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Google and Facebook: Disruptive duopoly or goldmine of leads for business?

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Richard Calkin is founder of Webgenius.

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Richard Calkin is founder of Webgenius.

OPINION: Love them or hate them, US online media giants Google and Facebook’s growing stranglehold over internet traffic globally is causing headaches for some segments of the economy, while creating opportunities for others.

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With my concerned Kiwi citizen hat on, I share the unease about how this trend is drawing advertising revenue away from the traditional media, inhibiting their ability to maintain a free press capable of holding our institutions to account and protecting our freedom of expression.

And the fact that neither of the behemoths pay anything like a fair share of tax here given the revenue they extract from New Zealand is galling.

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However, when I put on my digital marketing hat I am much less conflicted.

There is no getting around the fact that Google and Facebook are easily the most cost effective online sources of qualified leads for most Kiwi businesses.

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An analysis of the hundreds of Google and Facebook advertising campaigns managed by Web Genius on behalf of Kiwi small to medium businesses shows an average cost per website visitor over the past year of around $1.17 from Google and $1.28 from Facebook.

The same analysis of other sources of traffic typically returns figures up to 10 times this amount and higher.

Not only do the two giants deliver leads much more cheaply, they are also able to provide a seemingly endless supply.

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The reality is that sheer weight of numbers and economies of scale make it extremely difficult for other advertising media to compete with the duopoly.

So as an online advertising medium, which is better: Google or Facebook? Unsurprisingly the best answer is: it depends.

The following explanation, while somewhat oversimplified to emphasise the main points, outlines some of the key issues.

For products and services where the customer has a specific need and is actively searching for a known solution, then Google search ads – the small text ads that appear as part of the Google search results – are usually the best option.

In these situations involving “active customer intent”, the customer is “problem-aware” and “solution-aware” but not “brand-aware”.

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RNZ

In RNZ’s podcast The Detail: Australia is in a showdown with Google and Facebook over a new code to make them pay publishers for their stories or face multi-million dollar fines.

Google ads are so powerful because they target solution-aware prospects via the keywords they enter into the search engine.

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This means your advertising messages and brand can be introduced to them at the very time they are looking to make a purchasing decision.

All that is usually required to convert a good proportion of customers with active intent is to link the ad to an effective sales page which emphasises their problem and presents the benefits of the advertiser’s solution before making it easy to get in contact.

Typical examples of businesses with active customer intent which do well using Google ads are home and trades service businesses like plumbers, electricians, roofers, tilers and landscapers.

The opposite of “active customer intent” is “latent customer intent”, where the customer is problem-aware, but not solution-aware, let alone brand-aware.

In these situations Facebook ads are often the most effective, because they are not yet far enough through the sales process to be actively searching on Google for the solution.

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Rather than using keywords, Facebook ads focus on a specific audience based on their interests and demographics, allowing advertisers to target groups of prospects regarding a problem that many within the group are likely to be aware of.

The ads – which typically appear as sponsored posts directly in the prospect’s Facebook feed – attract their attention by emphasising the problem before enticing them into a “sales funnel”.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark Lennihan/AP

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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The funnel takes these problem-aware prospects through a series of steps where they are educated to become solution and brand aware, before being encouraged to purchase the advertiser’s products and services.

An example of a Facebook sales funnel would be an insurance broker who targets Facebook users with an interest in small business ownership highlighting the problem that many small businesses are underinsured and therefore at risk.

The ad offers these problem-aware prospects a free audit of their business insurance via a quick online questionnaire that is linked to from the ad.

The resulting insurance audit highlights the prospect’s problem, before presenting the advertiser’s solution.

And because the questionnaire has captured the prospect’s contact details they can be followed up offline.

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To decide which of Google or Facebook ads you should choose, the first step is to define the main problem that you solve and figure out if a majority of your prospects are actively searching online for the solution.

If so, Google ads linking to a simple sales page are probably your first port of call.

On the other hand, if they are aware of the problem, but are typically not actively searching for the solution, then Facebook ads leading to a sales funnel is most likely the way to go.

Either way, while the two media giants continue to drive change to the business models surrounding the crucial role played by media in society, savvy businesses can take advantage of the lucrative source of leads on offer from the disruptive duopoly.

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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