Facebook has fired the latest salvo in its battle with Google for eyes and ad revenue, revamping its advertising toolbox in hopes of providing a viable alternative to Google’s AdWords, the staple of small-business marketing.

Facebook has added an array of new advertising tools in recent months, highlighted by a pixel that enables advertisers to track customers who clicked through Facebook to get to their website. The list of advertising changes available to marketers on Facebook also includes more precise targeting of a business’ desired demographic, the ability to “specify objectives like increasing traffic to a website, encouraging more “likes” or converting more sales,” and a choice of whether an ad will be placed in Facebook’s news feed, or in the column on the right side of the page.

Facebook offered the changes not just to help advertisers, but to help itself. Some 25 million businesses have Facebook pages or are otherwise active on the site, but only one million businesses pay to advertise on Facebook.

The tracking pixel alone has been a big hit with some small businesses. Amy Norman, co-chief executive officer of a San Francisco Company that offers monthly subscription packages of history and geography information for children, told the Times that her monthly revenues grew by nearly 400 percent with a five-fold increase in Facebook ad spending, and use of the tracking tool. Her company, Little Passports, had revenues of $130,000 a month and a Facebook ad budget of $30,000. By the end of last year, the Facebook ad spend had increased to $150,000, and company revenue reached $700,000 in December alone.

“We also tripled our customer base in six months,” according to Ms. Norman.

But Facebook’s latest ad tools have also been met with some skepticism by marketers, who believe the nature of Facebook itself is limiting for advertisers.

Said Philadelphia-based True Voice Media president Jeff Gibbard, “[T]he difference (between Facebook and Google Adwords) is that activity on Facebook is very passive.”

“You’re being shown ads based on things you put in your profile potentially years ago,” said Gibbard, who advises small business on social media marketing. “You aren’t actively looking for a product or service.”


Zimmerman, Eilene. “Facebook Revamps Ads to Compete with Google;” The New York Times. January 15, 2014.