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The Great Debate: Google AdWords or Facebook Ads?

With Google leading the Search Engine race with over 40,000 searches per second, and Facebook showing the social network arena who's the boss with 1.13 billion daily active users, Google AdWords and Facebook Ads are the obvious choices when it comes to finding the right place to spend your PPC campaigns.

But which is better? Which will deliver a better return on investment? After all, these two advertising platforms are obviously competitors, right?


Can't we all just get along?

For years now, the Facebook vs. Google rivalry was hyped up, creating the mindset that the two platforms were in direct competition with one another for your time, efforts, and advertising dollars. So, if you've been thinking that you have to make the difficult decision about who met your needs more appropriately, Google or Facebook, you are not alone. We've talked to many, many businesses having the same internal debate — and it can be very confusing when you don't live and breath digital.

The truth is, that while Google Adwords and Facebook Ads may often be positioned as bitter rivals, they can actually work in concert to help your brand increase digital leads, close deals, find new customers online, and garner maximum brand awareness. It's all about deploying different strategies that best align with each platform's unique functionalities and reach.

But before we get into the heavy details of how, when, and why we use each paid ad platform

Intro to Google AdWords

When people think PPC, they are hardwired to think Google AdWords. Makes sense, it is the most popular PPC advertising platform in the world. And even though other online advertising platforms (like Bing Ads) work in a very similar way, when people say "paid search," they are probably talking about Google AdWords.

So, you already know that Google AdWords is what we call paid search, but what does that mean? In the most basic sense, paid search targets keywords and uses text-based advertisements that look like every other search result to garner attention, gain reach, and get you those coveted clicks to your website. As an advertiser, you will bid on the words and phrases that Google users are searching for in your industry, to get your ads displayed in the results for those queries. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you are charged a pre-determined bid amount, hence "pay-per-click."

In the end, paid search is all about helping you find new customers based on what they are already looking for.

Intro to Facebook Ads

In comparison, Facebook Ads is paid social, which is vastly different than Google AdWords' paid search approach. Yes, you are using Facebook to promote your business on the internet, but that's where the likeness ends.

Rather than bidding on specific keywords and phrases, Facebook Ads shifts the focus to the interests and demographics of your potential customers. As an advertiser, you will create target audiences, which can get very specific with the ability to put your ads in front of people based on their online behaviours, their interests, and their demographics, for example.

So, while paid search helps you find new customers, paid social helps new customers find you.

But, when do we use each platform?

Keeping the above in mind, there are a few things we have to keep in mind, some obvious, and some a little trickier. When we're working on an advertising campaign for any client here at Hughes & Co., we have to justify our decision to the client. Does one advertising platform deserve more of our time and their money? Should we focus on just one, or a combination of the two?

What are your campaign objectives?

Before we embark on any campaign, we always establish a driving purpose. This, of course, goes beyond advertising spend. Every move we make for our client campaigns is carefully calculated, based entirely in data and research with our focus on a specific goal.

In terms of ad spend and strategy, that goal may be building brand awareness, driving engagement, generating leads, or increasing sales and revenue. Whatever that goal is will establish the best advertising platform.

Facebook Ads offers a number of pre-existing campaign objectives, and is built to optimize ads to meet those goals, giving it the lead in terms of versatility. We especially love using Facebook to improve brand awareness, drive engagement, promote events.

On the other hand, Google AdWords is our go-to platform when we are looking to increase sales, acquire net new leads, and increase revenue quickly.

How specific are we getting?

Consider how you use Google to find what you are looking for. You already have a particular question or problem in mind, and you want a specific answer. Now. By the time people are searching Google, they are already in the consideration or decision-making stage of their buying journey and are actively looking for the solution to their problem, likely falling into that MOFU stage of the sales funnel. It's not your job to tell them they have a problem, they already know. They want you to tell them the answer.

This puts Google AdWords at the top of the list when it comes to selling a particular product or service. Because of the format of Google AdWords, you can make sure (by bidding intelligently) that you are at the top of the pack when people search those keywords, phrases and pain points associated with our solution.

On Facebook, however, people are going to be seeking for a solution. They aren't going to their social media news feeds with the intention of making a purchase. We are putting ads out to a very targeted audience to encourage them to make purchases, follow your brand, or attend your event — but they might not have even known they were looking for you when they find you.

What is your budget?

It always comes down to money — this isn't a surprise — and these two platforms definitely play to different budgets. So, to decide between Facebook Ads vs Google AdWords, there are two things to think about: Cost per Click (CPC) and Cost per Acquisition (CPA).

Facebook Ads almost always has a lower CPC than AdWords — to the tune of $0.28 vs $2.32. I know exactly what you're thinking, "Why would we spend almost 10 times as much on Google AdWords?! Are you crazy?!" But hear me out.

Don't forget about acquisition. Yes, the CPC for Facebook Ads feels comfy at 10 times less, but Google AdWords sees an average conversion rate that is 15 times higher than Facebook. Remember when we talked about how people use Google? Since people are looking for specific services, products, and solutions, when they see what they want, not only are they clicking, but they're converting much more regularly. So yes, you are paying less when it comes to CPC on Facebook, you may end up paying more overall to close those deals. So, it's important that we always carefully monitor both the CPC and CPA on both platforms to decide where you'll get more bang for your buck.


With all this dancing around your head, you're probably thinking, "Ok, so back to the original question: Google AdWords or Facebook Ads?" And I'm going to leave you with this: Clearly, the answer just isn't clear. It changes from business to business, and strategy to strategy. There really isn't a winner in the battle of advertising platforms. But, careful analysis of your campaign will shine a light on where your money is best spent and it's up to your digital agency to show you the best solution for you.

Carly Snider

AUTHOR: Carly Snider

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