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Facebook vs. Google: Who Should Win Your Ad Spend?

With the explosion of social media in our day-to-day lives it’s no surprise that businesses are allocating increasing amounts of their marketing budget to social media advertising.

In fact, a survey in 2014 by Neuster found social media advertising the most effective form of online paid advertising in terms of clicks and conversions.

Sonny Ganguly of Marketing Land predicts social media advertising to only explode further within the next three years. And with social media advertising revenue estimated to reach $8.4 billion this year, we don’t doubt that prediction.

This article written by Brian Carter all the way back in 2010 first documented the comparison between Facebook ads and Google AdWords.

Carter highlighted the advantages and potential growth opportunities for Facebook advertising while it was a relatively new tool.

So let’s compare the two five years later.

Facebook Ads

Is social media advertising all that it’s cracked up to be?

As with all marketing tools, Facebook advertising has its pros and cons and is generally suggested for B2C markets as opposed to B2B. Although that isn’t always necessarily the case.

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of a Facebook ad campaign.

Advanced Targeting

Undoubtedly one of the major advantages of using Facebook advertising is its advanced targeting options and flexibility.

Thanks to the nature of social media with its abundance of readily available information and demographics regarding its users, ads are tailored to specific groups of people.

This can be anything from interests like dog walking to specific demographics such as age, gender and location. It allows you to target exactly who you want, making for a more detailed and focused campaign.

Detailed Measuring

Facebook advertising also provides advanced tracking and detailed measuring tools making it simple for you to track your campaigns, allowing increased control and the ability to easily measure how successful your current campaign is.

Detailed Measuring Tool Example

Visually Appealing

An additional benefit of Facebook advertising, unlike some pay-per-click, is the ability to use imagery and video to capture interest and sell your product or service.

In 2011, three eBay researchers conducted a study all about how images affect click-through rates. In short, they discovered high quality images drive up the CTR and the ROI of an ad.

They also found that low quality images can discourage a potential user from clicking.

Facebook Visual Example of Ad

It’s also relatively cheap, in my experience some clients have paid no more than roughly 0.60 per click, which is pretty good compared to the $21 per click I’ve experienced with similar campaigns via PPC.

Captures Interest

Not only this, compared to Google AdWords, it captures potential customers earlier in the buying process, before they’re even aware of their need.

Facebook ads capture people before they know they need something as they are at the beginning of the buying process – the Awareness stage.

By targeting your ads to people who share an interest in your products or services, you are making them aware of your brand and the products or services you offer. At this stage, they notice that you offer something that could be of help to them and that is of interest to them.

They then decide in the next stage, the Interest stage, to develop a more detailed understanding by clicking on your ad and through to your website.

Here they find out a little more about you, your brand and your products or services. This article from Smart Insights helps to explain this further.

By targeting them through Facebook, they already know about you, and if they trust you and the information you have provided is credible, they are more likely to buy from you.

However… While praises are often sung for Facebook ads, it can’t be denied there are of course various disadvantages to this tool, as with all forms of online and traditional advertising.

Depending on your target market, the benefit of a potentially large audience could be irrelevant.

For example a business supplying products to an extremely specific location may not reap the benefits of using Facebook ads.

It’s also been suggested that Facebook advertising is more effective for B2C markets. But with a little research and planning, Ben Harper of Social Media Examiner suggests it can in fact be a valuable tool for your B2B market, you just need to ‘know your audience’ and dig a little deeper.

Pay-Per-Click Ads

So how does Facebook advertising weigh up against pay-per-click advertising tools such as Google AdWords? As before, we’ll start with some of the advantages of implementing a PPC campaign.

Large Potential Audience

You’ve got a large potential audience out there, not just the active Facebook users (though there sure are a lot of those). You reach out to users searching for keywords related to your ads, and open doors to new potential customers enhancing your brand awareness.

Targeting Existing Interest

In theory, with Google AdWords you’re targeting those who already have an interest or recognize their need. Potentially, these customers are more likely to convert into definite sales, as you’re capturing them later on in the buying process.

As mentioned above, Facebook advertising reaches people in the Awareness stage of the buying process, before they recognize that they have a need.

However, when someone clicks on an AdWords ad, it is because they already know that they have a need for your product or service, and they go to Google to find a brand or company that is going to help them with their need.

In the example from the Smart Insights article, this part of the buying process is known as the Evaluation stage.

If they have already found out about a particular brand offering the products or services that they need, they may turn to Google to find out if they credible and to see who else offers the same products or services.

Evaluating the different suppliers, the consumer will decide whether to purchase from you or another company.


As highlighted by Bespoke 4 Business, another advantage of using Google AdWords is the ability to fully customize your campaign.

You can select keywords relevant to your product or service that users are likely to search for. On top of this you’re also able to select negative keywords that you specifically do not want triggering your ad.

Negative keywords are the keywords which you do not want your ads to show for.

For example, a dog boarding kennels company in Hertfordshire is not going to want their ad to show for the keyword “dog boarding brighton.” You would therefore add Brighton to your negative keyword list.

This can also apply in other cases. For example, a commercial cleaning company is not going to want their ads to show for “diy cleaning tips” or “cleaning jobs” so you would add jobs, job, diy, tip and tips to you negative keyword list.

However… There are a fair few disadvantages to implementing a PPC campaign and it may not necessarily work for you.

Here’s why:

It Can Be Pricey

Although still much cheaper than other forms of traditional advertising, PPC can be costly, particularly if poorly managed.

From my previous experience, PPC clicks cost a fair amount more than the average Facebook click, depending on how competitive your search terms are.

For example, I’ve had previous clients pay up to $22 for just one AdWords click!

Narrows Your Audience

Although the ability to target a market that already has interest in your product is fantastic, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reach out to potential new markets and customers who might not realize their need yet.

You’re capturing consumers pretty late on in the buying stage here. And while this can be beneficial, you may want to assess how you can appeal to further markets by advertising to your target audience before they recognize the need.

No Imagery

Unless you use other tools such as Google shop and YouTube advertising you are unable to include images or videos to promote your product or service.

Google ads provide little space with just three lines of text when you are using search only.

Which One Comes Out On Top?

From both recent and previous experience with clients, I’ve seen significant success when using Facebook advertising in comparison to Google AdWords.

Just take a look at a recent client of mine, a dog boarding and grooming service.

From a Facebook campaign, they received more than 1,700 website clicks in a month with an average click-through rate of 1.93% at an average cost of 0.21 per click.

Compare this to their Google AdWords activity and the difference is somewhat significant.

They received less than a third of the clicks and paid on average 0.51 per click with a click-through rate of 3.57%. In terms of goal conversion, aka the important bit, their Facebook Advertising campaign contributed to a staggering 23.09% of their goal conversions compared to Google AdWords which contributed to a mere 7.69%.

As you can see, in this case, Facebook Advertising was clearly the winner here!

A Few Tips

That doesn’t mean that using a combination of both doesn’t equal success.

What I would recommend is instead of relying on one tool for online advertising, split your budget between the two and test what works for you.

As with all marketing plans, you should be using multiple tools and channels to target your audience at all stages of the buying process whether that be from Facebook Ads, SEO, print advertising, or PPC.

So, have you been swayed in the direction of adding Facebook advertising to your budget?

Here’s a few pointers from my own experience in producing these ads:

  • Include keywords. This will help with your organic SEO
  • Focus energy on your social media marketing plan alongside your ads. Here’s a great article on social media strategy
  • Use punchy taglines to draw in user interest
  • Keep it short but sweet, don’t ramble just get to the point
  • Use a great image that will attract attention
  • Offer a discount or price if possible, users like to know the basics
  • Include your URL in your text. This way it won’t cost you if users click it (but shh)

If you want more information about PPC, check out this post but this time – PPC vs SEO!

How about you? Have you done any Facebook advertising or run a Google AdWords campaign? What results have you seen? Or maybe you’ve held of on paid advertising. What are some of your concerns? Tell us in the comments below!

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