Facebook Testing Search Ads, but Not for SMBs Just Yet

In roughly 2012 Facebook offered search advertising in its results. It was later abandoned. But today the company announced it’s going to be testing search ads again with a few automotive and e-commerce advertisers (US and Canada).

Facebook said in a statement that it will determine whether the test is “beneficial for people and businesses” before determining whether to open it up to other advertisers. The company wants to gauge consumer response and ROI first.

There are two ad formats: image ads and carousel ads, which have multiple images. Facebook isn’t allowing video at this point. The ads will be labeled “sponsored.”

Participating advertisers can select a “search” option within Facebook’s Ads Manager. But there’s no keyword selection or bidding. Facebook will determine when to show the ads. These ads will also be available in Facebook (classifieds) Marketplace search results.

I’ve long believed that one of the keys to getting local businesses to advertise or spend more on Facebook was introducing a viable search capability. Facebook search has improved over time but it’s still not a substitute for Google or Yelp. I was excited when Facebook rebranded and redesigned its events app to become Facebook Local. But I don’t think anyone’s using it and the company hasn’t really promoted it.

It remains to be seen whether Facebook search ads are deemed a success and expanded to a broader population of advertisers including local businesses. However, I think there would be a lot of adoption by SMBs and agencies that represent them.

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