Paid Social vs. Paid Search for Small Business – Which is Better and Why?

Since the advent of the internet, online marketing has taken the business world by storm. Online advertising is increasingly gaining acceptance and popularity, thanks to search engines and social media sites. These platforms have made it necessary for businesses to create a strong online presence if they are to remain relevant.

There are different techniques that businesses use to promote their messages online. Paid social and paid search advertising make it easy for online users to find your business as well as the products you offer. However, before making a decision on the best strategy to use, it is important to understand the two.

Paid social refers to sponsored updates and advertisements on social media sites that appear in people’s newsfeeds. Paid search refers to advertisements that appear at the top and bottom of search engine results once users have entered a query.

The main platforms that businesses use for paid social and paid search are Facebook and Google respectively. There are a number of factors that differentiate these two services. These factors will help small business owners know when to use one service as opposed to the other


User Intent

It is important to be mindful of the intent of consumers when choosing a platform to market your business. Internet users will have different intentions when looking for information on search engines versus going through their newsfeed on social media platforms.

In most cases, users who want more information about a product before a purchase will use search engines while those who wish to access user-generated content or engage with people in their networks will use social media platforms.

Ad Formats

The nature of the content also pays a role in determining whether to use paid search or paid social advertising. When it comes to search engines, the primary model of content is text-based results. Since this is how search results look, paid search ads follow the same format (although there are also shopping and display ads that allow businesses to include photos of their products and other brand images).

Social media platforms are more visual, providing businesses with diverse ad formats that include videos and photos as well as text based ads.

Whether you go for paid social or paid search, you must ensure that you use engaging and relevant content to communicate with your target audience.


Targeting Ability

With search engines, targeting is mainly based on the keywords and phrases that the user types in a while conducting a search. The platform has changed over time, making it possible for marketers to target users based on their location, device and language. Marketers can also target users who have previously visited their website, a technique known as remarketing.

With social media sites, especially Facebook, the number of options available to businesses are numerous. As a marketer, you can target users based on their age, location, income, behaviors and interests to ensure that your message is effectively communicated.

Which is Better and Why?

One of the goals when advertising your business and products is to reach the right audience. Whether to use paid social or paid search advertising depends on the type of product or service you offer and where your target audience is in the buyer’s journey. Paid social is excellent for customers who are at the beginning of the buyer’s journey and need awareness and engagement before making a purchase. Paid search is ideal when customers know what they are looking for and are ready to buy.

This means that, in general, paid social and paid search should not compete. In fact, the two ways of digital marketing actually complement one another and can help your business in different phases of your marketing plan. An experienced digital marketing agency that offers paid search and paid social advertising services can help determine.


Chad Crowe

Chad Crowe

Partner and CEO