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Facebook vs. Google ads

When we decided to start promoting our data mining solution on the web, we experimented with Facebook’s and Google’s ad programs. Google offers a pay-per-click (PPC) model, where advertisers bid on search keywords, with some geographic and demographic preferences allowed. Facebook offers both a pay-per-click (PPC) and a pay-per-impression (PPM) model, where advertisers bid for an audience defined by location, age, workplace, and interests.

We found several articles claiming that conversion rates are much lower using Facebook ads. This makes sense: on Facebook, distracted users stumble on ads and click on them when bored. But using Google ads, users entered specific keywords and are actively looking for something. Still, we feel that Facebook advertising makes more sense for us. Here is why:

1. Some audiences are hard to reach:

One of our target group is data mining experts. Because they are experts in their field, they are extremely unlikely to search for “data mining” on Google. Rather, these experts are more likely to search for specific keywords (ex: “direct hashing and pruning association mining”), which are difficult to identify. Only Facebook, with its interest-based targetting, gives us an opportunity to reach this type of audience.

2. CPM ads can be cheaper and bolder:

Again, Facebook lets advertisers choose between CPC and CPM ads, while Google only offers CPC ads. But using well-designed ads, it is possible to leverage the CPM option to achieve a much lower cost per click than using CPC bidding. Another problem with the CPC model is that each unwanted click costs you money. As a result, CPC ads tend to be overly protective, while CPM ads can afford to be a lot more creative. Using CPM, one pays for impressions (not clicks), making semi-qualified clicks quite acceptable.

3. Less competiton is a good thing:

Facebook’s ad network is no longer unchartered territory, but it remains less crowded than Google’s. While many Business-to-Consumer (B2C) companies have been quick to adopt social networks (ex: Wall-Mart has several hundred thousand followers on Facebook), Business-to-Business (B2B) companies have moved a lot more slowly. So far, we haven’t found any major data mining company with a significant presence on Facebook, and less competition is definitely a good thing when you’re small.

4. Fraud can be a serious problem:

With the CPC model, there is an obvious incentive for fraudsters to click on your ad and receive a check from Google. In our case, it took us only a few days before we identified suspicious click activity from Brazil. In addition, because of Google’s huge partner network, it is difficult to understand which web sites will display you ads (ex: landing pages, porn sites, etc.). Google’s ad program lets advertisers manually configure a white list of approved websites, but this is cumbersome. Because Facebook allows advertisers to use a CPM model, and because ads are directly delivered to facebook users (not obscure web sites), fraud is a lot lower.

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