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Debate - Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads

by Oliver Brainerd


I believe it was Napoleon Bonaparte who said, “I’m a Pepsi man, and nobody can change my mind.” In French, obviously, but it was something like that.


And then Lord Nelson said, “Nope! Coke!”


The rest is, literally, history.


Or something like that. We might not be an authority on history, but we are an authority on digital marketing.


In the world of digital marketing today, there is a debate as classic as the age-old Pepsi versus Coca-Cola debate. And like that debate, there appear to be two opposing right answers, and we all know which hill we’ll die on.


Savvy digital marketers know that there is a third, and more powerful, answer: Pepsi and Coca-Cola are equally useful, depending on what kind of cocktail you’re making.


Which is, of course, a metaphor. In this metaphor, “cocktail” is a metaphor for marketing strategy or goals, and Coca-Cola and Pepsi represent Google Ads and Facebook Ads.


Whether Google Ads or Facebook Ads are better has less to do with Google or Facebook themselves, and instead the answer to the question “Which is better?” rests squarely on how you use them.


Google Ads Vs. Facebook Ads

Start with the most basic part of the basics, then we’ll touch on the differences between Google ads and Facebook ads.


Both Google ads and Facebook ads are the results of dedicating ad spend to amplify the visibility of your products or services to reach a large portion of people on the internet. In both cases, your ad spend reaches further than your organic connections by essentially buying access to the connections of the larger landscape owned by large entities–in this case, Google and Facebook. Putting advertising budget towards digital advertising is the digital equivalent of buying billboards. More people will see the face of your business.


Unlike a billboard, though, Google and Facebook ads have targeting tools. As consumers of internet advertising, it can sometimes feel like advertisers are just buying real estate and hoping for attention. However, the reality is that all the ads you ever see on Google and Facebook have been shown to you through meticulously designed audience targeting strategies.


One of the several common features between Google ads and Facebook ads is targeting tools. In a recent blog, we explored Facebook ad targeting options. Google has similar audience targeting tools. In terms of their targeting tools, Google ads and Facebook ads have similar powers of granularity, which is useful in building marketing strategies.


However, Google ads and Facebook ads have a lot of differences too. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. For your convenience, I’ve broken down a few.


Pros and Cons of Google Ads

google ad. Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads

In the ten thousand foot view, Google ads, on paper, have an order of magnitude for more sales potential. More often than not, we eschew website URLs in favor of simply Googling things, which means that most of us spend time in Google’s territory. Promoted links at the top of Google search listings are only one of several advantages of Google ads.


Pros of Google ads:
  • More possible ad space. Google’s ecosystem of apps includes more than Googling by itself. The ad space included in the Google ecosystem includes:
    • Google Searches
    • YouTube Ads
    • Google Shopping
    • Google Maps
  • Total of Google searches around six billion searches every day.
  • User activity. Often, activity on Google is already meant as part of some kind of shopping activity.


One of the biggest advantages of Google advertising is the ability to use search data. Unlike Facebook which relies solely on audiences, Google has a huge database of search data. You can target products and services specific to what people are Googling or reach people who have Googled certain phrases. For instance, if you are a plumber, you can reach people specifically searching for plumbing. If you are selling a cat scratch post, you can reach people specifically searching for that.


Cons of Google ads:
  • On average, they can be a little more expensive. In this case, though, expensive refers to an average cost per interaction–called PPC in the biz, or price per click. How much more expensive, if they’re more expensive at all, depends on the type of business you have and how you design your ad campaigns.
  • Slightly less robust audience targeting tools available.
  • Less dramatic design options. While there are instances of Google ads with pictures such as shopping or display ads, Google search ads are just the link to your website and a couple of sentences-worth of words.


On the other hand, people on Facebook are there with a different motivation. People on Facebook are there to, in a sense, hang out. The difference in intent has a different set of opportunities and disadvantages.


Pros of Facebook ads:

facebook ad

  • On average, slightly lower cost per click. It’s the old mall algorithm, though: when people hang out somewhere, they increase their odds of making purchases. So it requires less effort to make conversions on Facebook as long as the creative is killer.
  • Better targeting. Facebook audience targeting is a refined science with ever-growing degrees of refinement.
  • Ad design. Facebook ads have far more tools for making engaging ads, including pictures, videos, polls, and a zillion other audience engagement tricks.


Cons of Facebook ads:
  • Fewer marketplaces, in a sense. At this point in time, Facebook’s marketplaces (“only”) include everything owned by the Meta-verse.
    • Facebook and its market ecology–newsfeed, marketplace, etc.
    • Instagram
  • Buyer intent is different on Facebook. Depending on what business you’re in, the fact that people are mostly on Facebook to “hang out” could be an obstacle in your marketing strategy.


In terms of buyer behavior, it’s possible to compare Google and Facebook to Sam’s Club and the mall. When you go to Sam’s Club (Google), you go with definite intent for a specific product. When you go to the mall (Facebook), you go there to hang out, and if you find something cool to buy then you buy it. This isn’t universally applicable, but it’s a place to start when making a decision between Google ads vs. Facebook ads.


Google Search, Display, and Shopping Ads

In another blog, I went into Facebook advertising in some depth. In a bid to make a fair showing, I’ll do a quick analysis of some specifics of Google ads and how they work.


Broadly speaking, Google advertising falls into two categories, with a subset of one of those categories worth mentioning by itself.


Those two categories are Google search ads and Google display ads.

The term Google search ad refers to that thing where you type into the search bar something like, “marketing for dummies,” and the first few (usually three) results have a little tab (usually green) next to them that says “Ad.” I’m sure you’ve noticed it. That little tab denotes two things, one straightforward and the other of professional interest to us as digital marketing professionals.


The straightforward thing the little “Ad” tab communicates is that someone dedicated some of their advertising budget to promoting that link to appear in more search results.


The interesting detail to marketing professionals is that, when they did, they defined a keyword-based audience which included you.


What this means to you is that you can dedicate your advertising budget to making top Google search results too.


The term Google display ad refers to the advertisements appearing in banners, sidebars, etc., on websites other than Google. These websites lease real estate on their websites to Google, and Google in turn leases that space to anyone who wants to rent it.


Google display ads operate differently than Google search ads. Google display ads appear by passive interaction during the internet browsing of your potential audience. While Google display ads lack the specific strength of appearing as a result of your potential audience intentionally searching for terms related to your business, Google display ads are powered by all the same targeting tools.


Google search ads are more appropriate for speaking to search intent in your potential customers. That is to say, when people set out with an intent to find specific products or services. As opposed to the way that Google display ads lean harder on audience targeting tools.


A subset of Google search ads, one that borrows from some features of Google display ads, are Google shopping ads. These appear among search results when a given shopper searches for a product and looks at the shopping tab of the search results. Vendors and businesses have the ability to put ad spend towards turning their products into Google shopping results. Google shopping ads show an image of a product with a title and a price.


So, which should you use?

Google ads and Facebook ads are both valuable assets in any marketing toolbox. 

Where to focus your advertising budget will depend on your marketing needs and strategy. The type of business you operate, the types of products you sell, and your price points will all heavily impact this decision. When you get your marketing strategy solid and a lot of this stuff will fall into place. 


That’s where ARC Creative Co. can help. ARC Creative Co. provides both Facebook ads services and Google ads services and can help you determine which one might work best for you.  Schedule a call to chat about your options.


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