In online advertising, there are two giants that dominate: Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Both advertising platforms have the potential to increase your reach and drive significant traffic to your website, and many larger companies tend to use both.
But not all of us are fortunate enough to have the advertising resources of a mega corporation. So, which one allows you to best maximize your marketing budget, improve your reach, and start driving more traffic to your website?
Both Facebook Ads and Google Ads offer a plethora of features and a granular level of control over your audience and how you target them. And both platforms are billed as easy to use, so on the surface, it seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to jump in, spin up a campaign, and start seeing results.
But despite this—or possibly because of—neither platform is as easy to use as they’d like you to believe, so it can take some time to get up to speed on how to use them effectively. This makes it all the more critical to choose the right one from the start.
And while both platforms offer an effective way to advertise your products and services, there are some key differences between the two that are important to examine before deciding which one to use. Understanding these differences and knowing how to best utilize each platform can save you a lot of time and resources.
How They Work: Paid Search and Paid Social
The first thing to look at is how Google and Facebook operate at their core. In digital marketing and advertising, there are two main operating models: paid search and paid social.
Google’s Paid Search
Paid search refers to the ads you see on results pages when searching the web using Google or another engine. The ads displayed are based on a combination of their current search query as well as the data that the search engine has about them, which is based on their demographics and online habits.
Advertising on Google’s search results pages can take a little effort to get the hang of—it’s not quite as simple as picking some keywords and paying for ad space. When you set up a Google Ads account, you’ll create an advertising campaign which includes your text-based ads as well as your target keywords.
As you might imagine, there are other advertisers all competing for the same keywords. To determine whose ad gets shown on a user’s search results page, Google uses an auction system. The winner of the auction is determined by the amount bid on that particular keyword as well as the quality of the advertisement. The winning advertiser’s ad is then displayed to the user.
If the user clicks on the ad, the advertiser is charged for that click. This entire process takes place nearly every time a user uses Google to search the internet—billions of times per month.
Facebook’s Paid Social
Paid social refers to ads that show up on newsfeeds for social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These ads are based on a wealth of data that social networks have about their users, and can include highly specific demographics, behavior, and personal preferences.
Like Google, Facebook charges based on a CPC basis. Also like Google, they use an auction system based on the quality of the advertisement and on the bid amount to determine who wins an auction.
Unlike Google, you don’t target users based on keywords. Instead, you use Facebook’s wealth of market information such as demographics, interests, and behaviors. Using these metrics, you can put your advertisements right in front of users via their newsfeeds.
Also unlike Google, advertisements aren’t relegated to only text—your advertisements can be video, images, and carousels consisting of multiple images. This can be useful in experimenting to see which types of ad your target audience responds best to.
Choosing the Right Platform
Knowing the basics of Google and Facebook’s advertising models will start you on the right path to choosing the one that’s best suited for your business. That said, there are some other factors you should take into consideration.
Intent should be the single biggest factor in determining which platform you choose. While there’s plenty of overlap in how you advertise on both platforms, people use each service for very different reasons.
If you’re looking to generate leads and sell a product or service, Google is usually going to be the better choice. When someone needs a specific product or service, they go to Google. Their intent is focused on solving a specific problem.
For example, if their refrigerator is on the fritz, and they need someone to come work on it, they’re going to Google a local repairman, not browse their Instagram feed.
On the other hand, Facebook is the better option if your objective is to build awareness of your brand or product. The intent of using social media is to relax and unwind. People browse their feeds to connect and absorb. This is a perfect place to introduce a new product, build awareness of your brand, or connect with your audience on a social level.
Google and Facebook both have massive reach: Google fields over three billion searches daily while Facebook has nearly two billion active daily users.
That said, your audience is likely using both platforms, so it’s difficult to determine which one is right for you on reach alone. A better indicator is to determine whether your product or service is better oriented for search or for social.
For example, paid social tends to do better on campaigns that require very little user investment. The best campaigns are those that invite users to sign up for a mailing list or newsletter. If you’re looking to build an audience, social can be highly effective.
Targeting is an important aspect of any marketing campaign, and advertising on Google and Facebook is no different. Both platforms allow you to target specific audiences based on the usual demographics including location, age, gender, income, and more.
That said, Facebook is far and away the better choice if you require focused targeting on a granular level. The company collects a vast amount of information about their users, including detailed demographics, interests, life events, and more. And the more you understand your market, the better you can use this kind of information to create incredibly focused campaigns.
Ad placement can play an important part in your decision. If you’re just starting out, you’ll might have to bite the bullet and experiment with both to see how your target audience responds—your potential customers might respond differently to text ads versus video ads, for example.
With Google, you get but a small blurb of text to catch a user’s attention and entice them to click. And while you can also opt to advertise on YouTube if you want video ads, doing so doesn’t give you access to the same level of search and conversions that advertising on Google search does.
With Facebook, you have much more flexibility and creativity with the kinds of ads you can create. You can capture your audience’s attention with video, imagery, carousels placed within their newsfeed or in their side bars if they’re on a desktop. For those that are running an e-commerce website, this can be a critical factor—it’s difficult to entice someone with text that describes a dress or a pair of shoes.
Both platforms charge based on a pay-per-click, or PPC, model. Calculating the cost of your ad campaign comes down to measuring the cost-per-click, or CPC.
While costs depend on many factors, the average CPC on Google is generally going to be more expensive than Facebook. For the same amount of capital, you can get a lot more engagement, impressions, and website visits advertising on Facebook.
That said, one very critical factor, which ties back to intent, is that people who are searching on Google are usually further down the buying cycle. In other words, while you may get much more engagement for your buck with Facebook, the more expensive engagement you get with Google is far more likely to result in a conversion.
Facebook is a fantastic and cost-effective way to get your brand, products and services in front of many eyes, but if you’re looking to make conversions, you want to be looking more closely at Google Ads.
Google or Facebook: Which One is Better for You?
If you’re confined to using just one, it’s going to depend entirely on your business. The first thing you need to do is identify your target audience, and then you need to determine what the precise objectives are in targeting them. Do you want to make people more aware of your brand? Do you want to find loyal customers? Do you want to create more engagement?
If you’re a new business with a new product that no one has heard of, Facebook might be a better choice. While you won’t necessarily be fielding endless conversions, you’re going to gradually increase your brand’s reach and make lots of people more aware of your business.
On the other hand, if you’re already established in the market, and you’re looking to put your product or service in front of more people, Google might be better for you.
Both platforms can be great tools for driving traffic to your website, upping engagement, generating leads, and converting visitors into customers. In a perfect world, you’d use both to maximize performance. But if that’s not a possibility, do some initial testing on both platforms before deciding. Marketing is a fickle discipline, and your buyers just might surprise you.