Google AdWords PPC vs Facebook’s Atlas: People-based Marketing and Cross-Device Conversions

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Google have announced their AdWords PPC estimated cross-device conversions for display ads, whilst Facebook have relaunched Atlas as a “people-based marketing” tool, allowing insights across desktop and mobile devices to truly see where conversions begin. So does this mean war between the internet giants?

Cross-device conversions have baffled advertisers and marketers for some time now, with the mobile web becoming increasingly dominant. But with AdWords cross-device conversions, and Facebook reimagining Atlas to utilise Facebook information, this could become a different story entirely.

Google AdWords make use of cookies to track browsing on computers, but this doesn’t work so well when it comes to mobile devices. And with mobile browsing becoming a huge source of traffic for the internet at large, this creates a big problem for advertisers and marketers the world over.

So what is Atlas by Facebook?

Facebook has rebuilt Atlas, after acquiring the property from Microsoft last year for a cool $100 million.

In theory, Facebook will sell ads that follow users around third-party websites, whether on desktop or on mobile devices. What sets it apart, is that Atlas is not reliant on cookies to track a user’s browsing history, meaning that it can track users on any website that utlises Facebook log-ins.

And this is where it’s time for Atlas to shine. Atlas will be able to track users on whatever device they are using. Atlas does not display Facebook ads in the way they we know them, but as they use Facebook’s data, they claim it will be more effective than other ad platforms. A big claim, considering the scale of Google AdWords, and how their PPC marketing works.

Atlas by Facebook Advertising on mobiles and desktops

Facebook’s Atlas has already announced their first partners:

“We’re excited to announce that Omnicom is the first holding company to sign an agency-wide ad serving and measurement partnership with Atlas”

“Together, Omnicom – powered by Neustar technology– and Atlas will jointly develop integrations to enable more automated capabilities for Omnicom’s clients, including Pepsi and Intel – who are among the first testing the new platform.”

Omnicom already has deals with Google, Twitter, and other advertisers, and so it seems Facebook’s Atlas is likely to be an alternative addition, rather than a replacement.

Google AdWords: Estimated Cross-Device Conversions and Tracking

However, Google recently announced they are rolling out their estimated cross-device conversions for display ads over the Google Display Network. Previously, Google offered estimated cross-device conversions for just the search ads, and so they are looking to extend this offering for display ads.

Google have stated the following about how these cross-device conversions actually work:

Here’s how it works: say someone’s browsing bicycle reviews on her phone, and clicks on a Display Network ad that takes her to a bike shop’s website.

Later, when she gets home, she pulls up the shop’s site on her computer to buy the red cruiser she’s been eyeing. This is an example of a cross-device conversion from a display ad that advertisers can now measure.

However, these cross-device conversions are calculated via anonymous aggregated data, with users who are signed into Google, to estimate the number of cross-device conversions which can be attributed to Adwords campaigns.

To work well, there will need to be a lot of data, meaning advertisers with less data will not get cross-device estimates. Also, these cross-device conversion estimates will not be able to make use of conversion data imported from Google Analytics Goals.

Google Adwords Cross Device Conversions PPC

For more information on Google AdWords, and whether a PPC campaign is right for your business, read our blog here:

Google Adwords: What is it and why should you invest in a PPC Marketing Strategy?

What does Atlas do differently?

When it comes to Atlas, it works a little differently. For instance, if a company runs a campaign on social media, and a user views a post on an app and does not interact, but later converts when seeing the advert on a different website using Atlas, then Atlas would track the path of the user, giving the original app or social network credit. This means that even though the advert wasn’t instantly acted upon, it still gains credit for influencing the user.

Not all websites use Facebook’s social login, but Atlas does use cookies alongside the Facebook ID, for anyone browsing websites on a desktop. Mobile devices use Facebook ID, with the Facebook SDK identifying users on apps and mobile devices, utilising Apple’s Identifier for Advertising and Android’s Advertising ID.

When users stay logged in via a mobile device, Atlas can find a match with varying identifiers, despite the fact they may not be using their Facebook ID to login.

This is how Atlas can claim to be the next step forward as a tracking solution, rather than using guesswork, and offering mere estimates.

Atlas by Facebook: The benefits

The main benefit of Atlas is the precise people-based marketing, tracking people based upon their Facebook log-in details.

The big pitch is that it will allow increased measurements of which adverts have been displayed to a specific set of users, as cookies do not currently allow a full picture of audience targeting.

This means that you could target advertisements to a specific subset of users, whether it’s based on gender, age, interests, or any other information featured in their Facebook profile.

It could also be extended onto Twitter, outside of Facebook, as it’s already been labelled a “possibility”. Unsurprisingly, it will also work with Facebook-owned social network Instagram.

Facebook’s main attraction is it’s now-huge amount of data on users. Google has Google+, which never really took off on a personal level. Facebook could theoretically track users from desktop, to tablet, to mobile, or wherever else their log-in details reside, as most people can be found on the network.

Atlas could also mean that marketers will be able to spend more on mobile advertisements, as it can finally be measured accurately. This could be the dawn of a truly mobile advertising network.

Facebook Atlas Adverts

The drawbacks of Facebook’s Atlas

Essentially, it’s not really an ad network in the traditional way. But on a larger scale, it does act as one, allowing marketers to purchase advertising space via Facebook, on properties and websites which Facebook doesn’t actually own.

Being tracked wherever you go, is not a fact which sits well with the majority of Facebook users. Growing concerns over privacy and data collection means more and more people are attempting to keep their data private. There’s a host of cookie blockers available, and Adblock Plus already announced support for blocking Atlas.

Logging into Facebook on a mobile means the device is registered, and you can be identified, when other apps request an advertisement. Coupling this with the immense amount of data Facebook has on its users, means adverts will be very personalised, and appropriate to the user. Of course, the question still stands, of how many people really use Facebook log-ins on the web? And with Atlas, will more people decline from signing in on their mobile or desktop?

Despite this, Facebook has stated that identities will remain anonymous to advertisers, only knowing a few basic facts around your persona. This also draws more problems, as cross-device data will not leave Facebook, meaning ad-tracking possibilities are restricted. It’s also not possible to merge the data with your own, in order to match to audience pools.

Mobile Device Cookies Ipad

At the end of the day, Facebook is an aging network. And they know it. With the rise of other social networks such as Twitter, Instagram, and the recently launched “Anti-Facebook” Ello gaining traction, it’s hard to see Facebook as the pioneering network for much longer.

Facebook has a lot of data, and it’s moves like this that show they are making the most of it. But how long will that stay the same? Google at least, is moving forward, and shows no signs of aging, or going away any time soon.

No matter how much you track someone, will pushing products relentlessly really work to create conversions? It seems providing content that people wish to see, and thus gaining brand awareness, may be the superior marketing tactic. Google Adwords allows ads based upon someone’s search history, meaning people are actively searching for products related to their ads. Just because someone has “Jogging” in their Facebook likes, doesn’t mean they want new sports shoes.

Can Atlas by Facebook topple Google Adwords?

Could Facebook do what Microsoft couldn’t with Atlas? Does Facebook really have an edge over Google?

Facebook is hoping publishers will allow them into their ad business, and then reap information to ensure their own adverts on their own properties are much more powerful. How this turns out, is another matter entirely.

For now, Google Adwords is still the PPC advertising format to beat, offering an efficient and accurate form of finding new customers on the web. Yet Google will need to keep their eye on Facebook and Atlas, to ensure they aren’t overrun. Only time will tell if Facebook could truly change the landscape of online advertising, but it will at least be an interesting service to watch over the coming months.

If anything, this news and increased interest in mobile marketing shows how important supporting mobile devices is now; whether that means having a mobile marketing strategy, or a mobile-friendly website for your business.

If your website isn’t responsive, then now is the time:

Why Responsive Web Design is the Best Option for Business going Mobile

What’s your opinion on the future of mobile and desktop advertising? Could Facebook really beat Google AdWords at its own game? Leave your thoughts and comments below, we’d love to hear them!