Why Facebook Advertising is Challenging Google AdWords

Facebook Advertising, VS. Google AdWords

Last week Burkan Bur and I taught a class at UCSD on social media and SEO and online advertising. What was interesting was that during the online advertising session, the course latched on to the benefits of Facebook ads. And to be honest, they are right to do so.

Social media advertising is growing, much like the search did in the early 200’s. Google has been a leader in the online advertising space for some time now. They offer display ads, text ads, video ads, and mobile ads. They offer ads on the display network, in search listings, on YouTube, in Gmail, in RSS feeds, let’s just say they have had online advertising by the throat. But now they are being challenged by a real player, Facebook.

Example Facebook Advertising Segementation
Example Facebook Advertising Segmentation

Facebook advertising has developed what some might view as a competitive advantage through likes and interests. For example, let’s say you want to sell search engine optimization in San Diego. On Facebook, you can target the following:

  • Location – San Diego
  • Demographic – 25 to 55
  • Sex – All
  • Precise Interests – Search Engine Optimization, Internet Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, Marketing
  • Connections on Facebook
  • Advanced Connection Targeting: Target Users Who are Connected to your Page
  • Advanced Demographics
  • Interested In – All
  • Relationship – All
  • Education and Work
  • Education – College Grad
  • Work – Open

The ability to target this specific demographic information is getting online advertisers everywhere excited, especially now that many of them have tried it and seen the results. With Facebook, you can hit the exact age, the sex, the precise interest, you can decide if you want to target users already connect to a page and can even determine what relationship status you would like to market to. Moreover, you can choose the education level and the workplace. The workplace is particularly fascinating. Are you looking to secure a new account at a particular company? Showing them an ad on Facebook might be a good idea.

The class asked me, “Can’t we do this through Google advertising?” My answer, “Ummm… Sorta.” Google works a little differently. First, let’s define our mediums. We have the Google Display Network. In this network, you can run text ads, image ads, and video ads on other websites offering Google advertising. Then we have the search network. The search network displays ads after someone uses Google to perform a search. Both of these advertising options can be run through the Google AdWords interface.

Long story short, you can select demographic information for the Google Display Network, but it works a little differently than Facebook. In Google, you can choose a demographic group. This would be an audience that shares certain similar qualities. You can make this selection through the Google AdWords Placement Tool.

Google Demographic Categories
Google Demographics Categories

According to Google, “With the AdWords Placement Tool, you can pick your preferences in up to three different demographic categories. The system will analyze your preferences and create a list of available Google Network sites that are popular with that audience. If you select multiple demographics, the AdWords system will look for sites that match all of your preferences. For instance, you might ask the Placement Tool to look for sites popular with users who have children, or for sites popular with men earning a high income. The Placement Tool will then return a list of sites whose audience tends to match those demographic descriptions.”

The ability to filter websites by demographic and keyword relevance is a welcomed feature in AdWords. While that is the case, Google still lacks the power of being able to target on the granular level that Facebook offers. Likes, interest, age, sex, relationship, and education on a person by person basis in the eyes of many marketers trump general Google Display Network website tendencies.

It should be noted that Google and Facebook have very similar location targeting systems. If you search on Google domain such as www.Google.fr, you will see ads for France. However, if a user searches Google.com, they will see ads based on the search term (example if a location is used), the physical location (IP Address) and Google Search personalization (blocked sites, location specification, etc.)

According to Facebook, they similarly target location. “Facebook determines the location of a user based on IP (Internet Protocol) addresses, which can help identify the country or city where a user is physically located. If a user has listed a current address on their profile, they may see ads targeted to that location, regardless of where they are currently located. Ads are not targeted to a user’s geographic networks or any other information.”

In summary, Facebook has created specific user information that is valuable to advertisers. This has resulted in a percentage of advertising dollars shifting from Google AdWords campaigns to Facebook Ads. While this is the case, Google is not the type to be left behind. With the new Google + initiative, Google is collecting more user information than ever. If they are successful and smart in this endeavor, they may just have the info they need to take power back from Facebook. Finally, it should be noted that certain advertising mediums work better for specific campaigns. Make sure you are always testing. While Facebook likes and interests may give you the targeting you need to convert in some situations, a Google Display Network site with a clear demographic may work better in others.

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