STUDY: Facebook ads in paid search campaigns mean more, cheaper conversions

FacebookKenshooExperianStats650Facebook and paid search are often viewed as competitors for advertising, but a study commissioned by the social network and conducted by Kenshoo, a Strategic Preferred Marketing Developer, analyzed two weeks’ worth of adding Facebook ads to paid search campaigns by Experian, finding better performance and lower costs per acquisition.

The social network outlined some of the study’s findings in a post on its Facebook for Business page, describing its methodology as follows:

For the study, multichannel digital marketing technology firm Kenshoo analyzed the effect of adding Facebook advertising to Experian’s paid-search campaigns. These campaigns were designed to generate online applications for the leading global information services provider’s credit reports. To determine what level of Facebook ads would lead to the strongest performance, Experian exposed different groups of people in the U.S. to different spending levels of Facebook ads in News Feed and the right-hand column. The campaigns took place over a two-week test period in the first quarter of 2014.

So what did Kenshoo and Facebook find?

  • There was a 19 percent average increase in total conversions among the people who saw Facebook advertising compared with those who saw just paid search advertising (no Facebook ads).
  • Among people who saw the Facebook ads in addition to the paid search ads, there was a 10 percent average decrease in CPA due to the increase in conversions.
  • Conversions increased as spending on Facebook ads rose, but there was a “sweet spot,” or minimum and maximum spend level on Facebook, to get the strongest performance at the least cost.

Keeping those findings in mind, Kenshoo’s recommendations to marketers were:

  • Find the sweet spot yielding the highest conversion for the lowest cost by testing how different levels of Facebook spend affect paid-search performance.
  • Try varying Facebook targeting, bidding, ad formats, and campaign creative to achieve small lifts in performance, as even small increases can lead to big gains over time.
  • Use cross-channel measurement to determine which mix of advertising platforms generates the highest performance.


Facebook Vice President of Global Partnerships Blake Chandlee said in the Facebook for Business post:

This is more great research that shows how Facebook and search work better together. It’s our hope that marketers who manage paid search see the potential to improve performance by adding Facebook to the mix. Search is a powerful medium for capturing intent, and Facebook is a proven platform for driving more people to search and buy.

Kenshoo Director of Marketing Research Chris Costello added:

At the end of the day, search inventory is finite. There are only so many people searching for things. Running Facebook ads can not only get more people to search, but they can make the search ads work better by instilling brand preference in searchers and driving them to convert at higher rates. It means that marketers can get more bang for their search buck.

And Chief Marketing Officer Aaron Goldman said in a release from Kenshoo:

Consumers interact with brands as part of a fluid conversation, regardless of where, when, and how they engage with paid, owned, and earned media. In their eyes, there’s no distinction between channels, devices, and promotions. This study proves that brands willing to adopt a similar thought process and forego the traditional siloed approach to digital marketing can reap significant cross-channel benefits between Facebook and paid search. While the actual sweet spot in terms of investment will vary for each advertiser, it’s clear that one exists, and it’s imperative for marketers to find it.

Readers: Did any of Kenshoo’s findings surprise you? David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.