I couldn’t believe my eyes on Sunday morning when I saw an advert for Google AdWords on Facebook. Actually I didn’t believe it at all until I saw the ad again today.
Its an unusual move for one blue chip media owner to advertise in another blue chip media owners publication or website. In addition Facebook with its 100% social orientation would not at first sight seem fertile ground for advertising a B2B product. So why is Google advertising AdWords on Facebook?
There are two possible reasons for the ads. The first is that Googles sales growth is slowing. In quarter 2 of this year global revenues were only up by 3% on the same period last year and in the UK they were down by 8%, albeit partially due to the collapse of the pound. Many commentators are suggesting that Google has matured and now has characteristics more akin to a utility. Now it may be possible since those Q2 results were posted that sales are still sluggish and the advertising is an attempt to attract new users to Google AdWords.
Such a tactic I feel is unlikely to be effective. Everyone in business knows that Google AdWords exists. For some it has developed a reputation as being expensive, ineffectual and difficult to manage. A fellow marketing professional described it as the new display advertising, meaning that like newspaper advertising it could be expensive and show poor returns given the cost but you feel that you have to be involved. This perception is unfair as a well executed AdWords campaign can offer great returns on a limited budget, particularly for direct advertisers.
The second reason for Google advertising on Facebook is competitor evaluation. Facebook is now an online powerhouse. This week announced that it has broke even earlier than expected. With an audience reach of 300 million active monthly users, many of whom spend a considerable amount of time on the site, it now has to be considered as an essential in any online marketing plan. With my background in product management, I know that one of the best ways to understand a competitors offer is to sample it. When I worked at Airtours one lucky member of staff was sent on a weeklong Thomson Holidays cruise to help evaluate their offer. Therefore, Google is evaluating the effectiveness of the Facebook offering albeit in a very public way.
Facebook and Google PPC advertising are very different propositions. Google AdWords is very good for direct advertisers as you know that if someone types a search term in to Google they are looking to buy or seeking information to support a purchase. On the other hand Facebook users are relaxed and therefore because of this it is great for brand building and awareness advertising. They may not buy immediately but they take note that you are there. So to use a press analogy, Google is the equivalent of classified and Facebook is display. For further comparisons between the two, there is an excellent case study of Facebook vs Google advertising at the Adhustler blog.
At the moment Facebook campaigns can offer great value for money as they can deliver 100,000 of page impression at a very low cost. Facebook is very good at geographical and contextual targeting as users provide a lot of information about themselves. However, the best thing about the Facebook PPC is the fact that you get more text to describe your offer and an image. In this context I predict that Google will eventually relaunch AdWords in a similar format to Facebook. Such a format would make Googles AdSense contextual advertising more powerful. If they do nothing then Googles crown will slowly slip as Facebook clearly has plans for search when it purchased Friend feed.
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