Paid Search vs Social Media Ads: What’s Right for Your Business?

online paid advertising vs social media

Paid Search vs Social Media Ads: What’s Right for Your Business?

If you’re looking to start advertising your business online but have a limited amount of budget, you need to be selective about which advertising channels you’re going to invest in. Two of the most popular options are social media advertising and paid search advertising.

When it comes to PPC vs social media ads, there are a lot of factors to consider. In this article, we’re going to cover the key differences between the two methods and discuss why a business would choose one over the other.

What Are Paid Search Ads?

When you search for “plumber near me” on a search engine like Google, the first three search results will probably be paid search ads. You can tell because they will have a small marker saying “Ad” next to their titles. Advertisers pay to have their ads show up on searches for particular keywords or search queries. If a user clicks on one of these, Google will charge the advertiser a small fee known as a ‘click cost’. 

What Are Social Media Ads?

As you scroll through your social media platform of choice, you will often see sponsored posts. These can be quite varied, some will look like regular social posts, others may include videos, polls, image carousels or other interactive elements.  

Social media ads will normally be marked with a small label saying “advertisement” or “sponsored content”. Some platforms will charge advertisers every time a user clicks on a social ad, others will charge for a certain number of views on the ad regardless of whether anyone clicked on it.  

What Are The Benefits of Paid Search Ads?

One thing which online advertisers love about paid search ads is that you get to advertise to a customer at the exact moment they are showing an interest in products and services like yours.  

For example, using traditional offline marketing methods, a women’s shoe manufacturer would have to place an advert in a paper or on a billboard. Then, they would have to hope that their target audience saw it, and then remembered the brand when they next thought about buying shoes. Using paid search advertising, they could display their products directly to anyone searching “women’s shoes”.  

What Are The Benefits of Social Media Ads?

Social media platforms know a great deal about their users. Not only basic information like their age and profession, but more personal details like their politics, the music they like, where they went to school, their sexual orientation and much more. This allows you to target your adverts to a very specific customer profile, to an even greater degree than with paid search.  

You could even create multiple versions of your advert, designed to appeal to different groups of users. For example, a shoe shop might advertise different items depending on whether the users being targeted are into hip hop or heavy metal.

The Biggest Differences Between Social Ads and PPC Ads

PPC ads are generally targeted based on user searches. Keywords are chosen and the ads will display when a user searches those keywords. Social ads are generally targeted based on a user’s interests and other pages they have followed or interacted with. Social platforms tend to know a lot more about their users than search engines, so you can get very granular with the targeting.

Ad Formats
Most PPC ads are text, some may contain a small image or a logo. Social ads are much more visual and will often feature multiple images or videos in a carousel.

User Intent
When you target PPC search engine ads, you are generally trying to put them in front of users who are searching for products and services like yours. However, social ads are targeted around a user’s interests and previous interactions. This has an influence on every aspect of the ad, from the text to the images chosen, to the landing page the user should be sent to. Imagine you are a double-glazing installer, if someone is searching for “double glazing installers near me” they don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of double glazing as they are already looking for an installer. So, the ad text should focus on price, reliability, availability etc. However, someone on social media isn’t directly searching for double-glazing, so the ad text needs to be more attention grabbing and convince the person to stop scrolling and engage with the ad.

Which Type Of Online Advertising Is Right For Your Business?

Paid social ads are most effective when used to build relationships and increase interest among your target audience. For this, extremely relevant targeting choices and content which resembles organic posts can have a large impact. Targeting your social ads effectively requires a great deal of knowledge about your customer’s interests, demographic and location. 

Paid search ads, on the other hand, are great for capturing customers who are already actively looking for products or services like yours and are ready to make a purchase. Paid search ads are reactive to customers’ needs, almost like inbound marketing. 

It is also worth considering which products and services you offer, and which method of advertising will be the most effective. E-commerce websites and other businesses which are very ‘visual’ tend to perform well using social media ads as they are looking for impulse purchases. Other businesses, such as a law firms where potential customers do more research and compare competitors, would not do as well on social media and would be better off using paid search ads. 

In summary, social ads can be great for spontaneous purchases and brand awareness, but paid search can be better for people who are actively searching for services like yours.  

Ideally you would run both paid social and paid search campaigns. With paid search driving traffic to your website and paid social ads building your brand recognition over time, your digital marketing strategy can capture your audience at every point in their customer journey.

Don’t Forget About Organic Social Posts and SEO

Remember that if you do not have the budget to run both search and social ads and need to prioritise one of them, we can help you determine which one would be best placed to maximise your ROI. But remember that if you choose one marketing channel, you don’t have to completely ignore others. You can still create organic social posts in the meantime, and if they’re good enough, they might go viral without you having to pay to get eyes on them. Equally, you can improve the content and design of your website and improve your ranking in organic search results. 

Whether paid or organic, these marketing methods work well in tandem. Social posts build recognition and search results put you in front of people looking for businesses like yours.

Need Professional Help With Your PPC Or Social Media Campaigns?

Hopefully, this has been a useful explanation of the difference between paid social marketing and paid search ads. At Carden Digital, we’ve helped businesses make the most of both of these marketing channels as well organic social media marketing and organic search optimisation. If you’d like help with any aspect of your digital marketing, speak to our team today. 

Dave King

Dave King

Dave King is the Co-Founder and Director of Carden Digital and the wider Carden IT Group. Dave’s background is in IT services, but he has experience across the online space. His love of all things digital lead him to create a digital marketing branch of the business, with a focus on paid advertising, SEO, web development, social media, graphic design and content writing.