Will SMBs Buy Search Ads on Facebook?

Last December Facebook started testing ads in search results — again. It had tried an initial paid-search experiment in 2012 and shuttered it not long after it was introduced. Today Vertical Leap posted some additional information about search ads on Facebook:

  • Search ads are repurposed from News Feed ads with a headline, image, copy text and a link
  • Search ads appear on search results pages and Marketplace
  • Search ads appear either as static image ads or in a carousel format
  • Search ads are clearly marked as “Sponsored”
  • “Search Results” shows up as a placement option when creating a campaign in Facebook Ads Manager
  • There’s no option to run search ads without also running News Feed ads
  • There’s no option to target specific keywords or phrases

Facebook said in December that it would determine whether the test is “beneficial for people and businesses” before doing a broader rollout. There’s no word on that yet. It also hasn’t opened up to SMBs to my knowledge.

Participating advertisers can select a “search” option within Facebook’s Ads Manager. As indicated, there’s no keyword selection or bidding. Facebook determines when to show the ads. Most of these ads are going to show on mobile devices, since that’s where most of Facebook’s usage and ad revenue come from.

My long-held opinion is that Facebook needs a search option to get more SMBs to advertise. Google has conditioned the market with AdWords (now Ads) but AdWords has historically been too complicated for most SMBs to manage and optimize. Facebook has simplified the process with no keyword and no bidding.

Google has also introduced a range of new ad formats in the past year (e.g., Smart Ads, Local Ads) intended to radically simplify paid search, not to mention Local Services Ads. Anecdotally my understanding is that LSAs are performing well for SMBs.

Search ads make a lot of sense for Facebook and I would expect to see them formally rolled out. There are many questions that remain, however:

  • How will Facebook generate more consumer search inventory?
  • How many ads will be shown for a given result?
  • When competition heats up how will Facebook rank advertisers if there’s no bidding (category relevance, proximity)?

Do you think that 1) Facebook search ads are here to stay and 2) whether they will help the company acquire more SMB advertisers as I’ve argued?

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