Facebook and Google are two of the most popular online advertising platforms, which can lead to a confusing and even misleading dichotomy for businesses choosing an advertising platform. Too often these two advertising platforms have been categorized as adversarial competitors–a Facebook ads vs. Google ads viewpoint that has been dramatized by technology media outlets.
As a result, businesses feel backed into a corner, forced to make a difficult decision about which platform to pursue. It’s a false dichotomy. The truth is both offer unique features and advantages, and which one is “better” depends on your business goals and target audience. Many savvy businesses are cutting through the false dichotomy and leveraging the strengths of the two platforms in concert to achieve maximum visibility, increase leads and sales, and find new customers. This requires adopting different strategies that align with the functionality of each platform, but the result of the extra effort is a significant return on your advertising spend.
In our pros and cons guide, we’ll offer some unique functionalities that set Google Ads and Facebook Ads apart, how the two ad platforms work, and why you should consider using both as part of your wider digital marketing strategy.
Understanding The Differences
The first thing we need to do is understand what sets Google Ads apart from Facebook Ads.
Google Ads is the world’s largest and most popular PPC (pay-per-click) advertising platform–by a large margin. Google’s global search market share as of January 2023 was around 84.69%. That means that almost all paid search advertising on the internet is done through Google Ads.
Paid search focuses on the targeting of keywords and the use of text-based advertisements. Businesses using Google bid on keywords–specific words and phrases included in search queries entered by Google users–in the hopes that their ads will be displayed alongside search results for these queries. Each time a user clicks on an ad, the advertiser is charged a certain amount of money, hence the name “pay-per-click advertising.”
Facebook Ads on the other hand is what is known as “paid social”–advertising on social networks. With the highest number of monthly active users of any social network in the world, Facebook has become a highly competitive and potentially lucrative element of many businesses’ digital advertising strategies.
Unlike paid search, which helps businesses find new customers via keywords, paid social helps users find businesses based on the things they’re interested in. Facebook serves up ads based on a user’s clicks, interests, likes, scrolling habits and personal data. When thinking of Google ads vs. Facebook ads, you can categorize them this way: Google Ads helps you find new customers, while Facebook helps new customers find you.
Facebook Ads Strengths & Weaknesses
Facebook offers businesses unparalleled audience granularity. Similar to Google, Facebook boasts a truly vast global audience. With more than 2.96 BILLION monthly active users–more than one-quarter of the entire world’s population, and that’s not counting inactive or infrequently used accounts – Facebook has no rival when it comes to the enormity of its audience. However, rather than exposing advertisers and their messaging to this vast audience, the true strength of Facebook’s immense audience lies in the potential granularity with which advertisers can target Facebook’s users.
People share almost every conceivable detail of their lives on Facebook. From meeting and marrying partners to the birth of children or the celebration of new career moves, Facebook’s users share the joys and accomplishments of life’s milestones with their friends and networks every single day. They also search for and consume content that aligns with a huge range of personal interests, beliefs, ideologies, and values, presenting advertisers with a unique opportunity to tailor advertising messaging to target audiences in ways previously considered impossible, or even unimaginable.
One of the most powerful applications of this functionality is the ability for advertisers to create what are known as “lookalike audiences.” Facebook advertisers can upload customer information from their own databases to Facebook, which then applies filtering based on its own data and information provided by third-party data brokers to match users whose information the advertiser uploads. This creates the “lookalike” audience of users, allowing advertisers to effectively double the potential reach of their advertisements by targeting new customers who exhibit the same interests and consumer behavior as their existing customers.
- Advanced targeting options: Facebook Ads allows you to target your audience based on interests, behaviors, demographics, and location.
- Cost-effective: With Facebook Ads, you can start with a small budget and still reach a large audience.
- Mobile optimization: Facebook has a massive user base on mobile, making it an ideal platform to reach users on their smartphones.
- Engaging ad formats: Facebook offers a variety of ad formats, including video ads, carousel ads, and dynamic product ads, that are designed to capture users’ attention.
- Limited intent: Users on Facebook are usually not actively searching for products or services, which makes it harder to convert them into customers. “Interruption marketing.”
- High competition: With over 10 million advertisers on Facebook, competition for ad space can be intense.
- Limited search visibility: Facebook is not a search engine, so your ads will not appear in search results.
Google Ads Strengths & Weaknesses
As the world’s most popular and widely used search engine, Google is considered the de facto leader in online advertising. Fielding more than 8.5 billion search queries every single day, Google offers advertisers access to an unprecedented and unequaled potential audience of users who are actively looking for goods and services.
One of the biggest misconceptions among those new to paid search advertising is the idea that whoever has the largest advertising budget will win at Google ads. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth as Google Ads focuses primarily on the quality and relevance of ads, not how much advertisers spend.
The more relevant an ad is to the user, the better the experience that user is likely to have – and, therefore, the more likely they are to continue using Google as their go-to search engine. For this reason, Google Ads rewards relevance and quality above all other factors. This is why smart advertisers with relevant, optimized, high-quality ads rarely have to bid as highly as advertisers with poorer ads—making it well worth the investment.
Google Ads Pros:
- High intent: Users on Google are actively searching for products or services, making it easier to convert them into customers.
- Greater reach: Google has a massive search engine market share, which means your ads can potentially reach more users.
- Wide range of ad formats: Google offers a variety of ad formats, including search ads, display ads (for those looking to accomplish marketing goals that aren’t necessarily as conversion-driven as those of PPC ads, such as raising brand awareness on a large scale using banner ads), and video ads.
- Remarketing: With Google Ads, you can target users who have already shown an interest in your product or service through remarketing.
Google Ads Cons:
- High cost: Google Ads can be more expensive than Facebook Ads, particularly for competitive keywords.
- Limited targeting options: While Google Ads allows for limited targeting by location and demographics, it does not offer nearly the same level of advanced targeting as Facebook Ads.
- Limited mobile optimization: While Google is improving its mobile user experience, it still lags behind Facebook in terms of mobile optimization.
- Ad blindness: Users are becoming increasingly blind to ads on search engines, making it harder to capture their attention.
So Which Should You Be Using?
Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads: the fact is, both offer unique features and advantages. The choice between the two depends on your business goals, target audience, and budget, but it’s important to view these two platforms as complementary, rather than adversarial. For businesses looking to reach a broad audience and raise brand awareness on a limited budget, Facebook Ads can be an effective option. For businesses looking for high conversion metrics by targeting users who are actively searching for their products or services, Google Ads may be a great choice.
Harnessing the power of both paid search and paid social is a remarkably effective advertising strategy. However, it necessitates the extra effort of a dual advertising strategy that aligns with the strengths of each respective platform. That also means it’s vital to understand how best to use each platform for maximum ROI and greater business growth.
At Ingenium, we’re ready to help even the most modest advertising budget work harder and smarter. Reach out to us to discuss your business and marketing needs. We’d love to learn more about your goals and help you determine how to maximize the impact of your Google Ads and Facebook Ads campaigns.