Google Adwords celebrates its 15th birthday this year, so by now most small businesses are fairly aware of advertising on the search engine giant.

When we mention Adwords, most people immediately think of the ads you see next to or above Google search results – called Search Advertising, but this is only a part of what Adwords can offer.

The problem we often face when we speak to businesses about their online marketing is that they can tend to focus all their online advertising efforts into Search Advertising because they’re already aware of it, and ignore other great opportunities.

In this article, we’re going to introduce you to two other advertising methods – Adwords Display Network and Facebook Advertising. We’ll clear up a few things about how each method works and where your ads are placed, then we’ll explain what this difference actually means to your business.

If you think you’re all over the difference between the three advertising methods then you can just skip to Part B – but it can’t hurt to get a refresher!

Part A: The technical bits explained

Adword Search Advertising

With search advertising, your ads are placed next to or above relevant Google search results. The ads are text only and can include extensions such as a phone number, URL, location, or social link.

In search there are four main ways you can target your ads to a specific audience:

Keyword targeting: Choose words or phrases relevant to your product or service so your ads appear when customers use those terms when searching on Google or search partner sites.

Location and language targeting: Choose the language as well as the country, region or city where your customers are located.

Device targeting: Show your ads across all devices, such as desktop, mobile and tablet or only on iPhones and Android devices. This is particularly relevant if your product or service is related specifically to one device eg. an iPhone app.

Audience targeting: Show your ads to people who have previously visited your site by using remarketing.

Adwords Display Advertising

In comparison, Adwords display advertising places your ads across the Google Display Network – a variety of news sites, blogs and other niche sites.
The most important difference between search and display advertising is that the Display Network allows you to create all types of ads – you can use text, image, interactive or video ads. This is extremely important if you have a very visual product.

Display advertising is also different in they ways you can target your ads to a specific audience:

Contextual targeting: Target people based on the type of content they consume when they’re consuming it.

Keyword targeting: Again, choosing words or phrases relevant to your product or service so that your ads appear when customers use those terms to search on Google or search partner sites.

Interest Categories: Target people whose online behaviours show they share a common interest, like sports or travel.

Topic targeting: Similar to Interest Categories, except your ads are only shown on sites related to the topic that you pick.

Location and language targeting: Display advertising also allows you to choose the language and geographic locations your ad is placed in.

Placement targeting: Place your ads on websites in the Display Network that your customers visit. You can choose a whole site or just the specific pages within a site.

Audience targeting: Audience targeting for Display is a little more complex. Again you can show your ads to people who have visited your site before through remarketing. However you can also target to an audience based on their age, gender or parental status. You can also show your ads to affinity audiences or in-market audiences. Affinity audiences are people who have demonstrated a qualified interest in a particular topic whereas in-market audiences are those who are actively researching or comparing products and services across Google Display Network publishers, partner sites and YouTube.

Device targeting: Again you can choose the specific devices where your ad is placed

Both search and display advertising use an auction based cost-per click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) billing method.

Facebook Advertising

Most of you would have noticed advertised “suggested” posts creeping into your newsfeeds or in the right-hand column. With Facebook you can either build an ad from scratch or simply “boost” one of your posts. You can use text, image, video and gifs.

Like Adwords, Facebook Advertising also has very powerful targeting tools. Here’s some of the many ways you can target your audience:

  • Interest categories
  • People who like specific Facebook pages
  • People who like your page
  • Friends of people who like your page
  • People on your existing email database
  • People who are similar to people on your existing email database
  • Those who have already visited your website, or specific pages on your website (remarketing)
  • Geographic location – down to a one mile radius
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Education – Fields of study, schools and undergraduate years
  • Ethnic affinity
  • Financial – Income and net worth
  • Generation – Baby boomers, Generation X or Millenials
  • Home – ownership, type, value and household composition
  • Life events – People or friends or people with certain life events including an anniversary within 30 Days, new job, new relationship, newly engaged (1 year, 3 or 6 months), newlywed (1 year, 3 or 6 months), recently moved, away from family and away from hometown
  • Parents – expecting parents, new parents or parents with toddlers, preschoolers, early school age, preteens, teenagers or adult children
  • Politics – conservative or liberal
  • Relationship status
  • Work – Employer, industry and job titles
  • Expats
  • Device
  • Network connection
  • Attending various events
  • Travellers –currently, frequently or business travellers, commuters and people who have just return from a trip.
  • Small business owners
  • Technology early- or late-adopters

Similar to Adwords, Facebook Advertising uses a CPC or CPM billing method. Learn more about it by watching this video.

Part B: What does all this mean for your business?

So now that you’re up to speed on the technical aspects of the various advertising methods, what are the differences in a business sense?

When you should (and shouldn’t) use Search Advertising

Search Advertising, on average, has higher conversion rates than Display Advertising. However, this doesn’t mean that it will necessarily work for your business.

There are two things worthy of noting about Search Advertising. Firstly your ads are only displayed when someone is actively searching for your product or service. Now, this is not a problem if you have a highly sought-after product or service. For example, accounting – whether it’s for a business or an individual most Australians will need to seek out an accountant at some point in their lives. But what if you have a great product that people would love to purchase, but it’s not very well known so it’s not being actively searched for by customers.

We have a client in the travel industry who offers a very unique guided tour experience and was suffering from this very issue. This caused them to broaden their keywords from highly specific keywords related to their product to generic keyword phrases such as ‘Gifts for Couples’ or ‘Tours in Melbourne’. This broadening of keywords often leads to a lower click-through rate and a lower conversion rate.

The second thing to take into account is that search ads are text only. This can hinder your campaign if you have a very visual product. Similarly, if you have an unusual product such as the unique guided tour this client offered, people may click on your ad (a click which you pay for) just to figure out what your product is, not because they’re genuinely interested in purchasing it.

At this point many small businesses start to think that maybe this online advertising thing just isn’t for them.

What Display Advertising offers that Search doesn’t

The most powerful thing about display advertising is that it’s great for finding and showing your ads to people who AREN’T looking for you but may be interested in your product.

The display network is particularly great if you have a visual product. In the case of our tour guide client, it cuts out that issue of people only clicking on the ad to figure out what the product actually is, without the intention of purchasing it.

Why should you use Facebook Advertising?

Like Display Advertising, Facebook allows you to place your ads in front of people who just don’t know they want your product yet. You’re also able to use text, images, gifs and videos so it’s perfect for visual products.

Similar to email marketing, it’s great for nurturing leads and keeping in touch with your current and past clients as well as establishing yourself as the go-to expert in a subject.

The real power of Facebook Advertising lies in its audience targeting. Ad relevancy is key to a high click-through rate. Facebook’s audience targeting allows you to tailor your message to a highly specific audience.

For example, if you were a mortgage broker, instead of offering a home loan guide for buyers, you can offer a home loan guide for lawyers and target an ad specifically to lawyers. With both Adwords advertising methods, you are unable to target people who work specific jobs and it’s also unlikely that people would be searching home loans for lawyers specifically.

Facebook allows you to connect to the right people, everywhere they go.

Where are your competitors?

The three advertising methods also differ in how you interact with your competitors. In search advertising, where your ad is placed is almost entirely based on the searched keyword, and while your ad may appear first or second, you also have 10+ other listings all offering the same specific product or service. In this instance your potential lead has the pick of the batch.

It’s the equivalent of standing in a room full of your competitors (some who have paid to be there and some who have got in for free) and all of you pitching to this one lead only using words. At this point, it’s starting to seem less likely that they’ll click on your ad.

However, with Display and Facebook Advertising, consumer targeting is based on a number of different factors, so it’s much less likely that your ads will be placed beside that of a direct competitor. Whilst you’ll still be competing for your potential lead’s attention, with the average person consuming 285 pieces of content daily, you’re not competing with someone who’s selling the same product as you.

This is great because many people don’t spend time researching their purchases, instead choosing either the first one they see that they like or the one most familiar to them.

So in the case of Display and Facebook advertising, it’s like standing in a room with other people, where only a few of them are trying to sell various products to your potential lead, but you also get to use a visual and audio presentation in order to make the sale.

Where to from here?

We’ve been a bit down on search advertising in this article, but we’re by no means saying you shouldn’t use it; the truth is this is a very powerful and effective online advertising tool. We wanted you to get acquainted with other tools so you can get the most out of your online advertising campaigns.

It’s not a case of one or the other; we usually suggest that our clients try out different advertising tools to see which ones fit – you might end up using all three. So take some time to think about which advertising method suits your product or service. We would love to hear how you go!