Facebook Jumps Into the World of Search Advertising

Facebook is looking to join Google, Pinterest, Amazon and Yelp in the search advertising game.

Way back in 2012, in search of additional revenue streams, Facebook took a swing at search advertising. “Sponsored Results” let game companies, retailers and others inject ads in the Facebook search bar that linked to their Facebook apps, pages and posts. However, the model was perceived as a little too cutthroat (brands and game developers often tried to swoop in and steal traffic from their competitor), and the effort was shut down roughly a year later.

Now, Facebook is once again testing search ads in its search results and Marketplace — and once again, the goal is more money. At a time when Facebook’s revenue growth is quickly decelerating, opening up new ad inventory for search could reinvigorate the company financially, as well as possibly serve as a distraction from its recent privacy and security scandals.

How Will it Work?

Advertisers wanting to test the new function will be able to simply extend their existing Facebook ads in News Feed to the new “Search” placement through the Facebook Ads Manager, similar to how they’d pick Facebook Audience Network or Instagram. No video ads will be allowed, and search ads will only appear on mobile devices. Marketplace search ads will appear on iOS and Android, while Facebook search ads are only testing on Android.

For now, advertisers won’t have the ability to choose specific keywords against which to advertise. Instead, they will simply appear in search terms related to auto or retail. Still, the placement will allow advertisers to push users further down the conversion funnel to reach people who might already have intent.

Should the testing phase prove successful, Facebook will implement an auction-style bidding system similar to what it already does for its other ads. The ads will look similar to those that appear in News Feed, meaning that they will sport the same headline, image and text.

Will Search on Facebook Succeed?

Search advertising was responsible for nearly half of the $49.5 billion generated in digital ad revenues for the first half of 2018, according to a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Although most people might only think of Google when it comes to search advertising, companies such as Pinterest, Amazon and Yelp also own a slice of the pie.

Whether Facebook can join the game and compete with the big names in search advertising remains to be seen. After all, search is far from the core of Facebook’s offering, where users typically browse the News Feed for social content rather than go looking for something specific. They will have to balance the injection of search ads with what has made them successful as a brand.