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Should You Use Search or Social Ads?

Michelle Givens 10/12/17 6:03 AM

Web browsers of different online advertising sourcesAn online advertising campaign has many potential channels for bringing in customers. Two of the most prominent options are search and social ads. The right choice for your company depends on your target audience, budget, overall marketing strategy and several other factors. In order to help you, we have summarized the types of ads available and have provided you a list of items to think through when determining what option is best for your company.

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What Paid Search Advertising Options are Available?

Consumers rely on search engines for everything from researching solutions for their quality of life issues to comparing pricing on hot products for the season. While there are several search engines, Google remains the search giant processing approximately 40,000 searches per second, giving your brand many opportunities to get your messages in front of people. Nowadays there is a multitude of paid search ad types available, but here is a list of the most commonly used ad types.

Search Network

Search Network text ads appear next to or above.

Google search results, depending on the position that you're focusing on and the device the consumer is using to conduct their search. You can reach customers interested in your product or service with messaging that's relevant to the terms they're searching for. This type of ad helps you drive clicks to your site and build brand recognition.

Online Advertising Types

Display Network

Display Network ads appear on participating websites and come in many forms. You have a lot of flexibility in the ad creatives you can use and the targeting method you focus on.

  • Visual ads help you build brand awareness and helps you show off product photos and other eye-catching elements.
  • Website-specific targeting allows you to narrow your advertising campaign so your ads appear on a limited set of sites on the Display Network. When you have niche-specific audiences you want to reach, this approach is an excellent method for getting targeted traffic. You can also choose to use the interest targeting option, which restricts your ad visibility to people whose interests align with your campaign.
  • Remarketing gives you fine-tuned control over Display Network ad delivery. Only people who have previously visited your site or performed specific activities on your site see these marketing materials. You can create highly relevant ads that help consumers make a purchase decision or learn more about specific products.


Shopping search ads help you promote your products to people who are actively researching their options. The consumers may be close to a purchase decision or want to learn more about what's available in your market category.


YouTube has the distinction of being the second largest search engine and attracts millions of viewers every day. These video ads are excellent for building your brand awareness and expanding your reach.

What Social Advertising Options Are Available?

Social network channels provide another significant source of advertising traffic. Social advertising provides even more targeting options than search advertising, so you can get very specific and personal.

Each social media site has its own set of advertising types, so it's important to know what you have to work with before you start building your campaigns. Below is a list of the common ad types available in most social platforms.

Social ad examples.jpg

Paid Post Promotions

Are your social media posts not getting in front of enough people on your network? Paid post promotions allow you to boost the visibility of your content, which helps you drive likes and expand your audience. Most social networks offer this option, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Sidebar Ads

Sidebar ads are similar to Display Network ads, and they're typically text-based. You won't get as much attention on these ads as you do with something that appears organic, such as paid post promotions, but you can build your brand awareness. This ad type is available on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Event Promotions

Are you hosting an event and you want to make your audience aware of it? Facebook's event promotion option gets your event in front of people. You can attract attendees who may not have otherwise known about your event, as well as additional brand recognition.

What Online Advertising Option Is Best?

There is no clear-cut answer to this question. It all comes down to what your advertising campaign needs are, what leads to more conversion with your target audience and what your strategy is. When you're making your decision, consider these items:

  • Data from past campaigns: You have many ways to collect performance data from your previous ad campaigns. Put this to good use by looking at the platforms and ad types that worked out the best. You want a good balance of cost efficiency, conversion and reach, so pay attention to these metrics as you compare search and social advertising options.
  • Advertising goals: Consider the overall goals of your current advertising campaign. For example, if you need to increase brand awareness, you may want to focus on platforms that have the most traffic. The audience may not be as targeted as smaller niche sites, but you maximize your reach.
  • Position in buyer's journey: Are your potential customers gaining awareness about their problem? Are they searching for solutions, or trying to figure out the differences between product categories? Keep these questions in mind as you decide between search and social advertising channels.
  • Past website visitors or customers: Are you trying to generate sales from previous customers or people already aware of your company? You can pursue advertising options that allow you to narrowly target your audience, such as a remarketing campaign.

Ultimately, your decision between social and search advertising options requires a lot of thought. Focus on the channels that make the most sense for your campaign and budget, based on the factors above and your organization's preferences. Lastly, remember you can always experiment if you want to branch out and test other options, because new advertising types for both social and search options are frequently becoming available.

Need help planning out your search ads? Download our latest Google Adwords Campaign Planning Template by clicking the button below!