sem-thinkerNobody speaks seriously about Facebook social PPC at search marketing industry conferences. I can’t believe it. Shouldn’t we be discussing multivariate landing page testing deeply segmented by users’ interests and affinities as opposed to keywords?

Doesn’t Facebook provide us a prescient peek into future mainstream social PPC platforms? As an industry could we be missing a chance to get ahead of the curve in preparation for the ultimate revolution in commercial personalization, true social demographic targeting? I don’t get it…

A certain search-Messiah told me one conference eve (over free MSN Pad Thai) that Facebook Social PPC is not search and has no place at “search” conferences-which opened my eyes. Is it or isn’t it? Search means typing something into a box and receiving contextually related organic or paid SERPs in return doesn’t it? If you don’t query the index and get a results page it aint’ the search industry right? Most folks perceive search conferences are only about customer-pull advertising, you know like AdWords and organic results.

Following logic to its correct end, Google’s famed & cutthroat content network (site targeted & other) is not really search either. Google content network ads are interrupt-push advertising marketed to relevant AdSense publishers’ content. That said, I believe most still perceive AdWords Content campaigns as part of the search industry.

Hmm. How come Facebook PPC is not search industry stuff too? Why don’t we teach important lessons embodied in Facebook social PPC at search marketing” conferences…or do we only espouse Google social PPC without calling it that? Maybe the new definition of the search industry is all things Google and nothing else.

The Beat Goes On
More and more additional criteria (by which to segment a PPC campaign) is dialed into new media placement platforms, none the least of which is Google’s fledgling ability to target PPC to behaviors other than searching keywords. Facebook social PPC though a somewhat rudimentary mechanism, deals with a much smaller sampling and ground-up data collection methods. Still the approach has resulted in a glorious prototype of PPC behavioral targeting to come, yet we practically ignore it in the mainstream search industry vernacular.

Traditional PPC becomes Social PPC when targeting options become more complex and spans to behavioral targeting. Facebook PPC is no less “search” than Google content ads. Why do we evangelize about Google content match at search conferences but not social PPC? By classic definition neither is search. Yet our clients are making millions with Facebook PPC while we’re preparing methodologies for the coming revolution. Keeping up to speed on social PPC technique (especially landing page-think) is a critical SEM learning curve.

In fact if you really think about it, all PPC is becoming social PPC at least to some extent. When did it cross the line and become “social PPC?” Was it geo-targeting? No. Was in Microsoft demographic targeting? No. In fact it was ummm…Facebook. As the megalithic AdWords Content network PPC engine realizes it’s obvious destiny as the mother of all behavioral targeting engines, will social PPC be considered a search industry topic then? Sometime we’re so silly 🙂 .

“My target customer is Black/African American, 45-54, annual household income of $40,000- $59,999, no children in household.

Google’s data is currently available only for the United States. Data source: comScore Media Metrix, Total U.S. 2007/10 (Google’s venerable Site Placement Tool)

Is Social PPC Search Industry Stuff?
We attend SEARCH marketing conferences where pundits preach “content network THIS or site target THAT” as part of Google AdWords reindeer games. They teach tips and tricks and flying machines and its ALL “SEARCH!”

The entire world is about to future-spin the demographic targeting of our dreams and the harbinger is Facebook PPC, though much maligned. Take some target practice on the social graph and compare it to Google. You’ll see that while addressing a limited demographic, Facebook is a formidable harbinger. Think about what FB’s PPC engine does, not the site’s specific demographic and you will be amazed. Extrapolate the class of tools to future-Google. Wow…

Anyway regardless of whether you target a customer’s snoot from Facebook, sneak your way into Facebook from Google’s site placement tool (yes Google does sell Facebook placement) or take aim @ tens of thousands of Google affiliate sites by demographic targeting, Social PPC is as much a part of the search industry as midgets, Microhoo, Feedblitz, drinking, Danny Sullivan or the content network. Facebook social PPC discussions belong at search marketing conferences.

A certain search Messiah raised his voice to me regarding social PPC, above the clanging din of spicy chicken wings and barstools. “Where’s the search? How is Facebook PPC “search?” he asked. Well Facebook and Google push-marketing aside, I don’t care what we call it. We all better learn how to do it. It’s the CONTENT network, foundation of Google’s current behavioral targeting tools, that’s expanding at the moment. Though not “search” by classic definition, we perceive it as part of the “search” industry.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Marty, contextual ads from Google are not search either. I’m pretty sure I told you this when we were talking at the Microsoft party.

    Search isn’t that you’ve entered keywords into a box. Search is that you are somehow expressing an active desire to get information. You can do that by calling 411, browsing a directory as well as entering search terms. And search marketers understand the ways people search and ensure they are visible at those important places.

    Contextual is not search, and I’ve spoken on this aspect for years. People do not express an active desire when they see contextual ads. They are merely seeing stuff that may or may not be interesting to them based on what they are reading, without necessarily having a need at that moment.

    People do indeed confuse search and contextual. I do not, nor have I do so. Yes, I will include a session or two (at most) on contextual at search conferences because, quite frankly, it’s shoved so hard at search marketers by the search companies. So often the content tends to be how it is different or how it might complement a search campaign, if you’re going to run one — since there’s a good chance you might end up with a contextual campaign as well.

    So the set up of your article seems to be saying that contextual = search so social PPC = search. And I remain unconvinced, sorry. To the degree you can target a Facebook ad to an active desire someone is expressing, then yes, that’s search. But when we talked, you weren’t providing a lot of examples of that.

    As for the social media not being search — hey, link building isn’t search either. It’s a completely separate marketing activity from search marketing. But because links are so important to search, as a search marketer, you’d better either know link building or work with someone that does. So for social media, it isn’t search but is very closely related. When the number of people who tag your page on Delicious shows up in Yahoo search results, that’s a search impact you’d better know about. When someone wants to damage your reputation by leveraging the authority of Digg to rank for your names, that’s a search issue you’d also better know about. So there’s a good reason why you see social media stuff happening in relation to search conferences, at least from me.

    By the way, I’m pretty sure Barbara Boser DID speak about social PPC at SMX West, on the SEO & Social Media panel. I know I specifically asked her to write an article about them for Search Engine Land last ran last year, There can be some search applications for those ads, and to the degree you or anyone can show them, you bet, I want that as part of a search show.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @Danny: Sorry for the delay in posting your comment. Sometimes Akismet spam-catching is so dumb. Though you and I have spoken on a number of occasions, the conversation that night was like having egg rolls and beer with Yoda and discussing foundational theory on my favorite topic. I appreciated the time taken to discuss the subject then and it’s great to continue the dialog here.

    First, I count at least 30 SEM conferences, shows, seminars, courses etc…that one might consider as options for furthering one’s SEM education. SMX, SES, & Pubcon are the most prominent and also do a good job at content match-type discussion on panels. I spoke myself on Facebook PPC in NYC @ SES. The conference agenda that pushed my button on this one was actually PPC Summit, so I was not taking aim at you. I do note however that you’re the only industry insider to take time to lend insight to our readers regarding the topic in this thread. Thank you.

    The dialog at the MS party in NYC was thought-provoking for me and I actually agree with you, though torn. Facebook PPC is certainly not search but skills acquired when dealing with FB PPC marketing are critical lessons for future PPC-think as apply to true search.

    In the early days “search” was truly search. As content network and site placement type options began to emerge they sucked, cost way too much for associated ROI and seemed unfocused. Many of us avoided Google and Yahoo’s content offerings for years and it’s only with groundbreaking uber-targeting like the stuff David Szetela is working on, that our clients have headed into the murky waters with a degree of confidence (see plug for David’s SMX Advanced session Amazing PPC Tactics” added above).

    I believe that night in New York we talked about whether the discussion of Facebook PPC belongs @ a “search” or “social” conference and you did not question whether it belongs at all. You questioned where the topic belongs.

    Regardless, my thinking is that the art of segmenting and testing landing pages based on extremely focused interests (like playing guitar or loving a certain type of pasta sauce) is an emerging discipline which is best explored in the only true social PPC platforms of the day. I think we all know that soon enough mainstream (pull) search will involve more serious hybrid behavioral targeting attributes.

    My point goes more to the difference between “search” and the “search industry.” You’ve done a nice job clarifying the distinction in this thread and it rocks to have you stop by. aimClear is covering SMX Advanced next month (and SMX local/mobile) and I’ll look forward to seeing you Danny.

  • David Szetela

    Guys – as you’ve both pointed out, there’s an important question of whether/where Contextual Advertising Guys – as you’ve both pointed out, there’s an important question of whether/where PPC Contextual Advertising topics “fit” in SEO/SEM conferences. I agree that strictly speaking it’s not a subset of “Search” — but it certainly is part of “Search Engine,” since PPC Contextual Advertising is an important subset of the advertising platforms offered by the major search engines – Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and (increasingly) Microsoft adCenter – as well as second-tier search engines.

    So logically PPC Contextual Advertising “fits” the mandate/coverage of the Search Engine Strategies conferences. One could say that it fits Search Marketing Expo as well, since the word “Engine” seems to be implicitly present after the word “Search.”

    Another question is whether covering PPC Contextual Advertising is valuable for attendees of such conferences. I think the answer must be “yes” if one assumes coverage of PPC advertising is important – since as Danny points out above, PPC Contextual is an integral part of PPC advertising.

    But I can see an alternative view, too. The boundaries of PPC Contextual Advertising are already a bit fuzzy around the margins, and getting fuzzier. For example, should the Search conferences include coverage of Google TV, Audio and Print advertising? On the one hand, since advertisers manage such campaigns from “within” AdWords, and roughly speaking, there are capabilities like ROI tracking and auction-style bidding, one could argue such coverage fits any venue that covers Search Engine Marketing. On the other hand, these ad channels may be viewed as even further outside the boundaries of Search than PPC Contextual Advertising.

    It’ll be interesting to watch how this dynamic tension shakes itself out. Will SES, SMX and other “general” conferences shrink or expand their coverage of Contextual Advertising? Will such coverage expand more “naturally) in more-vertical conferences like PPC Summit and ad:tech?

  • Strategy Node

    I think facebook is very useful better than myspace. i feel embarrassed to sometimes open myspace in public because of the crappy advertisement. so long story short i think facebook should be in social media conferences

  • David Mullings

    I agree that contextual is not “search” and “social ppc” like on Facebook is not search either.

    It seems that the names of the conferences have become too limiting in and of themselves and as new opportunities arise, they incorporate them. Search Engine Strategies (SES) by definition would have nothing to do with Facebook PPC but it would cover seo, sem, contextual and link building. Contextual fits because it is a service offered by search engine companies while facebook’s isn’t.

    If Google was the one offering the Facebook ppc, I doubt we would see this post framed the same way.

    Maybe we should just look at these conferences as opportunities to learn and talk more about online marketing specific to search engines or paid placement.