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Is Paid Search Better Than Paid Social? The Answers You Need

Mitch Cartwright

Growing your business may seem like a daunting task.

Choosing between print and pixel, paid search and paid social, or giving free products, trials, or subscriptions are all difficult choices to make when trying to expand your customer base.

With an incredible number of social media users, though, it may seem like paid social ads will be a better use of your time and resources. There's no doubt they are definitely the "sexy" option in the eyes of many businesses these days:

However, they often do not produce income as quickly as paid search ads.

So, which is better - paid search or paid social?

Understanding the Difference Between Paid Search and Paid Social

Pay per click advertising is an ingenious way of getting customers to your company. There is an abundance of platforms to choose from, as well as different types of ads within those platforms.

With this, it is challenging to figure out how best to spend your advertising budget.

Let’s dive into the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of paid search and paid social ads.

All About Paid Search Ads

Paid search ads put your business at the top of a search - most commonly, Google. However, they can be placed on other search engines like Bing and Yahoo, or lesser-known ones like Gibiru and Swisscows.

Labeled as an ad, your business will be prime positioned in the top slot on the search results page. Often mistaken for a typical search result, paid search ads put your product directly in sight of a consumer looking for your service, hopefully allowing you to be their first click. You can choose exactly what keywords you want your ad to show up under.

As these potential customers are searching directly for your area of expertise, most have a high purchase intent. If you can get the click, you are most likely to get the sale. For example, if someone is searching for “best place to fix an iPhone screen”, they probably want their phone fixed as soon as possible and will choose one of the top hits on their search.

With this, paid search sounds terrific as it gets you paying customers quickly. But, it does come at a cost. Paid search ads tend to cost more per click than paid social.

Paid search ads vary in cost from one dollar to upwards of 80 dollars. This usually correlates with the industry and product offered and how much competition there is.

For our iPhone repair ad mentioned above, it should cost under ten dollars. However, if you’re advertising for a casino, you will have to shell out over $50. With the increased cost, though, comes the higher likelihood of a quick purchase from the intent-driven customer.

The Ins and Outs of Paid Social Ads

Paid social ads are ads or sponsorships that show up in people’s social media feeds.

These can be bought on a plethora of platforms, including:

These ads are focused on a specific group of people, like mothers, motorcycle owners, or retirees.

For example, an eco-friendly nappy company can focus its ads on new mothers on Instagram. This gets the brand in front of a larger audience, even if they’re currently not looking to buy.

Social ads are typically less expensive than their paid search counterparts. However, they are not always getting in front of purchase-ready customers.

That new mother on Instagram we mentioned? She may not have been looking to switch nappy brands, but as the eco-friendly nappies keep reappearing in her feed, she may become interested over time and choose to purchase.

So, Which Is Better - Paid Search or Paid Social?

Similar to most things in life, the best choice depends a lot on what you’re looking for.

Different businesses may need to get their name out quickly - such as disaster clean up crews if a big storm just went through town. Other companies simply want to raise their brand awareness and create a demand for their product.

Going for Speed? Use a Paid Search Ad

Paid search gets your company name, website, and phone number into consumer’s hands as soon as you give the go-ahead.

These customers are ready to spend money and often use the ads to steer them to the right place. But, as these paid search ads are more expensive than paid social, you need to time the ad placement right.

Many search engines allow you to set a budget within their site and tailor it each month or season as needed. This is a great way to balance the profit and expense of using paid search ads.

Creating a Niche? Paid Social is the Way to Go

One of the best parts of social media is that anyone can share almost anything. This allows creatives to show their work and businesses to advertise their product.

Does your company sell something that people don’t know they need yet?

Paid social ads will put your pictures, brand name, and catchy headlines right into users' feeds, between their friend’s cat photo and a friend asking for new song suggestions.

With this, though, it is important to have eye-catching pictures and catchy titles. The ability to reach people on this more personal level creates a following around your brand that paid search cannot find.

So, if you’re looking for more customers and you know the type of people you want to target, paid social will give you the best return on investment.

Keep in mind, though, that it might take multiple ad campaigns before you begin to see the money start coming back in.

Figuring Out What Is Best For You

Choosing between paid search and paid social is a decision only you can make as you keep your business and growth goals in mind. But, these two things are not mutually exclusive. Creating a marketing strategy that uses both types of ads may be the way to go.

If you’re able to expand your immediate customer base through some paid search ads, you will be able to learn more about your customer demographic and who might require your product or service. Then, once you have more insight into your customer base, target more people like them with paid social ads.

As you ramp up your ad campaigns, make sure to track your spending, revenue, and customers. Most sites will do this for you, and it can give great insight into what your next step should be.

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Static and dynamic content editing

Static and dynamic content editing

Static and dynamic content editing

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Mitch Cartwright
Mitch is the Paid Media Lead at Local Digital, getting stuck into Google Ads and other biddable media campaigns for our clients. If you want to talk best bidding strategies or how to bring down that CPA, Mitch is the go to guru.

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