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on April 10, 2023 (last modified on April 20, 2023) • 32 minute read
For over a decade, Google Ads and Facebook Ads dominated online advertising. But, that monopoly weakened in 2022. The companies’ combined market share dipped down to 48.4% — the first time they held less than 50% of the market.
Google Ads and Facebook Ads may still be the largest names in digital ads, but the ad spend they lost has to be going somewhere. It seems like companies are diversifying their ad spend, but where else are they going?
We surveyed 52 advertisers and talked to 20 experts on LinkedIn to see how and where they spend their advertising budget. Our investigation dug into which paid advertising channels are the most cost-effective for respondents and what changes in ad spend they predicted for 2023. In addition, we asked survey participants how they optimized their use of each ad platform and referenced data from our Benchmark Groups.
Here’s what we found:
Before we go over our survey data, let’s see what data from our Benchmark Groups indicate about ad spend. We took February 2023 data from our Digital Advertising Performance & Cost Benchmarks group (2413 contributors) and cross-referenced it with these groups for individual platforms:
As you check out this data, keep in mind that participation in a platform-specific group doesn’t always overlap with participation in the Digital Advertising Performance & Cost Benchmarks and vice-versa. We organized our data based on three groups — all companies, business-to-business (B2B) companies, and business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.
Businesses paid this much in cost-per-click (CPC) for each platform, based on the median of our data:
LinkedIn Ads had the highest CPC by a significant margin, with B2B spending the highest rate at $3.42 per click. Meanwhile, Facebook Ads offered the lowest CPC, with all rates under $0.50 per click.
Companies spent the following median amounts on each ad platform in February:
Despite LinkedIn’s high CPC, B2B companies, B2C companies, and companies in general dedicated the most total spend to Google Ads. B2C companies spent more on Facebook Ads and Google Ads than B2B, while B2B paid more for LinkedIn Ads and Microsoft Advertising.
Now, let’s look at the median number of clicks for each group:
Companies in every group got the most clicks from Facebook Advertising. B2C companies got more clicks than B2C businesses on all platforms except for LinkedIn Ads, but they only had eight fewer clicks.
Businesses had the following median number of impressions per platform:
Facebook Ads provided an immensely higher number impressions than any other platform for all companies, B2B companies, and B2C companies.
Considering these numbers so far, you may wonder how they translate into leads and conversions. Let’s see the median leads and conversions per platform for each group:
Google Ads provided the highest number of leads and conversions, with Facebook Ads coming in second. We did not have enough data to determine the median leads and conversions for LinkedIn Ads or Microsoft Advertising for the B2C group.
Looking at these numbers, it seems that Google Ads and Facebook Ads provided the highest return on investment for group participants. Google Ads excelled at generating leads, especially for B2C companies, and Facebook Ads raised brand awareness through a significant number of impressions.
By the way, if you’d like to access the current version of this data at any time, you can join any of these Benchmark Groups yourself. You just need to have the same data source in your Databox account and match the company type (B2B or B2C).
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Out of the advertisers who responded to our survey, 23.08% advertise B2B services, and 5.77% advertise B2B products. We combined these categories into a B2B group that makes up 28.85% of all respondents. Here are the takeaways we found from their responses and our LinkedIn discussion:
B2B businesses mainly invest their advertising money in Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads. Microsoft Ads, TikTok Ads, and, Snapchat Ads are the least popular options, with more than 40% of respondents investing nothing in these platforms.
The marketing manager at Farseer, Vjeko Škarica’s, experience with advertising matches these results. “I work in a B2B SaaS space (Farseer), and we’re currently doing a combo of Google Search and LinkedIn Ads for lower funnel stages and some light YouTube Ads and Google Display for the upper funnel,” Škarica says.
Škarica continues, “As a B2B SaaS marketer, it’s a no-brainer for me to use LinkedIn. Yeah, it’s expensive, but the targeting is significantly better than on any other platform, and it pays out in the long run. I’ve been thinking about experimenting with Twitter lately but haven’t done it so far.”
SoStocked’s Chelsea Cohen puts platform choices in terms of audience location:
“We allocate advertising budget based on the platforms with the highest presence of our target audience. Platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and even Instagram are more focused on B2C audiences. They’re platforms for consumerism. On the other hand, LinkedIn is known as the official professional network. Today, Facebook is gaining traction in this arena, though more through private business-related communities. It only makes sense for us to direct our investments toward platforms that cater best to our client base.”
Co-Founder at SoStocked
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Related: No Ad Budget? 20 Marketers Share How to Grow Your Audience on Facebook for Free
Looking at their changes in ad budget for 2023, it seems that B2B businesses doubled down on their most effective platforms. More than half of B2B respondents stated they increased their Google Ads budget. Forty percent of the B2B group also increased their budgets for LinkedIn Ads and Facebook Ads.
The B2B participants in our survey name the following platforms the best options for specific goals:
We also asked about the best platforms for database growth and reputation management, but most respondents stated they didn’t use ads for those goals.
At Syte, head of demand generation Shahar Heimann categorizes each platform by its relation to demand. “For Syte, a B2B SaaS solution, it was always about LinkedIn for creating demand, and Google (and also some LinkedIn) for capturing demand. The ability to create lists in our CRM based on different cohorts and then pushing them to LinkedIn is just invaluable, allowing us to create complex ad sequences to drive pipeline size and velocity.”
The head of growth at Speakap, Mina Kozman, highlights the importance of choosing channels by their goals and place in the funnel. According to Kozman, framing a platform’s effectiveness solely by its cost-effectiveness “reduces the buyer journey to a unidimensional moment in time.”
Kozman explains, “No B2B buyer would make a significant purchase decision, impulsively. No single piece of content/landing page/ad-copy is able to ‘close the deal’.
In my humble opinion, trying to reduce the media mix into a single channel, with the intent of doubling down on it and pulling investments in other (allegedly) more cost-efficient ones, lead to elimination of crucial touchpoints. Those touchpoints may have not appeared on the ‘tracked’ conversion path, because of flawed attribution models (which they all are).”
As you figure out what platforms work best for your B2B business, consider their place in the customer journey as well as their ability to directly generate leads and conversions.
Related: Who Gets the Best Use Out of Google Ads?
When we asked B2B advertisers about their budget management habits, we gathered these best practices based on their behavior:
Among B2B respondents, 33.33% check their CPC multiple times a week. This habit corresponds with B2B advertisers’ mentions of adjusting their advertising based on changes in their target audience.
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In line with their tendency to check CPC frequently, B2B advertisers also change their budgets often. Over half of the B2B group — 53.33% — check campaign performance and switch budgets every week.
The B2B group’s CPC management for social ads also prioritizes audience targeting. Just over 30% keep CPC lower by updating their targeting parameters.
Related: Facebook CPC: 17 Ways to Reduce Your Advertising Costs on Facebook
B2B advertisers aim for specificity in paid search as well when managing their CPC. Their top two strategies are to use long-tail keywords and new keyword match types.
Related: 42 Paid Marketers Share Strategies for Lowering Your AdWords CPC
Looking at B2B advertisers’ responses to how they increase impressions for social and search ads, we saw the same pattern for both platform types. Their top strategy by far is to increase their campaign budget.
Related: Cost-Efficiency Showdown: Paid Search vs Paid Social for SMB Advertising
When we asked B2B advertisers about their tactics for increasing conversions from social ads, multiple strategies tied for the top spot. Their favorite options are:
In contrast to their social strategies, B2B tactics for improving conversions for paid search mainly focus on one method: testing multiple offers.
Related: Conversion Rate Optimization: How to Discover Your Next A/B Test
Our survey’s respondents included 13.46% B2C services advertisers and 15.38% B2C product advertisers, making up a combined total of 28.84% of participants. We discovered these trends in their responses and insights from our LinkedIn discussion:
B2C services and product advertisers mainly invest in Google Ads, followed by Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads. More than 40% answered they don’t invest in any ads for LinkedIn Ads or Snapchat Ads.
At Ninja Transfers, Tom Golubovich uses audience data to choose where to invest ad spend. Golubovich says, “We take a data-driven approach to decide where to focus our advertising efforts. We analyze past ad performance to identify the platforms and channels that have been most effective in reaching our target audience and driving desired outcomes.”
Additionally, we use trending data related to our audience to identify new opportunities and emerging channels that may be worth exploring. By leveraging both historical and real-time data, we can make informed decisions on where to allocate our advertising budget and optimize our campaigns for maximum impact,” Golubovich adds.
B2C budgets in 2023 mainly increased ad spend on Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Even though Instagram is another popular channel for B2C companies, Instagram Ads spending tended to stay the same.
Sasha Matviienko from SimplyPro Appliance Repair invested primarily in paid search platforms this year due to diminishing returns from paid social. “We initially started with Google Ads because this is where prospects have the intent to get our service. We then added Facebook and Instagram Ads, but last year performance decreased, and our decision was to reinvest more money into Google and Bing because that’s where we saw the best results in the past,” Matviienko tells us.
Related: Will Increasing Your Facebook Ad Budget Increase Sales?
Google Ads and Facebook Ads meet B2C goals most effectively. Here are the top channels by B2C business goal:
Most B2C respondents didn’t use ads for database growth, customer retention, or reputation management.
Related: 8 Ways to Choose the Right Facebook Ad Objectives for Your Agency or SME
For cost efficiency, Duncan Jones, head of marketing at Cluey, prefers paid partnerships directly between Cluey and other companies. They can’t always top Google search ads, though.
“But when it comes to volume – Google Search is still the number one driver of volume of new customers along with an acceptable cost per new customer (including both the media cost to generate a lead and the sales team’s cost to call and convert it). This is true for both our core, high-intent search terms and additional low-intent search terms being carried out by our target market but not specifically about our service. The way Google is changing (trying to monetise low-quality areas of their networks whilst at the same time removing advertiser controls), I’m not sure this will be the case in the future.”
Head of Marketing at Cluey
Google Ads can do plenty of the heavy lifting for core metrics like impressions and conversions. But, consider how partnerships with smaller names can achieve more specific goals.
Related: A Detailed Guide to Partnership Marketing: Modern Way to Grow Your Business
We also checked in with B2C companies to see what their strategies for managing ad budgets consisted of. Their answers revealed these best practices for their industry:
B2C brands tend to monitor their CPC less frequently than their B2B counterparts. Among B2C respondents, 46.67% check CPC every week.
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But, B2C respondents have similar budget-switching schedules to B2B participants. They also prefer to change ad budgets every week.
B2C participants also use B2B respondents’ favorite tactics for lowering paid social CPC. Like B2B businesses, they mainly update their audience targeting to keep CPC costs down.
Here’s where B2C strategies start to differ from B2B strategies. Forty percent of B2C respondents test new keyword variations to manage their CPC costs.
The B2C crowd in our survey prefer to work with the budget they already had to boost paid social impressions over increasing or changing their budgets. Their favorite technique for getting more impressions is to optimize their audience targeting.
Local search features like Google My Business can work especially well for B2C businesses trying to gain customers in their area. The B2C participants in our survey chose adjusting geo-targeting settings as their top strategy for increasing search ad impressions.
B2C respondents split test their ads based on multiple factors when aiming to improve paid social conversions. They have a tie among their top strategies — running split tests to optimize ad copy and creative and testing multiple ad formats.
Related Reading: How to Run Effective A/B Tests According to 28 Marketing Experts
When B2C participants want to improve their paid search conversions, they like to turn to their landing pages. While this tactic is B2B respondents’ second favorite method, the top B2B tactic — testing multiple offers — isn’t nearly as popular with B2C companies.
PRO TIP: Not sure whether your landing pages are optimized properly? Watch this video to learn how to build a dashboard that will show you:
Agencies and consultants made up 42.31% of survey participants, making them the largest group. Marketing professionals from agencies were also very prevalent in our LinkedIn discussion. Let’s see what their experiences are with advertising budgets and goals:
Google Ads is the most popular platform for agencies and consultants to invest their ad budgets in, followed by Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and LinkedIn Ads. More than 60% of agency and consultant advertisers stated they don’t invest in Snapchat Ads, TikTok Ads, Twitter Ads, and Microsoft Ads.
At Level 343, Gabriella Sannino decides what channels to invest in based on the client’s needs: “We discuss this with the client. Together, we consider several factors when deciding on where to allocate their advertising budget. These include the target audience, the effectiveness of different marketing channels in reaching that audience, the company’s goals and objectives, and the available budget. We also conduct market research and analyze data on customer behavior and preferences to inform their decision-making process. Ultimately, the goal is to maximize the return on investment by selecting advertising channels that are most likely to reach and engage with their target audience while staying within their budget constraints.”
Jonathan Aufray from GrowthHackers determines ad spend with audience and performance research at multiple stages of a campaign. “To decide where to invest the advertising budget, we study our ideal customers to see where they’re active and engaged. We also study our competitors to reverse engineer their strategies. Finally, after launching the ads, we analyze the results to either optimize the campaigns, pause them, or double down on them depending on the data we collect,” Aufray says.
Matt Fehrmann, VP of Business Development at Zgraph, prefers to invest in both Google Ads and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) ads because of what they bring to the table separately. Fehrmann explains, “I may have the unpopular opinion here, but I saw the greatest ROAS from Google Ads, with a big caveat: Most of the clients were B2C, specifically in these verticals: Law, Home Contractors/Services, Tourism, Economic Development, Real Estate. As such, many qualify for Google Local Services ads, which performed well, and Google Search/Display/Video was used too.”
Fehrmann says, “When we tracked the return on ad spend though, Google Ads came out ahead of Meta ads (Facebook, IG). However, when we tracked cost per lead, Facebook and Instagram came out ahead with lower numbers. The issue was the sales conversion rates. With our client-base and to be honest, our management/optimization, leads obtained from Google Ads were higher quality and led to sales conversions more often. But I really prefer to use both in combination, if possible.”
In addition, Fehrmann chalks up some of the differences to reporting tools. It can be tricky to access ROAS data for clients with certain software stacks.
Senior Consultant of MOps and ABM at Compound Growth Marketing, Quincy Johnson, finds success in dedicating some ad budget to LinkedIn Ads: “In the space we are in, shifting to LinkedIn has been successful. Acquisition costs are on the expensive side, but being able to optimize ads on targeting, intent, and buyer journey stages allows companies to prioritize and identify their weighted funnel strategies. Given this, we know Awareness is going to be cheapish, where Consideration and Decision are going to be a bit more expensive but tend to have more velocity based on their intent.”
About half of agencies and consultants reported increasing their budgets for Google Ads, making it the most popular choice for this group.
These results match what Brian Andreasen, Google Ads specialist and founder at WydeMedia, predicted about upcoming spending trends.
“The last 12 months contain the big TikTok wave which I am seeing dying a bit out now, and Google and Meta are getting more and more traction again, so I think digital ad spend on the O.G. channels like Google and Meta will return to their natural level in the next 12 months.”
Google Ads Specialist and Founder at WydeMedia
Andreasen doesn’t see platform diversification as a bad thing, however. “Customer journeys are more complex now than 7-10 years ago and more and more platforms will continue to develop over the next 10 years,” he says.
Related: 5 Ways to Calculate Profitability for Your Agency Clients and Projects
Like B2C advertisers, agencies and consultants achieve many of their goals using Google Ads and Facebook Ads. They voted for the most effective platform for common business goals as follows:
Most respondents in this group don’t use ads for reputation management. It’s also worth noting that just as many respondents don’t use ads for database growth at all as those who use Google Ads for that goal.
Jason Lauritzen, Director of Programmatic at AUDIENCEX, encourages you to consider audience, platform changes, and how channels work together when determining how channels meet different goals. “There is no ‘silver bullet’ paid channel; it will vary from company to company and vertical to vertical, as well as from B2C/DTC to B2B,” he says.
Lauritzen points out how Meta’s reporting tools contributed to the platform’s drop in ad spend. “One of the main reasons we saw such a huge dip in Meta (Facebook) spend is not because Meta suddenly became less efficient. When the iOS 14.5 update hit Meta, Meta shifted from large conversion windows to a 7-day click and 1-day view window (and threw modeled conversions in the mix, too). Since the majority of marketers never knew the incrementality of Meta spend but relied on Meta to grade its own homework, they saw ‘performance’ drop.”
He continues, “When you shrink attribution windows so much, things like CPA, CAC, ROAS, etc. look worse, but savvy marketers that had previously run incrementality tests and/or done marketing mix modeling (MMM) already had a much better read on their realistic Meta performance and didn’t pull back as much and still saw the saw backend results for their businesses.”
This explanation leads to Lauritzen’s greater point: “Marketers need to focus on incrementality by position in the funnel (is the top of the funnel more incremental than bottom?), and how channels work together to make conversion rates better or worse, e.g., maybe display ads aren’t incremental on their own but when combined with paid search, they are.”
When we examined agencies and consultants’ answers to our survey questions regarding their advertising habits, we discovered these 8 tips:
Agencies and consultants split the difference between B2B and B2C CPC-monitoring habits. They check in at least once per week, with 40.9% monitoring multiple times a week, and 36.36% monitoring weekly.
Want to make sure your Facebook ads are performing and trending in the right direction? There are several types of metrics you should track, from costs to campaign engagement to ad-level engagement, and so on.
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Step 2: Connect your Facebook Ads account with Databox.
Respondents in the agency and consultant group had a much more even spread among answers related to their budget-switching schedule compared to their CPC-monitoring habits. However, a weekly cadence came out on top at 31.82%, with multiple times a week following with 22.73%.
Advertisers working for agencies and consultants opted for updating audience targeting and managing custom audiences to keep CPC costs low. Since they work with so many different accounts, it makes sense that agencies and consultants keep a close eye on audience targeting to cater each campaign to their clients.
Related Reading: How to Create High-Converting Facebook Custom Audiences
Among agencies and consultants, more than 30% prefer to try new keyword match types when managing their CPC costs. Note that this is one of the B2B crowd’s favorite tactics as well.
Like B2C respondents, agencies and consultants optimize audience targeting to increase paid social impressions, but they add another tactic into the mix — encouraging engagement with videos. This trend might correlate with the fact that the experts who mentioned TikTok in our LinkedIn discussion mainly came from agencies.
Agencies and consultants take a similar route to B2C companies when trying to boost paid search impressions. They prefer to adjust their geo-targeting settings over running split tests or changing other aspects of the campaign.
In situations where they need to improve paid social conversions, agencies and consultants like to test multiple offers.
Agencies and consultants count on their campaign algorithm when they want to boost paid search conversions. They tend to use options like Google Ads’ “optimize for conversions” goal to display ads effectively.
Google Ads and Facebook Ads still provide good value for their cost, despite their decrease in market share this year. But, of course, they aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You need to understand your industry, audience, and goals to make the most of your advertising budget.
That’s where Databox can help. You can benefit from joining Benchmark Groups for your platform and industry, not to mention our data tracking tools. You’ll get access to these groups when you sign up for a free Databox account and contribute your data:
Using data from hundreds of other businesses, you’ll get an idea of which platforms work best for different metrics. Combine your benchmark data with Databox’s KPI-tracking features, and you’ll be able to monitor where your ads are delivering value.
Why not give it a shot? It’s free. Sign up for Databox Benchmarks today.
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