4 strategies advertisers are using for Facebook’s search ads

Facebook’s search-based ads, Sponsored Results, became available through the Ads API and Power Editor tool last week, allowing a range of advertisers to test the new offering. Here we’ll look at the four main strategies we’ve seen companies take:

  • Steal traffic from competitors
  • Show up when users search for related pages or apps
  • Get impressions by bidding on the most popular apps and pages
  • Protect brand position with defensive bids

For background, Sponsored Results allows businesses to buy ads in the social network’s typeahead search results. Advertisers target exact pages, profiles, places or apps they want to show up next to, rather than bidding on keywords or phrases. They can also layer on Facebook’s demographic, interest and category targeting.

Ads optimization company Ampush Social is reporting clickthrough rates between 0.5 and 1 percent on Sponsored Results for a casual gaming app. Facebook analytics company PageLever tells us it has seen CTR between 0.8 and 2 percent on highly targeted Sponsored Results for a B2B campaign.

See some sample ads and understand their strategies below.

Steal traffic from competitors

With Sponsored Results, companies can pay to get placement when users search for their competitors. This is significant because Facebook search results used to be based on the actual text input from users. A search for Nike would bring up results for Nike’s Facebook pages, Niketown stores, the Nike+ app, or people whose names included “nike.” The search would never return results from Adidas or Reebok. Now this is possible with Sponsored Results.

These advertisers will have to pay close attention to what users do after they click on Sponsored Results. Since users are often searching for particular entities on Facebook, the hits on these ads could be accidental. For example, when users search for the Zynga’s CityVille game and hit enter — as frequent players are likely to do out of habit — they might end up in EA’s SimCity Social. That’s because Sponsored Results often appear above organic results, and hitting the enter key takes users to whatever appears first in the typeahead search window.

Show up when users search for related pages or apps

Some advertisers are trying to get their brand seen when users search for something somewhat related, but perhaps not a direct competitor. It’s unclear how effective this is since most users approach Facebook search differently than Google. Facebook search helps users find specific entities but is not good for looking up things within a general topic or category like “running shoes.” If users are searching for a particular page or app, seeing an ad for something slightly related might not have an impact at that point.

Get impressions by bidding on the most popular apps and pages

Knowing that people use Facebook search very differently than other search engines, some advertisers seem to be trying to maximize their reach by targeting the top pages and apps on the social network. Advertisers can select additional demographic and interest-based targeting, so these ads might be reaching the right audience, but perhaps not at the right time.

Protect brand position with defensive bids

Other businesses recognize that Sponsored Results give competitors a chance to intercept their traffic. We previously suggested that this might lead companies to pay for the ads just to ensure they aren’t being overshadowed by Sponsored Results, which often appear above organic results. Unfortunately, companies will have to pay for clicks on their Sponsored Results when they used to get search traffic for free, but this may be necessary, especially for social games since their business is directly tied to getting people to visit apps on Facebook.