Facebook ads vs Adwords – which is better?

Google Adwords has been around a while and is almost synonymous with PPC advertising – but certainly not quite.  Yahoo! search marketing and Microsoft’s offerings have not proved much of a challenge but Facebook might just be.

I have just run my first campaign on Facebook.  The client is the insurance/mortgage/finance sector where Adwords clicks are expensive, well over £10 a click which is prohibitive for all except the really big players with huge marketing budgets to play with.

So we thought we would try out Facebook and the results were interesting.  They can be summarised quite easily.  The quality of the visitors that we generated was low, clicks were cheap and it has great potential for branding campaigns.

Visitor Quality

Quality of visitor was measured by the conversion rate (zero for Facebook) and the bounce rate once on the site.  Again Adwords came out on top with a 50% bounce rate compared with over 90% for the Facebook traffic.

Cost

Cost was interesting.   On Facebook, clicks came in at around 40p.  Adwords clicks cost about £4 but this was for content match (where ads appear on other sites as Adsense) and very low positions to keep the cost down.  For a first page listing the bid price was well over £10.

Branding

There is one other benefit to any PPC campaign and that is their ability to get your name seen, in other words branding campaigns.  Credibility can be a big issue and it certainly is in the insurance/mortgage/finance markets.  The cost of 1000 impressions on Facebook was 5p compared with £2.80 on Adwords.  The campaign was running for only six days but received over 1,000,000 impressions.  That’s a lot of exposure especially as the ad included the company’s logo so even if the ad was read very often – which it probably wasn’t, subliminally the logo was being seen an awful lot of times.

Facebook matches its ads to its visitors in a completely different way to Adwords.  In setting up a Facebook ad, you select the visitor profile you are targeting.  Male, 18-35, in a relationship etc.  There is then the option to further focus based on keywords that Facebook members have included in their profiles, eg accountant, golf.  With Adwords on the other hand, ads are displayed based on the keywords visitors have typed into the search query box.

By the way, the CTR (click through rate) on Facebook is generally much lower than on Adwords, 0.05% is generally considered about average.

Recommendation

As a result of the comparison of these two campaigns, which were admittedly very short, my recommendation to my client has been to continue the low cost Facebook campaign to get the name seen and the logo familiar for branding and credibility.  Adwords can then be used sparingly to pull in the high quality traffic which may well have already be familiar with the company name and logo from Facebook.  That way the two media should complement each other and we get the best of each.

More generally, I do think Facebook has huge potential as an advertising medium.  Its ability to target specific segments of the population is a real advantage.  Econsultancy recently wrote an interesting piece about advertising on Facebook and Google Adwords which looks at the where the future may lie for both players.


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