Feeding the funnel

In the world of online advertising, conversions and funnels are important concepts, but they are just that – concepts. In isolation, an awareness of these concepts does little to help your business. The rubber hits the road when it comes to putting these ideas into action, in practical terms.

A conversion can be considered the realization of a complete funnel. A visitor arrives at your site, moves through a series of phases (the funnel) and eventually “converts”. There are, of course, various types of conversions you might seek. But all such funnels start at the top – with an incoming visitor who “moves through the funnel”.

We will be looking at how you might achieve this (seemingly) magical motion of visitors through the funnel in other articles. But, regardless of the tools, processes or technologies you use, you need one very important resources – visitors. In inhuman terms, visitors are the raw material that brings a funnel alive, in the hope of a conversion.

Of course, these are cold terms. Every visitor is a person, with emotions, intentions and preferences. There’s a whole science – and a little art – behind how you encourage your visitors to continue through the funnel, towards a conversion. But that’s not the focus of this article. Here, we look at the start of this journey, ways in which we can establish and maintain a steady flow of visitors to your site, at the top of the funnel

There are many ways to achieve this, some free and some paid. But, for the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on paid advertising. In particular, we look the two largest advertising platforms on the planet – Facebook Ads and Google AdWords.

Goliath vs. Goliath

In kick-starting your funnel, your goal is to get your brand, your products and your service in front of more “eyeballs”. For that, you have the world of online advertising at your fingertips.

Facebook Ads and Google AdWords are the “Goliaths” of the ad world, with millions of businesses, of all sizes, taking advantage of their services and their extraordinary reach.

But why are they so successful and – more importantly – how might they help you achieve your business goals, as a small business? To answer these questions, we need to take a walk into the world of “intent”.

Facebook Ads and Google AdWords address the needs of visitors with very different intentions and from very different starting points. As such, they are not mutually exclusive, when you consider your advertising campaigns.

To take full advantage, it’s essential that the online advertiser understands these differences before investing in either. Indeed, anyone who tells you one platform is “better” than the other is missing the point! They offer different approaches, in different ways – and can be entirely complimentary to a well-considered marketing campaign.

Let’s find out why.

Facebook Ads

The Casual Facebook User

Are you a Facebook user? Chances are that you are (and even if you are not, your potential customers are statistically highly likely spend to time on Facebook)?

Regardless, let’s assume you are. Why are you there? Why did you create your account? Why did you log on today? What sort of information do you expect to find there? Are you there for business purposes? Or are you there for social reasons? Or both?

In all likelihood, Facebook primarily represents a way for you to keep in touch with friends and family. That was, after all, probably the reason you signed up in the first place. It’s informal, friendly and, while you may have added friends who are in your working circle, the fact remains you log on for the social interaction.

But this has become a little less clear in recent years. You have Liked or Followed a few Facebook pages and perhaps joined some Facebook groups. And some of these are likely to have a business feel to them.

Advantages of Facebook Ads

So what does mean in terms of Facebook Ads? In simple terms, you can think of a Facebook ad as a “tap on the shoulder” while you browse, rather than a full-fledged “call to action” or an answer to a question. While you check what your friends have been doing, you also see a post from that cycling club you joined. Maybe you also see an ad for a new type of bike, which you were researching online yesterday.

That ad isn’t there by coincidence. It is likely a result of an advertising technique called “remarketing”, which we will look at in detail in other articles. But the fact is an advertiser wanted to reach you and was able to do so through this ad.

Now turn the tables. Let’s say YOU are the one wishing to reach potential customers (which is likely to be one reason you are reading this article!). When you advertise your small business through Facebook ads, your ad appears in the context of the viewers overall browsing experience, which includes posts from their friends and family.

And therein lies an important aspect of Facebook Ads – they are incidental to the experience of browsing Facebook, not the reason why someone might be on Facebook.

Your job, as a Facebook advertiser, is to reach the right person at the right time and in context. That is the effective “tap on the shoulder”.

Disadvantages of Facebook Ads

The casual nature of Facebook usage means that the visitor may not be receptive to advertising at that time. Facebook advertising is less direct than Google AdWord campaigns (see below).

When you advertise with a Facebook Ad you are hoping to “interrupt” the consciousness of someone – to distract them from what they are likely hoping to do on Facebook (browse or post).

This sounds like a negative thing for the visitor – but it depends heavily on how well your ad resonates. Facebook offers you, as the advertiser, a large number of ways to target your ad to a suitable audience and, done right, you can place your ad in front of folks who actually see value in what you offer and at the right time.

Google Adwords

The Motivated Google User

Now switch direction. When was the last time you “googled” something? Why did you do that? What were your motivations? Was it socially fascinating? Did you build some great relationships and enjoy a chat or two?

Of course not!

You went to Google with a very specific intent in mind. Indeed, you specifically told Google what you wanted, possibly very directly.

When you search Google you are asking for a question to be answered. You tell Google what you want (the quetsion you want answered) and you see search results that hopefully address your need For example, if you live in San Francisco and want to buy a hot tub, you might enter “hot tub shops in San Francisco” as your search term.

Think about that for a second.

Compare it to the casual browsing experience of the Facebook user. Your query is very focused and you want an immediate answer. You are telling Google precisely what you want and, frankly, Google is now extremely good at figuring out what you mean.

This all means Google AdWords is a dramatically different advertising channel than Facebook Ads. It’s not “better” or “worse” – it’s just different. And the well-informed online advertiser understands that both can play a key role.

Advantages of Google Adwords

Comparing the casual Facebook user with the motivated Google user, the advantage of the latter should be clear – motivation. As we mentioned, the Google searcher is often very specific in stating what they want.

As an advertiser, that is gold dust! If you happen to be in San Francisco and you also happen to have a hot tub store – well, you REALLY want to show up when someone searches for “hot tub shops in San Francisco”!

Google AdWords provides you with the chance to pay for that position. Aside from “organic” (non-paid) results, you are no doubt used to companies showing up with a small “Ad” notation, linking to their site. That company has paid for that position. And you can too, for they search terms that you consider important and relevant to your business.

SiteBagel creates, monitors and optimizes Google AdWord campaigns on behalf of our customers and we’ll cover the “art and science” of AdWords campaigns in other article. But always keep in mind that Google AdWords is a highly contextual way to reach your potential customers.

Disadvantages of Google Adwords

As you might imagine, there’s a price to pay to get in front of our San Francisco hot tub buyer! And that price is often considerably higher on Google AdWords than it is on Facebook. That is precisely because the Google user has clearly indicated intent with the search query, as compared to the Facebook visitor who may have absolutely no interest in buying a hot tub at that time.

But the visitor who entered the search term is potentially much further along the “buying intent” continuum than the casual browser. As such, visitors to your site who have searched on a term that is highly relevant to the products or services you offer is a visitor who is closer to that conversion. And that can often be well worth investing ad dollars!

Which is Best?

We are not going to answer that! And if you have read this article we hope you will understand why.

There’s no “better” here. When you advertise, you have a “conversion” in mind – to encourage folks signup for your eMail newletter, to attend a webinar or maybe to purchase a product. How you go about that is highly contextual.

Sometimes Facebook Ads is the right approach.

Sometimes Google AdWords is a better choice.

But almost all the time, there’s a place for both as part of a well-considered funnel.

At SiteBagel we look at your business objectives, consider what you are looking to achieve and propose a plan that will help you get there.

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