The Ultimate Guide to Targeting Search Profiles on Facebook

This is a guest post by Ben Plomion of Chango.

When Facebook launched Facebook Exchange (FBX) last September, it was an important day in the history of online advertising.  Facebook accounts for some 25 percent of U.S. display inventory on the web. Now that inventory can be purchased with real-time bidding (RTB), and marketers can target their most valuable customers with a display ad on Facebook.

But, though it didn’t receive as much attention as the launch of FBX, Facebook made another critical move in December when it allowed advertisers to target customers based on what they searched for in Google, Yahoo! and Bing. By combining FBX with search data, Facebook brought the power of intent that’s revealed by searches to the world’s biggest social network. Or, put another way, in serving ads against search data, Facebook is now employing the Internet’s most effective marketing tool, the very tool that has earned Google so many billions.

Let’s take a look at how FBX works and how you can serve ads to Facebook users based on searches they’ve made on other sites.

Main Characters

The key variables in targeting customers on FBX based on their search data include users, prospects (data network searches) and the ad exchange itself, FBX.


The first step in a successful search led campaign on FBX is determining the users you want to target. And that means profiling and scoring everyone on your site so that you know which search terms they’ve entered to get to your site and which of those terms lead to the most conversions.


Once you determine the most effective keywords, you need to be able to find the people searching with those keywords so that you can serve your ads to them when they arrive on Facebook.  After all, with search led campaigns, you’re serving ads to people who have never visited your site. Finding these users is possible only when you have enormous amounts of search data.


FBX resembles other ad exchanges in most respects, but there are some key differences. First and foremost, Facebook only works with a select group of partners. If you want to participate in FBX, you have to go through one of these partners. And if you want to target Facebook users based on the searches they’ve made on other sites, there are very few vendors with such a capability.

FBX Search led campaigns walkthrough

Running a search led campaign on FBX is a four-step process:

  1. A user types a search term into a search engine or another site
  2. The FBX partner tags the user with a pixel and remembers the search term. (The user remains anonymous throughout the process.)
  3. The user visits Facebook.
  4. The FBX targets the user on Facebook with a display ad (formatted for Facebook) based on the search term from step number one.

FBX Search-led Powerups

User Scoring

The key to a successful RTB campaign is knowing how much to bid to serve the impression. Companies that run search led campaigns on FBX use a sophisticated scoring system to determine the exact worth of each user. That score then determines how much we pay at auction to serve the impression. The scoring system ensures that the system runs as efficiently as possible so that no marketing dollars go to waste.

Tag Management Support 

Marketers today know all too well that tags, or pixels, can turn into a major headache when not handled by a leading tag management system.  In addition to eating up developer hours, poor tag management can take a serious toll on a site’s performance.

Dynamic Creative

When it comes to FBX, marketers familiar with other exchanges need to make one key adjustment: new creatives. While most display exchanges run a variety of image-based creatives, FBX units are similar in appearance to Facebook’s Standard Ad units. You can think of FBX units as a cross between search engine ads and display ads. They include a 25-character title, 90-character body, and a 100x72px image.  Recognizing which creatives are most effective and adjusting in real time is a critical component of a campaign.

Proprietary Search Data

To run an effective search led campaign on FBX, or any other exchange, for that matter, you need an enormous volume of search data. Google is an obvious starting point, but there are lots of other search engines. And gathering search data doesn’t begin and end with search engines. Data from searches performed on publisher sites is often the most valuable of all. In the US, Canada, and the UK, Google is the largest source of search data followed by Chango 

When to Use FBX

As excited as we are about the new advertising possibilities on Facebook, the introduction of FBX doesn’t mean that brands should now do all of their Facebook advertising through the new exchange. If your goal is to build your brand’s following on Facebook itself, Facebook’s other advertising tools, such as sponsored stories, might be a better fit. But if you want to use display ads to drive traffic to a brand site and increase your conversions, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better approach than Search-led campaigns on FBX.

Ben is VP of Marketing & Partnerships at Chango, where he heads up marketing and is also responsible for expanding the company’s data and media partnerships. Prior to joining Chango, Ben worked with GE Capital for four years to establish and lead the digital media practice. This led to the development of GE Capital’s digital value proposition and its execution worldwide. The new venture re-energized paid, owned and earned media across 70+ web sites. Ben graduated from GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership program after completing his MBA at McGill University. Before GE, Ben held a variety of Marketing & Business Development roles in the e-payments industry, while working at Gemalto in London. Ben writes frequently for Digiday, and Search Engine Watch.


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