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Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads: Full Comparison

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

A Google ad vs. Facebook ad — where should your money go? This is a question that many marketers find themselves asking as they dive into the land of paid advertising to increase brand awareness, website traffic, and audience reach.

The first step in deciding where you should invest your money for paid advertising — and how much to invest — is understanding the difference between the two main advertising platforms: Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads.

In this article:

Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads — What’s the Difference?

Google and Facebook both offer very popular advertising platforms, but the users on each platform are oriented toward different tasks with different levels of intent to engage with your ads. This means you may need to adjust your advertising as well.

Google Ads

Google Ads, formerly Google AdWords, offers four different methods of advertising. These include search advertising, display ads, YouTube video, and Google’s proprietary network called Discover. Search is Google’s first and most popular ad offering. When someone types something in the Google search bar, Google loads a “Search Engine Results Page” with result links selected to offer the best answer to your query. The first couple of results listed show an “Ad” label that indicates they are sponsored results. You can access the ability to serve your own ads on the Search Engine Results Page by creating search campaigns within Google Ads that contain ad groups that tie specific keywords you choose to text ads you create.

When a search user types a query into Google Search that relates to one of your chosen keywords, then Google places a bid in an effectively instant auction which determines whether your ad appears and where on the page it shows up. Showing an ad near the top of the results page for search queries related to your business benefits you by attracting visitors with intent tied to your product. Links higher up in a results page tend to receive far more clicks than lower results. You only pay for each click on your ad.

Google Ads also offers the Google Display Network where brands can run traditional display advertising campaigns. Google partners with hundreds of thousands of websites to integrate with their display network. Companies can build targeted display campaigns that connect with users in essentially any vertical. Google typically bills display campaigns using either pay-per-click or CPM, cost per thousand impressions.

Behind Google, the second largest search engine in the world is YouTube. It also functions as an enormous video advertising network. Since Google owns Youtube, you can access YouTube video advertising through Google Ads as well. Obviously, the major requirement for success on YouTube is high-quality video advertising, so the barrier to entry is slightly higher than search or display. You can choose to run ads on YouTube using a wide choice of targeting, including contextual targeting like content keywords or video topics, as well as based on viewer audience. You can choose campaign settings that only charge you once a viewer watches 30 seconds of your ad or to the end if it is shorter.

Finally, Google Ads offers access to Google Discovery, a network of Google mobile properties on which you can run ads using combinations of several headlines, descriptions, images, and logos that Google will optimise using machine learning. These ads serve across the YouTube Home and Watch Next feeds, Google Discover, and the Gmail Promotions and social tabs.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads provides access to create and run ad campaigns across two proprietary social media platforms: Facebook and Instagram, as well as an “Audience Network” of mobile apps. Facebook Ads uses web browsing behaviour, purchase behaviour, job information, and many other user characteristics to target people likely to be interested in engaging with your brand, product, or service.

Facebook collects data on every user and, as an advertiser on Facebook, you are able to use that data to define your audience and place your advertisement in front of people who have already shown an interest in similar content. You can choose to serve ads across the run of their network or on specific device types and platforms. For instance, you could choose to only run ads on Instagram Stories, or on Facebook Newsfeed on both desktop and mobile, or choose to run only on mobile across both Facebook and Instagram Newsfeeds.

Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads — How Do They Work?

Now that you understand the main differences between the two advertising options, let’s get into the details of how they work.

Google Ads

The first step in creating a successful Google Ad campaign is choosing relevant keywords and phrases that your target audience is likely to use when conducting a Google search.

Once your keywords are chosen, the next step is creating ad campaigns that you want Google to show your target audience when they use your keyword.

Once your campaign is created, you and other advertisers who are interested in using similar keywords and phrases go into a bidding war, where the highest bidder “wins” the top advertising spot on Google for that particular keyword.

This is where the price for Google Ads can start adding up. If you have a popular keyword that other advertisers want, it can get quite expensive during the bidding. To offset this price, especially if you are working with a smaller marketing budget, you may try refining, defining, and specifying your keywords so they are less general and less likely to be bought by large companies.

Facebook Ads

The first step in creating a successful Facebook Ads campaign is choosing your target audience. While Facebook can determine your target audience for you, if you know your ideal customer — men in their late fifties with an interest in golf, let’s say — you can clearly define who you want your advertisement to reach.

After your audience is defined, you will create a relevant advertisement using photos, videos, descriptions, and a specific call-to-action (CTA). Your CTA tells your audience what action you want them to take — whether that’s to “sign up” for a course, “learn more” about a program or to “purchase” a product or service.

Once your Facebook ad campaign is created, you will choose your advertising budget. There are no bidding wars here. You get to decide how much money you want to spend on your advertisement each day and for how many days. You don’t have to spend more than $5 per day if that’s what your marketing budget will allow. However, the more you spend, the greater your reach.

Once published, your Facebook ad will be shown to your target audience in various places on both Facebook and Instagram.

Choosing the Best Advertising Option for You

Facebook Ads allow you to choose your daily advertising budget without any competition raising the price. So for businesses with a small advertising budget, this option may be the most economical for you. Even spending just $35 for a week-long advertisement is going to increase your reach tremendously. Even more, if you are looking to increase brand awareness, advertising on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram will prove successful.

Google has an extremely large reach, and users often use Google search engine to find something they already intend on using or purchasing. So, if you have a specific keyword or phrase that you know your target audience often searches, such as “best pizza near me,” being at the top of the page is most beneficial.

When choosing to invest in paid advertising, the answer to the Google Ad vs. Facebook Ad debate comes down to optimise your marketing budget on each network to get the best return on investment (ROI).

Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads: Who Has the Best ROI?

Knowing your advertisement’s conversion rate is key when deciding whether or not it was effective and worth the money spent. Both Google Ads and Facebook Ads have tracking systems that allow you to see your reach, click-thru rate, and price per click. You will also find other helpful data like the days and times your advertisement was more effective.

So, who has the greatest ROI: Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads?

The answer to this question — as annoying as it may be — is it depends.

It depends on your business type, your target audience, your marketing goals, and your experience. Furthermore, it also depends on how you attribute sales to each channel and your customer journey across Ad networks.

Understand Your Customer Journey Across Multiple Ad Networks

While certain customers can only be reached through a particular channel, chances are most of your customers interact with your ads across multiple ad networks before they come to your website. Google and Facebook’s built-in tracking tools would tell you how your ads on their networks attribute to your revenue independently as if the other ad networks don’t exist and each of them would claim all the credits to the sales.

To understand your customer journey across channels and how each channel attributes to your revenue holistically, you’d need to use a third party attribution solution which has cross-channel Attribution, which consolidates siloed data from various channels to provide you a unified view of your customers’ conversion paths and attributes conversions to each of your touch-points using the attribution model of your choice.

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