Google, Facebook to Lock Horns on Branding, Behavioral Targeting

While search advertising has helped Google rise to unprecedented heights, the search engine giant and Facebook are locked in an arms race to figure out how to tap into personal data housed in social networks to forge more targeted ads. Will behavioral advertising be the key, and where does Twitter fit into this duel?

Analysis: For those who can't get enough of the competition between Google and Facebook over traffic and advertising dollars, a June 22 Wired article by Fred Vogelstein characterized the Google-Facebook battle as a kind of Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier for the Internet age.

Still, "Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network's Plan to Dominate the Internet - and Keep Google Out," has industry analysts talking. Vogelstein chronicles the Web services providers jousts, from the time Facebook spurned Google's offer to strike a deal to the present, where both companies struggle to tackle Twitter and the challenge of real-time search.

Despite its unquestionable success in converting search ads to ad dollars, Google in the piece comes across as an Internet has-been, while Facebook is the communications platform of the future, never mind that it hasn't earned even a fair percentage of what Google has garnered in the online ad world.

Facebook reportedly reaped $280 million in sales in 2008, compared with Google's roughly $16 billion for the year. Facebook has 200 million users, some of whom spend 20 minutes per day on the network. This social garden is largely walled off from Google and other search engines as a competitive advantage; Facebook can't promise personalized connections and tailor unique services with Google crawling its network.

Sterling Market Intelligence analyst Greg Sterling told eWEEK that while Facebook has been pushing out more of its pages to be publicly crawled (note the recent vanity URL effort) to get traffic, "you don't search Google to find what people on Facebook said."

While Google has conquered paid search ads, Facebook is improving its search functionality so that users can look at their friends' feeds. The company also launched Connect to let users access friends' data on Facebook partner sites and rolled out an API to let programmers pull Facebook News Feed information to other sites, such as Twitter.