How Facebook is Gunning for Google’s Ad Revenue

Facebook announced in December 2018 that it was testing search ads in its Facebook Ads search results and Marketplace. It is the first time since 2012 that Facebook has tested search ads: back in 2012 it briefly tested sponsored results. The first thought of marketers and journalists when they heard about it was: ‘Facebook is gunning for Google’s ad revenue’.

Bad news for Google, but what does this mean for us? In this blog post, I aim to explain in clearer terms what the search ads are, who is currently running them, why Facebook is testing them, and how they will impact advertisers.

The search ad is a text-only version of a news feed ad, and advertisers must already be running image or carousel ads in the news feed before they can run search ads. Advertisers cannot target keywords or phrases; instead they choose to run search ads by selecting Search as a platform in addition to Facebook. Lastly, the search ads can only run on mobile.

Screenshot of the platform options for advertising on mobile in Facebook Ads Manager

Facebook has not shared an example of what the ads look like, but we can guess that they will be like the sponsored results in 2012. This is because Facebook specified that the ads will have a sponsored tag, which we know the sponsored results also had. However, we do not know whether the search ads will show above the organic search results as the sponsored results did, below, or interspersed. Lastly, search ads in the search results can appear only on Android.

Photo credit: my contributions to the blog to find out more about Facebook and Google advertising, or sign up to the ThoughtShift Guest List, our monthly email, to keep up-to-date on all our blog posts, guides and events.