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

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

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

The two platforms have a lot of common ground, but some significant differences that will determine which is the best fit for you business.

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

Or maybe you're already an expert in PPC, but you have a client that wants to be advertising everywhere. You need to let them know why you're choosing either Facebook or Google as their ideal platform. 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, keep reading to understand the key differences and 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.

google and facebook advertising infographic

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

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

Both are advertising platforms operate on a pay-per-click basis. When you create an ad on either platform, you enter an auction. You place a bid for how much you want to pay for that ad. 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 is paying to have your listing featured on a search engine result page (SERP). Here's an example of a paid search ad:

google ads example

An example of several AdWords ads at the top of Google's first page.

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

However, Google Ads offers more than paid search. Google's name switch from Adwords to Google Ads was to encompass their full range of advertising options. With Google Ads you can advertise on:

  • Google Search

  • Youtube

  • Google Display Network

  • Google Maps

  • Google Play

However, for the purpose of this article, I'm primarily comparing 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 (ie. for free!)

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

Facebook isn't limited to just your Facebook newsfeed. With Facebook Ads you can advertise on:

  • Facebook News Feed

  • Instagram

  • Audience Network

  • Facebook Messenger

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

facebook ad example

An example of an ad in Facebook's news feed.

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 more than 3.5 billion searches every single day, while Facebook has an estimated 1.45 billion daily active users.

On Facebook, mobile advertising revenue made up approximately 91% of advertising revenue for the first quarter of 2018.

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 user active on these networks?

  • Is my product search-oriented?

Even if Google has 3.5 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 a better option to get the word out.

Difference #2: Cost & ROI

Cost is another important consideration. The average CPC on AdWords 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.

adwords cpc

Average AdWords 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 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.

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 more expensive on Google Ads, keep in mind that the people clicking your Google Ads may be later in the buying cycle. Facebook is great for building awareness, but Google Ads is best to reach users at the time of purchasing decisions.

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.

CPA 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.

cost per action on facebook ads

Average CPA for Facebook Ads. Source

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

google ads cpa

Average CPA for Google Search. Source.

Comparison #3: Buyer Intent

When it comes to buying intent, AdWords beats 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 less effective for getting leads to convert quickly. People generally go to Facebook to relax and socialize, not to shop. However, this platform is still useful for building your audience. If you can create recognition and a sense of community around your brand on social media, people will be more likely to buy when they need your service or product.

If the objective of your campaign is to build brand awareness, rather than immediate conversions, then Facebook is going to be the best choice.

Comparison #4: Targeting Options

Both AdWords 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 billion monthly users.

Want to target parents? Check. Want to target parents of 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 targeting

You get the idea. With Facebook you can be very specific with your audience. If your target audiences 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 their existing data to match your customers to similar users.

Comparison #5: Ad Formats

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

You've got more creativity on Facebook for sure. This makes it a much better platform for building brand awareness and loyalty.

If you use AdWords, all you have is a short 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 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 your platform.

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 your goals. Are they focused on making more sales as quickly as possible? If so, AdWords 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 AdWords 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 retargeting or lookalike audiences.

Your client's audience also affects which platform you should choose. Do people search for your client's business or service with intent to buy? If so, AdWords will probably bring the best results. But if your client is trying to build their audience for a new product, Facebook will 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 best for pulling in new top-of-the-funnel prospects.

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

The Takeaway

Google Ads and Facebook Ads are two excellent options for PPC advertising. No matter which PPC platform you choose, make sure you track the results.

ppc dashboard with facebook ads and google ads

If you advertise on both, consider creating a PPC dashboard to compare performance for Facebook Ads and Google Ads side-by-side, so it's clear which channel is your top performer.

Written by Rebecca Bowden

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

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