Facebook is 'running a small test' of ads in search results as it seeks new options to help offset the slowdown in overall revenue growth.
As reported by TechCrunch, Facebook will look to re-introduce search ads, which it originally tried back in 2012. The ads will essentially be the same format as regular News Feed ads, and will appear as an additional placement option within Ads Manager, though video ads will not be available. Facebook hasn't shared screenshots of the new ad type, but they are going into limited circulation from this week.
Search remains a significant opportunity for Facebook. Back in 2016, we predicted that Facebook would make search a much bigger focus moving forward, after the volume of on-platform search activity rose to 2 billion searches per day.
Back then, Facebook CFO Dave Wehner had also warned that the platform was close to reaching peak ad load within the News Feed - the level of ads it can show to users without becoming an annoyance - and that this would likely impact on revenue performance moving forward. That meant that Facebook would need to look to new opportunities - it's since made a bigger push on Instagram, while Stories remains a focus. But search, up till now, hasn't seen any major push, though it remains a significant opportunity.
The new search ads will provide another way for brands to reach interested consumers based on their on-platform activity. TechCrunch notes that, at this stage of the limited test, advertisers won’t be able to pick specific keywords to advertise against, but instead, they'll be eligible to appear in search results for queries related to auto or retail topics.
Search ads will include a “Sponsored” tag, denoting them within the results - similar to Facebook's original search promos.
You would expect that Facebook will have made some improvements on this format, though there's likely not a heap more they can do - they will, most likely, look a lot like this.
As noted, Facebook's calling this a 'small test' at the moment, so you may not see the new ad type, but you can expect that Facebook will look to expand search ads in future, particularly if they perform well. Given the majority of Facebook searches are for people, there won't be as much opportunity as, say, Google search ads, but still, as more people look to Facebook for different purposes, including business and product discovery, it could become another way to reach an interested audience.
And if Facebook can also improve its search offering in general, it may become an even more relevant consideration.