Paid Search vs Paid Social: Which One is Best for Your PPC Campaign?

The digital space is fertile ground for business expansion, as you not only have many platforms to explore, but techniques as well. Among – and arguably the most powerful of – these techniques is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

In fact, it’s so powerful that businesses invest in thousands of dollars to hire a partner PPC agency to rake in the clicks and conversions.

Different strategies for different needs

You see, advertising online provides you with a multitude of digital advertising channels namely paid social and paid search channels.

They are inherently different, and have caused much fruitless debate between PPC experts. Fruitless because, since they are fundamentally different channels, each will have strengths over the other. Just the same, each of them will also have weaknesses which the opposite option can compensate for.

So instead of arguing which one is better, it’s much more productive if you seek to understand each of their unique capabilities and, subsequently, how these work together for your greater benefit.

  1. The Different Types of Paid Search
  2. The Different Types of Paid Social
  3. Paid Search or Paid Social?
  4. Key Takeaways

Ready to learn more? Keep on reading to choose the right paid option for your business!

Types of Paid SearchPhoto courtesy by Burst via Pexels

Paid search advertising refers to keyword-based ads placed in search engine results. These advertisements match keywords to a user’s search query. Paid search is also keyword intent-based, meaning your audience sees these ads because they’re related to what users are searching for. It’s a form of demand harvest because prospective consumers are already looking for a solution relevant to your product.

For example, if someone searches for the best running shoes, an ad for your product can be shown alongside the relevant articles and pages. By clicking on your ad, searchers will be directed to your site where they might find more options and information about your brand or product.

Once a search is conducted on a search engine, like Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo, the engine picks from a pool of advertisers that bid for that valuable search-result placement. These placements are selected, based on their keyword and ad campaign quality, and the amount of bid an advertiser places. In addition to keywords and phrases, the paid search ad platform has improved in the past year by letting advertisers target users via their location, device, and language.

1. Google Ads

Google AdsPhoto courtesy by PhotoMIX Ltd via Pexels

One widely used paid search platform is Google, receiving almost 80,000 searches in just one second. Due to the heavy traffic received in such a short amount of time, Google hosts a lot of ads that reach people who are searching for relevant products and services related to these advertisements.

To land the top positions in a search results page is to occupy a prime piece of online real estate. Through Google Adwords Optimization, you can determine the placement and the order of ads in the search results, based on your bid on keywords, the quality of your ad, and the relevance of your ad extensions and other ad formats.

2. Microsoft Advertising</h3

Microsoft AdvertisingPhoto courtesy by LinkedIn Sales Navigator via Pexels

Microsoft Advertising, formerly known as Bing Ads, is a paid search platform for search engines Bing, Yahoo!, and AOL. This ad platform, although much younger than Google, has made big strides to keep up with the competition.

Microsoft sites are second to Google in terms of search market share. As such, Microsoft Advertising focuses on targeting more specific audiences, including those unreached by Google.

3. Google Ads vs. Microsoft Ads

In which platform should you place your advertisements? To help you answer this, you first have to consider the type of audience you’d like to reach and assess your potential competition before the bidding.

Since Google holds a 74% search engine market share, the competition is steeper in its ad platform. While on the other hand, Microsoft Advertising’s audience is 37% are college graduates, and 35% of their users do online shopping using the browser. Consider Microsoft’s network audience insights when choosing where to place your ads.

The Different Types of Paid Social

Types of Paid SocialPhoto courtesy of Lukas via Pexels

While paid search appears only on search engine results, paid social advertisements are placed on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Most Internet users are found on social media, which means you can reach a vast majority of users. Unlike paid search ads that target intent, paid social ads target demographics and interests. Audiences here are not actively looking for solutions. Instead, they stumble upon advertisements in their feeds in their timelines, urging them to sign up, buy, or visit.

For example, you’re a company that mainly sells swimsuits. You’re likely to target a specific age group of women using social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. There are a lot of technicalities when it comes to running paid social ads, so make sure to have a Facebook ads checklist when setting up your online ads.

The Advantage of Paid Social 

Unlike paid search, paid social is an interruptive type of advertisement. The latter appears in social media feeds, regardless if your business is already a prior interest in the people that see your ads. By targeting specific social media audiences, you can generate demand recognition. In turn, demand recognition is generated by showing up amidst the results that appear in the feeds of target audiences.

For paid social ads to be effective, they need to engage and captivate social media users. As such, advertisements for Facebook will be different from those for Twitter. The same goes for the price or the features you can access. You should know what timelines to intrude to maximize the cost of ads and reap audience traffic to your landing pages.

For your business, this means you’ll have to strategize and determine which social media platform/s will best compliment your product/s and service/s. Your choice will depend on the type of audience you’d like to reach.

What Should You Choose: Paid Search or Paid Social?

Paid Search or Paid SocialPhoto courtesy by Lisa Fotios via Pexels

If you need more help in choosing which type of ad to use for your next campaign, here are a few considerations you should look into:

1. If you’re aiming to spend less

Refer to an ad’s cost-per-click (CPC), which generally pegs for a lower price in paid social ads in contrast to paid search ads. If you compare CPCs between Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising, Google Ads tend to cost more because of its vast audience reach. If you consider keyword specifications, the price will vary, too. This may depend on your industry or the traffic that your keyword usually expects.

For example, high-volume keywords with many regular searches can be a lot more expensive than their counterparts. If your target is your lower-funnel-audience, who are more likely to buy your product, you are also more likely to pay for an ad that reaches them.

Although search ads cost more, they can have a more direct impact on your sales. The key lies in buyer intent. Paid search ads are geared towards users who search for a product or a service because they’d like to buy it. Whereas social media users may not be thinking of buying something, they’re just looking around and navigating their way to the buying process.

2. If you’re looking to boost brand recognition

Depending on your industry, your product or service may not get searched all the time. You can’t wait all day for site visits when you can pull users in through ads in their social timelines.

If you’re trying to build brand loyalty, interrupting social feeds may just be the best jump-off point. Since you’re targeting audiences who are most likely to patronize your brand, your paid social ads can present them with possible solutions to their unique needs. Next time they think of buying a product similar to yours, you would have secured their interest in your brand.

If your goal is to jumpstart brand recognition among audiences, your best bet is through paid social advertisements. While users down the funnel have already made up their minds, which is why paid search is a better medium for them to convert.

3. If you want to see fast results

If you want to see fast resultsPhoto courtesy by Negative Space via Pexels

If you’re part of an industry that pushes high-demand products or services, paid search advertising is the way to go. For faster sales, you need to offer your products right where people are intently searching for them.

A well-placed ad amidst a search for a solution to a problem is the best way you can earn a profit vs. paid social ads that have a lower chance of attracting users who are just browsing through their timeline.

Essentially, these two ad platforms are not in competition against each other. With enough resources and research, you can use both methods in various stages of your marketing strategy. It’s best to be updated, measure each performance, and run an A/B test to know if your goals are met.

Key takeaways

Choosing between paid search and paid social—or both—depends on the goals you have for your brand. Keep in mind that not every site and platform can guarantee traffic to your website, even in intent-based platforms, like Google. Still, with the right online marketing strategy and ad placements, the bigger your chance is to harvest visits.

  • Paid search is intent-based advertising, serving ready solutions that users are looking for. Paid search ads are determined via planned keywords.
  • Paid social ads are interruptive and show up in the social media timelines of target users.
  • For fast sales, target people at the lower part of the funnel. This means taking advantage of the fact that they’re already looking for a solution to a problem your brand can solve
  • For a boost in brand awareness, invest in paid social. Your target market may be farther up the funnel and is waiting to stumble into your services in their feeds.

Paid search and paid social are two effective ways to boost your online marketing strategy, and no doubt, two of the most powerful methods to reach your target audiences. Make sure you’ll know what to use since it will be very costly once you have started doing the campaign.

Need a lift on your paid marketing? Reach out to us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and follow us on Twitter.

For more helpful guides and insights on how to do digital marketing differently, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

0 0 votes
Article Rating


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Never miss a beat.
Get regular updates in your inbox
on what's new on digital.