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Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads: Which is the Best Choice for Your Business?

Rebecca Bowden
Rebecca Bowden
Written by
Rebecca Bowden
May 09
May 9, 2021
Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads

Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) and Facebook Ads are the two gorillas of PPC advertising.

Both can be significant drivers for your business and many companies use both in congruence to maximize their reach. But, since time and money are limited, where do you start to get the most bang for your buck?

The two ad platforms have a lot of common ground, but there are a few significant differences that will determine which is the best fit for your business.

If you are new to pay-per-click advertising, it can be intimidating to get started. Both platforms pitch themselves as easy-to-use, but they offer robust targeting options and advanced features. In addition, it takes significant time and energy to truly become an expert on either platform.

Or maybe you're already an expert in PPC, but you have a client that wants to advertise everywhere. You need to let them know why you're choosing either Facebook or Google as their ideal platform. If this is the case, share our infographic with them to show them why one platform is a better fit for their business.

No matter if you're an expert or just getting started, in this guide, we'll discuss the key differences and important statistics between Google Ads and Facebook Ads.

We've also made it easy for you and outlined the key differences in the infographic below. Continue below for additional expert advice on choosing the right advertising platform for your business.

Infographic comparing advertising on Google or Facebook

Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads: What's the Difference?

First of all, what exactly are Google Ads and Facebook Ads? You've certainly seen them before when you jump on Facebook or search on Google! But how do they actually work?

Both are advertising platforms that operate on a pay-per-click basis. When you create an ad on either platform, you enter an auction in which you place a bid for how much you want to pay for ad space. Then you'll be charged a certain amount of money (more on that later) every time someone clicks one of your ads. Sounds simple, right?

Paid Search vs. Paid Social

This article will focus primarily on the differences between paid search vs. paid social.

Traditionally, Google Ads (AdWords) is paid search. Paid search means that you're paying to have your listing featured on a search engine result page (SERP). Here's an example of a paid search ad:

google search results page example

With paid search, your ad is placed based on target keywords, instead of targeting a specific audience interest. That said, you can (and should) adjust the settings of paid search campaign to target users based on location and other factors.

However, Google Ads offers more than paid search—you can advertise on:

  • Google Search

  • Youtube ads

  • Google Display Network

  • Google Shopping

  • Google Maps

  • Google Play

For the purpose of this article, I'm primarily referring to Google Search, however, I'll touch on Google's other advertising platforms too.

In contrast to paid search, Facebook Ads offers paid social advertising. In the wake of Facebook algorithm changes, it has become increasingly difficult for brands to get in front of potential customers organically.

This is where paid social comes into play. With Facebook Ads, you are paying to get in front of new customers on social networks, instead of reaching them organically.

As you probably know, Facebook isn't limited to just your Facebook newsfeed. A few of the Facebook ad placements you can advertise on include:

  • Facebook News Feed

  • Instagram Feed

  • Facebook Marketplace

  • Facebook Video Feeds

  • Facebook Right Column

  • Audience Network

  • Facebook Messenger

Here is an example of a paid ad on Facebook's newsfeed.

Facebook Ad Example

Now that we've covered the basics, let's jump into it: Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads.

Comparison #1: Audience Size

Both Google and Facebook have enormous reach—Google handles an estimated more than 5.8 billion searches every single day, while Facebook has an estimated 1.73 billion daily active users.

On Facebook, mobile advertising revenue makes up approximately 90%+ of advertising revenue.

That said, advertising on mobile certainly isn't an opportunity you should shy away from!

In all likelihood, your target audience is on both of these platforms, so you can't determine the right fit for your business on audience size alone.

Instead, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my target audience active on these networks?

  • Is my product search-oriented or social?

Even if Google has 5.8 billion searches a day, it won't help you if no one is actually searching for your specific product.

Are you releasing a new, innovative product? Have people heard of what you offer? In the answer is "no" then Facebook is often a better option to get the word out.

Difference #2: Cost & ROI

Cost is another important consideration. The average CPC on Google Ads is $2.69, but this varies wildly by industry!

In paid search, eCommerce businesses can expect to pay about $1.16 per click, while businesses in the legal industry spend a whopping $6.75 on average per click.

Average Google Ads CPC by industry

Average Google Ads CPC by industry: Source

To put the wide variation into perspective, the most expensive keyword on Google Ads is "insurance" with a top CPC of $54.91!

Facebook ads tend to be slightly cheaper per click than Google Ads. A business in the apparel industry might pay as little as $0.45 per click on Facebook. Finance and insurance is the most expensive type of business to advertise on Facebook too, but the average CPC is still only $3.77.

Average Facebook Ads CPC by industry

Average Facebook ads CPC by industry: Source

The average CPC varies not only by industry but by placement too. A study by Adespresso showed that Instagram feed ads were about double the cost of Facebook placements!

Although average CPC is typically more expensive on Google Ads, keep in mind that the people clicking your ads may be later in the buying cycle. Facebook is great for building awareness, although Google Ads can often be better at reaching users at the time of their purchase decision.

CPC is only half of the equation. Another benchmark to consider is CPA (Cost Per Action) to determine if you'll have a strong ROI on your campaigns.

Just like CPC, CPAs will vary by campaign. It's largely dependent on how well-targeted your ads are and if you are able to convert at a high rate.  Don't let what may seem to be a high average CPA scare you off from PPC.

Wordstream has compiled average CPA by industry to provide a good benchmark for your ad's performance.

The average cost per action (CPA) for Facebook ads across all industries is $18.68.

Average CPA for Facebook Ads

Average CPA for Facebook Ads: Source

Once again, Google Ads comes at a higher cost than Facebook. The average CPA in AdWords across all industries is $48.96 for search and $75.51 for display.

Average CPA for Google Search

Average CPA for Google Search: Source

Comparison #3: Buyer Intent

When it comes to buyer intent, Google Ads almost always beat out Facebook Ads. Consider what kind of business you have—do people tend to search for their product or service when they are ready to make a purchase?

For example, if a person's air conditioner breaks, they immediately start searching for a HVAC repair business. Search ads would place your business in front of a potential customer at the exact time that they need your service.

On the other hand, that person isn't going to remember that HVAC business they saw on Facebook three months ago. In this scenario, Google Ads would be a clear winner.

Facebook ads are also generally less effective at getting leads to convert quickly. People generally go to Facebook to relax and socialize, not to shop. However, this platform is still incredibly useful for building your audience. If you can create a sense of community on social media, people will be much more likely to buy when they need your service or product.

That said, if the objective of your campaign is to build brand awareness, rather than immediate conversions, then Facebook may be the best choice.

Comparison #4: Targeting Options

Both Google and Facebook Ads give you options for targeting (and retargeting) specific audiences. On both platforms, you can target by age, gender, location, and income level, among other things.

However, Facebook is the hands-down winner for advanced targeting options.

In addition to the targeting options mentioned above, Facebook allows you to create audiences based on a large list of interests and behaviors, thanks to the wealth of information they collect from their 2.6 billion monthly active users.

Want to target parents? Check. Want to target parents with children ages 5-7? Check. Want to target vegetarian parents with children ages 5-7 and a household income between $75k-99k? Check.

Facebook Ads Audience Targeting Example

You get the idea. With Facebook, you can be very specific with your audience. If your target audience is very niche, then Facebook Ads will be a great option for your business.

Facebook also offers a useful tool called lookalike audiences that lets you advertise to people who are similar to your existing audience. Facebook uses its existing data to match your target customers to similar users, which can be a very powerful option for advertisers.

Comparison #5: Ad Formats

What about ad formats? This goes back to the question: what's the objective of your campaign?

You've certainly got more creativity on Facebook, which makes it a much better platform for building brand awareness and customer loyalty.

If you use Google Ads, you have a small block of text to catch potential customers' eyes on the SERPs. You can use ad extensions for additional text and information, but overall your format is going to be limited to text in search ads.

On Facebook, however, you can add visual impact to your message by using image-based ads. Facebook also continues to roll out varying ad formats to avoid "ad fatigue". You can choose to use videos, images, carousel ads, and more to capture your audience's attention. If you are an eCommerce business, the visual component of Facebook should be a big consideration when choosing the platform right for you.

Which Platform Should You Choose?

So, which is better for your business - Google Ads or Facebook Ads? To decide, ask yourself a few key questions.

First, consider the campaign goals. Is focused on making more sales as quickly as possible? If so, Google Ads may be the better choice. If they're looking to expand brand recognition or reach a wider audience, on the other hand, Facebook Ads may be the better choice.

Next, take your client's industry into consideration. Both B2B and B2C businesses use Google Ads successfully. Facebook Ads often work better for B2C businesses, especially those selling less expensive items, since people are more likely to impulsively buy these products after being exposed to them a few times. However, even for B2B, there are going to be opportunities on Facebook Ads—especially for remarketing and lookalike audiences.

Your client's audience also affects which platform you should choose. Do people search for your client's business or service with the intent to buy? If so, Google will probably bring the best results. But if your client is trying to build their audience for a new product, Facebook will typically work better.

Consider which stage of the buyer's journey you're trying to target with PPC ads—AdWords is great for bottom-of-the-funnel prospects, while Facebook is usually best for attracting new top-of-the-funnel prospects.

Finally, consider your advertising budget and your level of technical skill. Do you have the money to invest in Google Ads, even if you're in a competitive industry? Do you have the ability to create (or outsource) strong image or video-based ads for Facebook? Discussing questions like this can help you sketch out a strategy that's realistic and actionable.

Tracking Your PPC Results

No matter which PPC platform you choose, tracking your ROI is critical. One way to automatically track your results is with our PPC dashboard template, which includes the following sections:

  • Cost

  • Conversions

  • Cost per conversion

  • Conversion rate

  • Impressions

  • Clicks

  • CTR (click-through-rate)

  • View-through-conversions

Measuring the success of PPC campaigns can be difficult, especially when the data is spread across several advertising platforms. With our PPC dashboard, you can consolidate and automatically pull each metric into a single view. If you're managing PPC ads for clients, you can also give them 24/7 access so they can track the effectiveness of their ad campaigns in real-time.

For more granular insights, flip over to the Facebook Ads Reporting Tool, Google Ads Reporting Tool, or any of the 15+ other PPC integrations to see detailed data on specific platforms.

The Takeaway

Google Ads and Facebook Ads are two excellent options for PPC advertising, and in many cases, the two platforms work best if used together.

Google Ads Marketing Report Example
Facebook Ads Marketing Report Example

If you advertise on both, make sure you're accurately tracking your campaign results so you know which channel is your top performer.

Do you have any questions about Google vs. Facebook ads?

Let us know in the comments below.

Rebecca Bowden
Rebecca Bowden
Written by
Rebecca Bowden

Rebecca is based in Fort Collins, CO. When she's not focused on marketing, you'll find her skiing or hiking in the Rockies.

Read more posts by Rebecca Bowden ›

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