Laurel or Yanni? Star Wars or Star trek? Britney or Christina? Were Ross and Rachel really on a break? These famous debates will stand the course of time but in the marketing world it’s all about “SEM (Search Engine Marketing) or Facebooks ads” and where you should put your money.

It’s the battle between the old world of SEO/SEM marketers and those of the new age insisting all the money should be spend on Facebook ads.

But who is right? As a business owner trying to spend their money wisely, it’s an important question and a polarizing one nonetheless.

The answer really comes down to what we call “Purchase intent”.

From a logical perspective, we have to think what is our frame of mind when we Google something versus our mindset when we are on Facebook? For example, suppose you are out of town and looking for a great steakhouse – would you go on Facebook or Google? I personally believe that restaurants, barbers, coffee shops, etc. would do better with SEM than Facebook because they’re “search based” businesses versus “display based”. Actually, I’d probably insist on both.

But, can you be both a search based and display based business?

Look at the jewelry business as an example. SEM would work great if the person knew the specific wedding ring, engagement ring, necklace, bracelet, etc that they were looking for. Facebook ads would be a bit more generic but used to create the desire for the jeweller. That being said, Facebook is getting more sophisticated. Broad DPA’s (Dynamic Product Ads) use Schema now to find the right product to show the users. This competes with Google’s Shopping System.

Let’s look at the advantages of each a bit more clearly:


High purchase intent (people are looking for the product to buy)
Cheaper costs per purchase (due to the higher purchase intent)
Search based (users looking for you).

Facebook Ads:

Hyper targeting (the ability to target is unmatched)
Close Loop: It’s all in one place. You’re see the ad, you click through, you buy. All within the app. It’s native.
User base frame of mind: If your ads are compelling you’ll do well because users go on Facebook to be entertained.

Ultimately, it comes down to the needs of the user (i.e. the purchase intent). If you are looking for a ROI and you are a search based company, you should invest in SEM (though, as discussed, Facebook is competing). If you are focused on branding and attention, Facebook has the clear advantage.

This debate will keep going as there are strong pros to each. My $0.02 is that Facebook is still underpriced and should be where most marketers, brands, companies, etc should be putting their money. I believe that if you can afford both, you should 100% be doing both.

But I ask you – what do you think and what have been your experiences?