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May 2, 2011

Social & Search PPC Advertising, is it One or the Other?

When you think of pay per click advertising, chances are, you instinctively think of search engines. Online social advertising still doesn’t get the credit it is deserved. Granted, social advertising is a maturing medium, Facebook advertising has only been around a few years and Twitter less than a year but the opportunities are there for marketers.

The latest annual findings from Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization indicated that paid search marketers are turning to PPC advertising on social media channels to complement and enhance their online marketing portfolio. Traditionally these portfolios were heavily weighed by search engines, then display and affiliate advertising came along, and now social media.

According to eMarketer, “More than half (52%) of companies worldwide vouched for the “moderate” or “huge” impact social media has had on their search engine marketing programs within the last year. Add that to the growing number of social media channels offering a PPC advertising model, and it’s no wonder 47% of North American companies are running PPC campaigns on Facebook, and more than a quarter (27%) are doing so on LinkedIn.

Most of the critics of social advertising claim that “buyers aren’t in the buying process when they are browsing Facebook or Twitter.” To back up these critics, many US companies still rely on traditional placements by AdWords because simply, ROI is there. Social however, is often much cheaper than search advertising giving way to new and innovative ways to target users. For instance, on Facebook you can target an ad to every Male who likes the movie Fight Club and lives in Chicago. These innovative segmenting tools are growing social advertising.

Google is seeing their search shares drop and are trying to get in the “social” search mix. Incorporating targeted messages to users based on their Google Accounts. For instance if you are a logged in to your Google account and type “urban clothing” you will likely see different search results than if you aren’t logged in. Google takes your previous search history and demographics in to account when populating these searches to make advertising more relevant and profitable.

Social ads are still maturing and for the most part remain a branding tool for many businesses. They are able to get people to recognize a brand, interacting or “liking” a page is often the main goal. You don’t want to try to give a hard sell on social advertising, (leading users to a product page), you should put a squeeze page to capture people’s interest on the respective social media site. Getting a users engagement, email, interests or thoughts are potentially more valuable long term than a one time sale.

If you are trying to decide whether to advertise exclusively on social or search, just test it! The first month, set up a tracker and determine which site is bringing more traffic, CTR (click through rate) and ROI. If your business is highly “brandable” you may be better off shifting a portion of your online marketing budget to social, however if your business is a service or requires extensive commitment, think about search. As social advertising matures, consumers may begin to embrace social media sites as a way to buy, but for now people are just there to work and play.

Matt Krautstrunk is an expert writer on online marketing based in San Diego, California. He writes extensively for an online resource that provides expert advice on purchasing and outsourcing decisions for small business owners and entrepreneurs such as internet advertising at Resource Nation.