Are you on the wrong platform? Paid search vs. paid social

When it comes to online marketing, pay-per-click advertising is one of the most powerful tools you can use. Year after year, it gets easier and easier to reach your target market on Facebook Ads, Google Ads and the like.

Unfortunately, with all of the features and options we now have available, it can be overwhelming to find the right way to market your business. Even on a single platform like Google Ads, you have options for manual ads, automated text ads, click-to-call ads, banner ads, video ads and much, much more. Then, throw in half-a-dozen or more additional platforms and it can simply be too much to wrap your head around.

While the array of marketing opportunities at your disposal may be dizzying, most of them can be placed in one of two categories: paid search and paid social. There are a few other options, like display ads, but since paid search and paid social are the powerhouses of PPC, we’re going to focus on them here.

When you look at your PPC advertising options this way, it becomes a lot easier to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and where they fit into your marketing strategy. So, in this article, we’re going to compare these two marketing channels and tell you what you need to know to make better marketing decisions for your business.

What’s the difference between paid search and paid social?

Before we dive into a discussion of the strengths and weakness of paid search and paid social, let’s start by talking about how each of these marketing channels works.

Paid search

Paid search advertising platforms show ads in response to search queries. Google Ads is the best-known paid search platform, but most search engines (Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc.) offer paid search advertising options.

What makes paid search great is the fact that it is intent-based advertising. People see your ads because they are actively looking for a solution to a problem. This sort of audience is usually ready (or almost ready) to make a purchase, which is good news for you and your business.

For example, if someone searches online for “flowers for wedding,” there’s a good chance that they have a wedding coming up and are looking for a place to buy flowers. If your business sells wedding flowers, you want them to find your business. Running a paid search ad on that search term is one of the best ways to do it.

When it comes to getting in front of people with high purchase intent, it’s hard to beat paid search. You don’t have to convince people that they have a problem…you just have to convince them that your solution is right for them.

Paid social

In contrast, paid social ads show up when people are on a social media platform like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or even Reddit. Unlike paid search, your audience isn’t actively looking for a solution to a problem. In fact, they may not even realize that they have a problem.

On the surface, paid social advertising is a lot like many classic forms of advertising such as radio ads, billboards or TV commercials. Instead of waiting for customers to come to you, you are highlighting a need and offering your business as the solution. The hope is that people will resonate with your message and decide to buy from you, but that can be a bit of an uphill battle.

Fortunately, unlike radio or TV ads, you can actually track the performance of your paid social ads. This makes it much easier to determine how people are responding and adjust your messaging or targeting.

If you can get your paid social campaigns dialed in, you can drive business from a very large group of people, many of whom may never have bought from you otherwise.

For example, have you ever considered decorating with fresh eucalyptus? If you’re like a friend of mine, probably not, but after seeing ads like the one in her social media feeds for a while, she eventually

With paid social advertising, you can reach as large of an audience as you want. So, if you want to build awareness for your products, services or your business in general, it’s pretty had to beat the reach of paid social.

What’s right for your business?

In an ideal world, you’d market everywhere, on every platform, all of the time. However, for most companies, that isn’t very practical. Time and financial limitations make it hard to take advantage of every advertising opportunity.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at these two marketing channels and ask the question: should you focus on paid search or paid social?

The right answer for your business depends on what you’re trying to market, who you’re trying to market to, and what your marketing goals are. So, let’s take a look at three different scenarios to help you decide on the right marketing channel for you.