Facebook Search Placement for Ads

I recently spotted a “Facebook Search” option within placements when creating a Facebook ads campaign. It turns out that this is part of a test that began late last year for select advertisers.

Facebook Search ads could be a really big deal, depending upon how they’re rolled out. If you’ve advertised long enough on Facebook, you may recall Sponsored Results, Facebook’s first stab at search ads. Well, that was seven years ago, and the option never got off the ground.

While I have the Search placement option, there is still plenty I don’t know. But I did reach out to Facebook about it, and I wanted to share what I learned.

Search Placement: What I See

If you want to figure out if you have this, here’s what I see…

When I edit placements at the ad set level, I see “Search” above Messages.

Facebook Search Placement

The explanation of the placement shown above:

Reach people with relevant ads based on their search terms

Sounds awesome! But I never indicated any search terms, so those terms must be generic and not related specifically to my campaign (this was later confirmed).

At the ad level, I see there are two variations of the Search placement: Search Results (Marketplace) and Search Results.

Facebook Search Placement

If you aren’t familiar with Facebook Marketplace, it’s a section of Facebook where users buy and sell products to and from one another.

When I went to the ad level, here’s what a generic ad preview looks like for Search (Marketplace)…

Search Marketplace Preview

Notice the square image and some basic information that is pulled in from the main news feed ad. I had originally used an image with a 1.91:1 aspect ratio, but it was cropped to be square. This is not consistent with the preview shown in the placements section.

This is the other Search Results ad preview…

Search Results Preview

Again square, though this time the primary text goes above instead of inside the ad. Once again, a 1.91:1 aspect ratio should have been possible, too, but it was cropped to be square when I tried it.

In either case, I couldn’t edit the image or copy specific to the placement, unlike most other placements.

So, that’s what I see from my end. I reached out to Facebook to get some more information.

It’s a Test

As noted in the Search Engine Journal post mentioned at the top, this is just a test. It’s been a test since at least late last year. The test focuses only on the retail, auto, and e-commerce industries, so my assumption is that the advertisers would need to be in one of those industries.

It’s a small test, limited only to certain ads in English and Spanish and in specific countries (presumably English and Spanish speaking countries).

The Format

My contact at Facebook confirmed that these ads would use the same headline, image, and copy text as are used for the news feed placement. Creative options being tested include single image, carousel, and video ads.

There are only three objectives that are supported for this test: Product Catalog Sales, Conversions, and Traffic.

Search Terms

We know that ads will appear in select search results, both the main Facebook search and within Marketplace search. But how?

Facebook tells me that the ads would appear in search results that would indicate commercial intent, again related specifically to e-commerce, retail, and auto.

What are those search terms and who selects them? Well, unfortunately, I don’t have a great answer for either question.

First, the advertiser doesn’t select those search terms, which will disappoint many who are hoping for a more direct competitor to Google search ads. Facebook chooses those terms, and there isn’t a publicly available list of search terms that would trigger these ads (nor would I expect one).

Open Questions

This leaves a lot of questions. Since the advertiser already selected targeting within the ad set, one would assume that in order for a user to see the ad, they would need to both be in that target audience AND perform a qualifying search (with commercial intent). It wouldn’t, I’d assume, necessarily be a search related to whatever it is being promoted in the ad.

The audience selected to see my ads is a really big open question. If targeting is irrelevant and the ad could be seen by anyone using the necessary search terms, that would be incredibly odd. And I will assume this isn’t the case.

Or if I’m promoting something that has no sales intent, does it make sense that my ad is only being shown to those who have shown Facebook they are looking to buy? Or should my ad appear to all people within my target audience when viewing a search result — any search result?

Is there any possibility for the advertiser to eventually choose their own search terms? That would be ideal. And at that point, I’d even hope for a stand-alone campaign only for that placement where targeting is only specific search terms.

One issue, though, may be qualifying search volume. While the main Facebook search may be used quite a bit, Marketplace is still relatively new. And the main Facebookook search is often used for reasons other than commercial intent.

I have asked Facebook for clarification regarding these questions.

Use Case: In Theory

First, I acknowledge that my business may not be ideal for this test. I’m not always selling, and I don’t fall neatly into the categories of retail, auto, and e-commerce.

But what if I had an auto dealership? This could be pretty great.

Facebook could know that I’m an auto dealership. They could isolate those making searches for cars and auto dealerships on Facebook. They could then show my ads to people — within my target audience — who have shown an interest in buying a car on Facebook.

When you think about it in these terms, this could be a very powerful tool. But if Facebook never expands from this narrow focus, a limited number of businesses will benefit from search ads.

Is it Working?

Since I appear to be part of the test, one question you are likely to have is, “Well, is it working?” I have no idea. At the moment, I’m not sure I’m getting any distribution to the Search placements.

The only way to check this is within Breakdown in Ads Manager.

Facebook Ads Breakdown Placement

But when I do this, the Search placements don’t appear. Is that because Breakdown hasn’t been updated to include the Search placement or because I’m not getting any distribution there? Your guess is as good as mine.


Keep in mind, this is still in test mode. It may be far from the finished product, assuming there will be a finished product. So, what’s the plan? Will it graduate from test mode? Will it reach more advertisers?

Here’s what Facebook told me:

We are closely evaluating the benefits for people and advertisers before deciding whether to roll it out more broadly.

So, we wait.

Your Turn

Do you have the Search placements? Are you part of the test? Have you seen ads within search results?

Let me know in the comments below!