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  5. Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads: Which Is Right for You? (2024)

Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads: Which Is Right for You? (2024)

Adam Warner
You know you need to be advertising online, but what’s the best option available? Both Facebook and Google are massive platforms with incredible reach, but are they right for your business? Should you use one? The other? Both?

We analyzed these two marketing giants to see what makes them great, what makes them less-than-great, and how they differ by industry. Our detailed comparison should help you figure out what’s what, before you waste your advertising budget on a less-than-ideal option.

So take a deep breath, because you’re about to find out once and for all which advertising platform will offer you the best chance at success.

Paid Search and Paid Social: What’s the Difference?

Facebook and Google are similar in the fact that they’re both online platforms that can be used to promote your business. But beyond that, they couldn’t be more different.

Google Ads is a paid search system, which utilizes keywords to drive users to your website or landing page. These keywords (or phrases) determine if your ad shows up, based upon the terms that potential customers may enter into the search box.

Facebook Ads, on the other hand, is a paid social system. It shows ads to users based on their habits, lifestyles, locations, and other factors that help single out your ideal potential customer. You can do this with Facebook’s in-depth audience targeting tools, which we’ll examine closely later.

To sum it up:
  • Google Ads is an excellent way for you to find new customers.
  • Facebook Ads gives you tools to help your ideal customers find you.

Google Ads

google ads

Google Ads is the largest and most popular pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform. With more than three and a half billion searches happening each day, it’s easy to understand why advertisers love it so much.

Google Ads works through the use of keywords. These keywords are what determines if your ads will be displayed to people, based on their relevance to a particular search query.

The keywords you choose cost money. This cost—as well as the cost-per-click (CPC)—is based on a few different things:
  • The quality of the keyword(s) used: The more relevant your keyword is to the product or service you’re offering, the more likely it is that your ad will be displayed, and for a lower CPC.
  • The competition using similar keywords: Keywords that are more commonly used will cost more money. On Google, these include keyword categories such as loans, mortgages, and insurance.
  • Your ad’s rank: The placement of your ad is determined by your bid amount, the expected CTR at the time of the search, your ad’s relevance, and your landing page experience.
  • Your ad’s quality score: This is determined by factors such as your keyword’s relevance to the topic that’s being searched, your ad’s copy, the expected CTR (considered to be the most important part of determining your quality score), and your landing page’s quality. Quality scores are measured on a scale from one to ten, and will directly affect your ad’s placement and cost.
Once your ad is live, each time a user types your keywords into the search box, your ad is entered into an auction. This auction determines whether or not your ad will be displayed, the position in which it will be displayed (e.g., page placement), and the CPC of your ad.

High-quality ads (e.g., those with a high click-through rate) with more relevant keywords have a higher likelihood of being displayed, even if the amount bid on your ad is lower than your competitors’ less-relevant ads.

This auction process is repeated with every Google search, so your ad’s position, cost, and its chance of being displayed will be different each time.

It’s also important to note that Google Advertising includes two primary networks, the Search Network, and the Display Network. Search Ads are displayed alongside search results, whereas Display Ads (whether text or visual) can be embedded on more than two million websites for audiences to see while they surf the web.


Google Ads – The Pros

There are many reasons to use the world’s biggest search platform to advertise your business, but it’s impossible to talk about Google without mentioning its incredible reach. Every second, more than 40,000 searches are performed. This totals over a trillion every single year—a number that only continues to climb.

Google also uses sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Its proprietary tool—known as Rankbrain—is an incredible machine learning system. Not only does it make sure that users see the most relevant search results, but it also ensures that your ads are viewed by people who are most likely to interact with them.

This is a company dedicated to user experience. That means Google is more likely to display an ad that their users would like to see over one that an advertiser paid a lot for them to see. As long as your ad is relevant, high-quality, and well-thought-out, it may get displayed more than others, even if the services or products are virtually the same.

Google also offers an array of features to help improve your ad’s click-through rates (CTR) and conversion rates, including:
  • Ad extensions, such as call buttons and location information, which can improve your ad’s click-through rate
  • Sitelinks, which appear under the main content of your ad, providing shortcuts to sections of your website that are most relevant to a user’s search query
  • Location targeting which lets you choose to display your ads only to users that are searching from a specified location
  • Shopping ads which show users an image of your product, its price, its title, and your store’s name
  • Life event targeting which can help you target users based on important life events, such as getting married, moving homes, or graduating from school
  • Detailed demographics which allow you to focus on parts of the population that share a common trait (such as college graduates, parents, homeowners, etc.)
Google is continually updating its features, especially when it comes to audience targeting. If you feel something is missing, just give it time, and chances are that Google will make it happen.

Google Ads – The Cons

Nobody’s perfect, and Google Ads are no exception. While there are definitely more positives than negatives, there are some things to look out for.

Google has a variety of ad types, but most of the Search Network ads are text-based. While they may be okay most of the time, text ads aren’t as exciting as image- or video-based ads, and they’re easy to ignore.

Depending on your industry, you might also face high costs. If you need to use certain “coveted” keywords (for instance, finance-related words like mortgage, insurance, loans, etc.), you can expect to pay a premium.

Google Ads’ success rate/cost ratio also varies by industry. If you are in one of the following industries, you may want to explore other advertising options:
  • Technology: A low average CTR and a high average cost-per-action (CPA)
  • Legal: A low average CTR and a high average CPC, not to mention some of the most expensive keywords on the platform (lawyer, attorney)
  • B2B: A low average CTR and a high average CPA
  • Consumer services: A low average CTR and a high average CPC
  • E-commerce: One of the worst conversion rates and highly competitive keywords
  • Education: One of the lowest conversion rates and expensive keywords

Ease of Use

Even if you’re a newbie, it’s incredibly easy to create your first campaign on Google Ads. All you have to do is follow these steps and you’re good to go:
  • Input the locations you want to target
  • Set your daily budget
  • Choose your keywords
  • Decide whether or not you want Google to automatically set your bid
  • Input your ad’s text
  • Choose whether you want your ads on the Search Network, the Display Network, or featured on both
google ads 1

While hiring a professional digital marketer could help, especially when it comes to choosing the best possible keywords or who to target, it’s not necessary. If your budget is limited, it’s totally possible to create an ad all on your own. It just might take some trial and error.

Once your ad is live, you can go into even greater detail using some of Google Ad’s audience targeting tools, although you don’t need to do this when first creating a campaign. Even if you have only limited online marketing experience, there’s no need to be intimidated by audience targeting on Google.

This is because Google Ads gives you the option to use Google’s automated targeting. This feature will learn who your ideal audience is over time, and will get better at putting your message in front of those most likely to interact with your ad. It does this by analyzing high-performing audiences who have interacted with your ads in the past.

Make sure that you track the success of your campaign by integrating Google Analytics. Once your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts are linked, Google will give you reports on your ad’s bounce rate, the time spent on your site, the number of pages a user clicked after going onto your site, the percentage of new visitors, and more.

Google Analytics can go even deeper. You’ll be able to break down your ad’s traffic into audience segments, benchmark its success against your competitors, and more. These tools can help make your ad as good as possible, but using them can be a bit complicated if you’re new to online marketing.

When Should You Choose Google Ads?

Sometimes, Google Ads will be your ideal choice. It depends on your industry and the goals of your advertising campaign.

For example, if the goal of your campaign is to increase brand awareness, you can’t do much better than Google Ads, with its massive international audience.

Certain companies are more successful on the platform than others. If your business is in one of the following industries, then Google may be your best bet:
  • Dating and personal services: High average CTR and an incredibly high conversion rate
  • Autos: High average CTR and conversion rate, relatively low average CPC and CPA
  • Advocacy and nonprofit: High average CTR and a low average CPC
  • Travel and hospitality: High average CTR, average mobile CTR, and conversion rates, and low average CPC and CPA
  • Real Estate: High average CTR and a fairly low average CPC
  • Mobile Apps: High conversion rate and surprisingly low average CPC and CPA
If you’re running a local business which depends on receiving calls (such as a contractor or a locksmith), Google call-only ads may be perfect for you. On mobile, these ads have an unbelievably high conversion rate.

Remember, even if you’re in an industry that doesn’t typically do as well on the platform, a well-targeted ad with relevant keywords and intriguing copy can still get the job done.

Facebook Ads

With well over two billion monthly active users (MAU), Facebook is by far the world’s largest social media platform. This, in combination with its advanced audience targeting tools, is why it’s so attractive to online marketers.

Facebook takes a more direct approach when it comes to displaying your ads to users. Rather than using keywords, Facebook makes use of its user data to put your ads in front of people who are most likely to interact with them.

This has made Facebook an essential part of many businesses’ social media marketing strategies. In fact, 42% of marketers claim Facebook is critical to their business.

Facebook Ads – The Pros

There are countless advantages to advertising on Facebook, and its colossal audience is just one of them. Have I mentioned the average conversion rate of 9.21%? (Google’s average is currently 2.17%.)

This high conversion rate also comes at substantially lower CPC and CPA rates than Google Ads. This makes Facebook Ads a much stronger competitor in terms of return on investment (ROI).

Facebook’s amazing ROI lies in its ability to target its users to a level that no competitor can match. This is simply because Facebook users are used to sharing even the most intimate details of their lives. From important life events to political affiliations, Facebook knows its users at a level that was previously unheard of.

This means you can tailor your advertising to very specific niches, and use Facebook’s Custom Audience tool to make sure they see the ads that you’ve designed for them. Click here to learn how to create a custom audience.

Once you’ve identified your ideal audience, Facebook will let you know it’s approximate size. For example, say you want to target health-conscious mothers who live in California and enjoy exercising and travel. Facebook will tell you approximately how many people you can expect to reach.

facebook ads

With Facebook’s Lookalike Audience feature, you can reach new customers by targeting users with similar attributes to those that have engaged with your brand in the past. Using information such as demographics and interests, Facebook creates a picture of what your ideal potential customer looks like, then directly targets them with your brand’s message.

With the Lookalike Audience feature, you can also input a database – such as your mailing list–and Facebook will automatically create a Lookalike Audience. This can also be used to exclude certain members from seeing your ads, like those that have already signed up for your service or purchased your product.

Ads on Facebook are more visual, especially compared to many Google Search Network Ads. Many users will find them far more interesting than text-based PPC links. With the use of images, videos, and other compelling content, it’s often easier to engage a potential customer and encourage them to take action.

facebook ads 1

When creating your ads, you can choose from a variety of different campaign objectives, including:
  • Website conversions: Serves ads to users more likely to complete an action on your website
  • Daily unique reach: Serves ads to people up to once per day
  • Impressions: Serves ads to people as often as possible
  • Clicks: Serves ads to users who are most likely to click on them
Keep in mind that your ad’s chosen objective will affect how you’ll be charged. Ads that are focused on visibility will be charged per 1,000 impressions, while those that are focused on action are charged per click received.

Facebook Ads – The Cons

It may seem difficult to find anything wrong with Facebook Ads—but it does have a few downsides.

One notable con lies within the platform’s greatest strength: its ability to reach extremely specific audiences. Because, while this level of targeting benefits marketers, some users may find it a bit creepy.

For example, the other day I was discussing how I needed a new backpack, and did a quick search to check prices. After this, my feed was filled with ads featuring backpacks.

While this was arguably useful (and my understanding of how it works makes me a bit more accepting of this type of marketing), some users may find it to be an invasion of privacy. However, while many might complain, it doesn’t stop them from clicking on the ads.

Keep in mind that getting too specific about your Custom Audience can limit your reach, so you risk missing out on additional audiences that you didn’t think would be interested in your product. This can pose a problem particularly for new marketers who don’t yet understand their target audience (but think they do).

Ease of Use

Because of Facebook Ads’ advanced audience targeting features, it will probably take a bit of time and experience to create a really effective ad. In the beginning, creating a Facebook ad may seem like a lot of work, especially compared to how easy it is to create a campaign using Google.

While Facebook does have a lot more options in regards to displaying your ad and audience targeting, the user-friendly dashboard makes creating an ad fairly straightforward. To nail down your ideal audience, you may want to consider looking into having a marketing firm give you a hand, although it’s not a must.

facebook ads dashboard 850x435

Even total newbies can create an effective ad using Facebook’s advertising platform. Will it be the best possible ad right from the beginning? Probably not. But if you put in enough work and you learn from your mistakes, you can perfect your social marketing skills and create ads that drive customers to take the action you’re looking for.

Facebook Ads Manager provides you with straightforward and user-friendly analytics reports that assist you in monitoring the progress of your campaign. Within these reports, you can readily observe your ad’s reach, its received impressions, as well as details such as the demographics of your typical customer.

To track your ads and stay on top of your campaigns, a social media tool can be incredibly helpful. Hootsuite, popular among users and reviewers, allows you to manage all your social media campaigns in one spot. There are also some other excellent options out there, such as Sprout Social and Sendible.

When Should You Choose Facebook Ads?

Due to Facebook’s relatively low costs and high ROI, it can be the perfect choice for small to medium-sized businesses with limited marketing budgets.

That being said, some industries have higher success rates than others. If you’re in one of the following industries, you may want to consider using Facebook as your primary marketing platform:
  • Legal: Highest average CTR on the platform and a relatively low average CPC
  • Apparel: High average CTR and a shockingly low average CPC
  • Beauty: High average CTR and an impressive conversion rate
  • Fitness: High average CTR and the best conversion rate of any industry
  • Retail: High average CTR and a relatively low average CPC and CPA
  • Education: High average conversion rate and a low average CPC and CPA
  • B2B: High average conversion rate and a somewhat low average CPA
  • Healthcare: High average conversion rate and a low average CPC and CPA
Facebook Ads is also great if you sell products or services that are usually associated with major life events, as you can deliver ads at times when your audience is most likely to be responsive.

Click here for some additional tips on how to improve your Facebook Ad conversions.

Should You Consider Using Both?

No matter your industry, you’d be wise to consider using both Google Ads and Facebook Ads. If it’s in your marketing budget, you can achieve amazing reach by placing ads on both platforms.

For instance, you could increase brand awareness through paid search, while targeting specific audiences through paid social.

If you can, use both platforms to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing strategy.

A Quick Summary

Google Ads Facebook Ads
  • Handles 1.2 trillion searches annually
  • Includes many great features to help increase CTR
  • Powerful AI, focused on user experience
  • High ROI
  • Relatively low costs
  • Unprecedented ability to target specific audience segments
  • Heavy focus on text-based ads that some may find boring
  • High costs
  • Bad option for some industries
  • Audience targeting could be seen as “creepy”
  • Finding your ideal audience can be difficult
  • Using Custom Audience can limit your reach
Ideal Industries
  • Dating and personal services
  • Autos
  • Advocacy and nonprofit
  • Travel and hospitality
  • Real estate
  • Mobile apps
  • Legal
  • Apparel
  • Beauty
  • Fitness
  • Retail
  • Education
  • B2B
  • Healthcare
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