool since it first hit the scene, but it’s developed into a platform for kick-starting the consumer journey. People don’t simply wake up one morning and decide to book a holiday. They see friends’ Facebook pictures on a daily basis, see travel content pop up in their News Feed, catch the odd travel program and, at some point, something clicks.

At this point, travellers are some distance away from searching for anything in Google or Bing. But social advertising allows you to get the consumer journey started, making it less likely these users will go elsewhere when the time comes to book.

The stats coming out of this Hanapin report aren’t surprising in the least, once you take the time to put some context behind them. Numerous reports have recently emerged to say most marketers only spend around 20 percent of their budget on social – but that’s not far wrong either.

When you’ve got high-performing, high-converting campaigns in AdWords, you up the bids for them and spend less on the campaigns that perform more steadily. The same thing applies to AdWords and social advertising. You invest more of your budget into generating highly qualified leads and less on the wider reaching strategy.

In the same report, 70 percent of marketers say they will invest considerably more on social ads over the next few years. They won’t be as “effective” as paid search ads, but they’ll be generating an entirely different kind of lead.