11 November 2011
We designed similar ads (and ran similar multi-ad tests) on both platforms, and ended up with about a 0.012% CTR at Facebook, compared to about 0.900% at Google. In absolute terms, these are probably not great numbers; we're pretty new at running online ads. But since the ads ran on both platforms were almost identical, the comparative performance is interesting.
Our initial expectation was that Facebook might outperform Google. Why? While both platforms allow you to target your ads, Facebook gives you the ability to very precisely target your audience. Want to only show ads to people between the ages of 25 and 40, who live in the US or scandinavia, and have expressed an interest in the coaching of nordic skiing? With Facebook, you can do it. We imagined that putting our ad in front of precisely our target audience would be optimal.
So why did Google outperform Facebook? We can only speculate, but our guess is the following: It's more valuable to target what somebody is doing, rather than who they are. When a Facebook user sees our ads, it's unlikely they're looking for something; rather, they're more likely to be socializing. When someone on Google sees our ad, however, it's while they're searching for something, and probably something relevant to our product (since our ads are targeted to specific search terms).
Of course, this is far from scientifically conclusive. A portion of our Google ads appeared on networked sites, and perhaps Facebook ads shouldn't be designed like Google ads. But in hindsight, the logic make sense, and the comparative data was very interesting.