Facebook has started testing search ads on the social network once again – more than six years after it removed sponsored results from its search function. The latest search ad experiment only involves a select number of advertisers in the US and Canada but it could suggest where Facebook intends to boost revenue after scaling back ad impressions in the News Feed.
So could this mark a new frontier for Facebook advertising and what does the prospect of search ads on the world’s most popular social network mean for Google Ads?
Facebook testing search ads once again
How Facebook search ads looked in 2012
Facebook first rolled out search ads back in 2012 but the product was quickly shut down in 2013. However, the version of search ads Facebook is testing now is very different from the product we saw in 2012. In fact, Facebook’s search function is entirely different now, after the network switched from its Graph Search model to a keyword search system in 2014.
Despite the switch to keyword search, the latest version of search ads doesn’t include any keyword targeting – at least, not in these early testing stages. Here’s everything we know about the search ads Facebook is currently testing:
- The search ads are simply repurposed from News Feed ads, including the same headline, image, copy and link
- The ads appear as sponsored results on search pages and Marketplace
- The ads show as static image ads or in carousel format
- Advertisers can select “Search Results” as a placement option when creating a new campaign
- You can’t run search ads independently from News Feed ads – they’re an addition or nothing at all
- You can’t target specific keywords or phrases
Search ads are only being tested in the US and Canada with selected advertisers in the automotive, retail and eCommerce sectors for now. Google says the experiment could expand to other countries soon, depending on the results of the initial tests and it’s important to remember search ads are still in the very early testing stage – which means any of the above could change before they’re rolled out (assuming they are at all).
What does this mean for Google Ads and your PPC strategy in general?
Any mention of Facebook search ads instantly prompts the question of what this could mean for Google, the undisputed leader in search advertising. However, Facebook search ads are never really going to compete with Google Ads because the social network’s search function isn’t a search engine in the same way as Google.
Facebook search is designed for users to find their friends’ posts or search for brands, pages, groups and content on the network.
For example, a user might see some news content in their feed and then search for related content in the platform’s search function. This is the kind of scenario where your Facebook search ads might appear and this a world away from what Google users are doing when they turn to the search engine.
So don’t pay attention to anyone who says Facebook search ads are going to compete with Google Ads because the two aren’t even comparable. Nobody is going to look for something on Google Search and then turn to Facebook if they can’t find what they’re looking for – or vice versa. People aren’t going to use the two platforms for the same kind of searches so there’s no competition in this regard.
Google Ads vs Facebook search ads: A non-event
With Google Ads, you’re targeting people who are actively looking for products, services or information about them. In other words, people who are actively looking to buy or need advice on an upcoming buying decision.
Facebook search ads, on the other hand, are going to show when people are searching for social content and this involves a very different kind of user intent. What Facebook search ads will do (if they’re actually rolled out) is open up a new space for ads to appear on the network so advertisers aren’t so reliant on the News Feed.
Beyond this, it’s difficult to say what kind of opportunities this will open up in this early testing stage. We’ll have to see how advertisers get on with search as the experiment progresses and how Facebook refines the ad format between now and rollout – particular whether there’s any separation in terms of targeting for search ads from the News Feed ads.