Facebook Marketing: No Search Intent? No Problem

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I was surprised to see an SEO expert recently post one about how Facebook’s lack of search intent (a la Google keywords) is why it isn’t profitable.

I wouldn’t be surprised about this if it were 2009 or 2010. But now that businesses have made profits with Facebook, a comment like that means that the SEO guy is either uninformed, or so vested in Google remaining the King Kong of Internet Marketing (too late, it’s already been dethroned) that he is immune to the truth. “My mind is made up! Don’t confuse me with the facts!”

But on the off chance that this hasn’t already been well communicated to the search marketing community, let me explain how Facebook marketing is as good or better than search marketing.

The Limitations of Search Intent

Yes, I understand… if I sell shoes and someone searches for “buy shoes” or “buy prada shoes”, that’s going to be a pretty high ROI keyword if I don’t screw up my website or shopping cart. The problem is, if someone searches for “shoes”, there’s a good chances that’s not a positive ROI keyword. In other words, the number of keywords that will bring me profits is quite limited, especially in AdWords.

  • There are more than 45 million searches for “shoes” monthly on Google.
  • There are only 1% as many searches for “buy shoes”
  • “buy shoes online” is an even safer bet but only 0.2% of “shoe” searchers are searching that specifically

As you can see, limiting yourself to these buying intent keywords wipes out about 99.8% of the market. Should we do that? Of course, if we’re only looking for profit on the next sale. But then we’re also competing on price with all the other businesses who are only advertising at the bottom of the funnel. We lower our profits and our conversion rate with all that competitive shopping. Welcome to the Red Ocean where everyone chews everyone else to bits.

My experience running AdWords accounts for a lot of advertisers over the last six years is that typically, only about 5-10% of the keywords are actually profitable. Sure, if you do long-tail SEO, there’s good ROI there. But if you want to expand your business, or you’ve mastered all of that, where do you go next? Or what if, as in some cases, you find that AdWords simply doesn’t work for your business? One student of our FanReach course found that because he had a new product that was a hybrid of two things, AdWords’s quality score wouldn’t let him advertise it affordably.

The problem with search marketing is that it’s only profitable for a very small part of the sales funnel. If you run AdWords, you can’t make money getting prospects who are not ready to buy. Not so with Facebook.

Expanding Your Business and Sales Funnel With Facebook

The fact that Facebook ad CPC is from two to ten times cheaper than AdWords means that you can afford to get those general “shoes” customers. Not to mention, you can get them as fans for a lot less than you can get email addresses. On average in fan acquisition campaigns, 75% of the people who click on my clients ads are clicking Like to become fans. The cost of a fan is only 33% higher than the cost per click. There’s no way you’re converting 75% of any traffic to an email subscriber. And while you can post daily to a Facebook fan, you can’t email a subscriber daily without getting mass unsubscribes.

Facebook works the opposite way. You find someone who you know is so passionate about something that they’re going to be a lifetime customer, you get them to interact, you warm them up and build a relationship with them before they even consider your competition. You remove yourself from the red ocean of price wars and create a blue ocean of relationships.

It’s not pie in the sky. As I said, there are public case studies that show it’s possible for small businesses, and stories I can’t tell (due to NDA) of the Fortune 1000 getting profits.

An Appeal to SEO’s and AdWords Consultants

If all your money comes from doing Google marketing for clients, you know you could lose money to Facebook marketing. Consider this: learn how to do Facebook marketing, add that arrow to your quiver and you can only help your clients even more. It’s actually really nice to be able to recommend what’s best for each client, rather than being biased to have to recommend only one or two things.

Brian Carter
Brian is author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money With Facebook and Facebook Marketing: Leveraging Facebook's Features For Your Marketing Campaigns, How to... Read Full Bio
Brian Carter
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  • Nick Stamoulis

    Companies have to find what works best for them and their business. For some, it might be a better long term plan to invest their budget in Facebook ads. For others, AdWords might still be the best choice. You can’t favor one over the other without knowing how it works for your business.

  • Nenad Molerovic

    Great article!

    I agree with you on all points regarding Facebook advertising but I think you are oversimplifying search marketing in general… there is a lot of opportunities in search marketing even for the most competitive niches but you need to look where other people are usually not looking.


  • Zippy Cart

    I think the right thing to take away from all this is Facebook’s ability to create, maintain, and improve customer relationships that convert into sales over the long term, instead of Google’s more direct search-to-sell functionality. They are different tools and work in different ways.

  • Warren Whitlock

    Remember when knowing about SEO made you “bleeding edge smart?” 

    I wasn’t thinking we’d be talking about the old fools in “traditional SEO” so soon 🙂

  • Michael Balistreri

    Let’s see… The last time I purchased something via Facebook was … Hmm.. I think … No, it was… Hmm…

  • Charter Bus VA

    Facebook marketing is one of the most effective marketing. Facebook is now bought by google which will make it more  effective..

    here is the story :

    In a move that stunned Silicon Valley,
    Google announced it will purchase popular social network Facebook in a
    cash and stock deal valued at $25 billion.

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Facebook CEO
    Mark Zuckerberg held a hastily arranged press conference where they
    outlined the key elements of the agreement.

    Technically, Zuckerberg explained, Google is purchasing 98.4 percent of Facebook, leaving Microsoft with 1.6 percent ownership.

    “We feel this accurately reflects Microsoft’s market share in the Web 2.0 economy,” Schmidt said.

    Schmidt noted the many synergies between Google and Facebook that led to the deal.

    “With the acquisition of Facebook, users
    will be able to take advantage of OpenSocial applications across all
    the major social networks on the planet,” he said. “We’ll be able to
    incorporate Facebook apps directly into Android, our new mobile
    operating system.

  • Daisy

    You may go as detailed as you’d like with FB Ads… it’s beautiful… 

  • Press


  • Emma | craigslist pvas

    Hey Brian thats a good article on marketing with facebook, i do adwords at the minute and its working out ok as i read a book on adwords and i know how to get my prices down. I have never tried facebook but the comments you make about putting ads on there cheaper and then sending them to my facebook page and then they come fans appeals a great deal. The only reason i havent been marketing on fb is because all these platforms take a long time to learn so iv just got my head around getting cheap clicks with adwords and i think il look into fb, can you recommend any good facebook marketing books ? and then il dive into testing mode 🙂

  • rebo7

    I think That Facebook will continue to hold market share,especially considering its recent high investment.