Which ads are better: Google or Facebook?

Which ads are better: Google or Facebook?
Time to read: 10 minutes

Something that we get asked a lot by clients of Excite Media is which is better in the battle of the paid ads — Google or Facebook?

While I’d love to be able to give you instant answers, it’s not quite that simple. The answer is: it depends. But don’t worry — I’ll cover exactly what that means in this article.

Facebook Ads are usually better for:

Google Ads are usually better for:

If you can opt for both it’s usually ideal, for:

These of course are generally speaking — the specifics of your exact situation may mean one may outperform the other.

We’ll take a deeper look into which ads platform is best for different situations, goals and priorities within this article. But first, we’d better address the elephant in the room…

“But what if I already know what type of ads I want?” 🎯

Often when clients come to Excite Media for digital marketing services, they already have an idea in their mind of what ads platform they would like to focus their efforts on. But Facebook Ads (Meta Ads) and Google Ads are not created equal.

There are some big differences between Google Ads and Facebook Ads, and there’s a reason for that. Facebook Ads are great. Google Ads are great. But depending on your business, your audience, the type of product/service you sell, how much of an investment is, the customer journey timeline and a lot of other factors, one is always going to work better than the other for your goals.

(For the record, your goals themselves also impact which advertising channel is best).

We’ll cover what ads are usually best for each situation within this article, as a general rule of thumb (it’s always good to get an expert opinion, with all your specifics considered).

Before we delve into which ads are best for which scenarios, let’s look at the differences between them.

Same or different? 🤔

“But they’re all pretty much the same, aren’t they?”

Calling Google Ads and Facebook Ads the same to digital marketing strategists is like calling Holden and Ford the same to car enthusiasts; something that might rope you into a long conversation to hear about all the differences. But, we’ll keep it short & sweet for the ads comparisons.

Here’s what you need to know:

Facebook Ads Google Ads
Advertising focus Social-based, targets user interests and behaviour. Search-based, targets user intent.
Ad formats Image, video, carousel, lead form, and product catalogue ads. Text (search), display, video (YouTube), shopping ads.
Targeting capabilities Demographics, interests, behaviours. Keywords/search queries (Search). Topic-based placements (Display).
User intent More browsing/engagement oriented. Higher purchase intent.
Cost Often lower cost per click, varies by audience and by ad campaign type/goal. Generally higher, varies by keyword (search). Or for Google Display, can be very cheap.

Google Ads vs Facebook Ads 📈

Facebook Ads (Meta Ads) benefits

Detailed targeting options

Facebook Ads excel in their ability to target users based on detailed demographic information, interests, behaviours, and connections. This allows for highly customised audience targeting.

Visual appeal

Facebook Ads tend to be more visually engaging, with options for images, videos, and creative formats like carousels and stories. This can be more effective for brand awareness and engagement.

User engagement

Since Facebook is a social platform, ads can encourage social interactions such as likes, comments, and shares, which can boost the visibility of the ad.

Cost-effectiveness

Generally, Facebook Ads can be more cost-effective, especially for small businesses or those with a limited budget. The cost per click or impression can be lower compared to Google Ads. (This is with the exception of Google Display ads, which offer a very low daily spend option to get you good awareness. However, the Google Display ads are much more broad in their reach. For targeted ads that reach your intended audiences reliably, Facebook Ads are the most cost-effective).

Facebook Ads weaknesses

Google Ads benefits

It’s important to note that when we talk about Google Ads, we’re mostly talking about ‘Google Search’ ads. They’re the ads that show up at the top of search results in Google.

While Google Ads encompass Display, Search, Shopping, and Video ads, Search is the most popular for marketers, due to the intent of those searching on Google.

Intent-driven

Google Search Ads are displayed based on user search queries, meaning they are reaching people actively searching for specific products, services, or information. This can lead to higher conversion rates.

Wide reach

Google’s massive search network and Display Network have a vast reach, giving ads the potential to be seen by a large and diverse audience. Search lets you reach anyone searching relevant search queries. Display offers a very wide audience reach.

Variety of ad formats

Google offers a range of ad formats like search, display, shopping, and video ads, catering to different marketing needs and objectives. While Facebook also offers different ad formats (like video, carousel, single image, and shopping ads), the various formats on Google Ads display in different places. Google Shopping Ads display on your shopping results, video ads display on YouTube, Display ads show up across the internet overall while the user is browsing throughout the internet, and Search ads show up in search results.

Measurable performance

Google Ads provides comprehensive tools for tracking and measuring ad performance, including clicks, conversions, and ROI, allowing for data-driven decisions. Google Analytics and Google Ads connect to each other, making reporting easier and much deeper. While Facebook Ads also have measurable performance, you generally get fewer insights on Facebook, and advanced reporting can be harder to set up and report on fully.

Speed of visibility

Google Ads can provide immediate visibility and traffic, as ads can appear at the top of search results almost as soon as they are live. If you invest the right budget, they’ll show up for the relevant keywords you’re targeting for the searchers in the location you’re targeting.

Google Ads weaknesses

What platform should you advertise on? 🤷

Overall, a combined approach is best if you can manage it. To ensure you’re reaching all stages of the customer journey, spreading your marketing efforts across both Facebook and Google, both paid ads and organic is a good idea.

When it comes to digital marketing, having a comprehensive strategy is a good secret for success. So having eggs in multiple baskets is a good move — and the best way to keep the customer pipeline full and the sales flowing in the long run.

Which ads platform is best (if you can only choose one) 🧐

Facebook Ads are excellent for targeted, visually appealing campaigns that leverage social engagement, often at a lower cost. Google Ads, on the other hand, excel in capturing high-intent traffic, offering diverse ad formats and detailed performance tracking. The choice between the two often depends on a campaign’s specific goals and target audience.

So we’ve broken down the answers for Google Ads vs Facebook Ads: which is best, based on your goal.

  • Facebook Ads: Facebook excels in targeted awareness campaigns, leveraging its detailed user data to reach specific demographics. Facebook’s social nature also aids in increasing brand awareness through shares and interactions.
  • Google Ads: If you are able to do both, Google Display is also good for reaching a wide audience quickly. But Google Display tends to have the lowest click through rate of all the marketing channels, and the lowest conversion rate once on site — so keep this in mind. Google Video Ads (YouTube Ads) are also great for awareness, especially if you have a large target audience and a healthy budget.
  • The winner: Facebook Ads are best for awareness and reach (to quality audiences) if this is your priority.
  • Facebook Ads: More favourable for smaller budgets. You can start with a minimal spend and still reach a significant number of people, making it ideal for small businesses or startups.
  • Google Ads: Typically requires a higher ad spend to be effective, especially in competitive industries. If you’re after a super low budget (eg. $5 a day), however, Google Display offers your smallest daily spend to see results. It should be noted that the targeting of Google Display is much more broad, and usually has the lowest CTR and Conversion rates. It’s a great option for those who want the cheapest spend and only care about awareness and traffic.
  • The winner: Facebook Ads. This is most likely to get you results when your budget is lower (provided it’s not too low).
  • Facebook Ads: Offers creative and engaging ways to generate leads, such as lead ads that let users submit their information without leaving the platform. However, leads may be less immediate compared to Google search, depending on the intent level of the search.
  • Google Ads: Google Search is highly effective for lead generation, as ads target users actively searching for specific services or products. The intent-driven nature of Google Search Ads can result in higher-quality leads.
  • The winner: For passive lead-gen (e.g. a competition, exclusive pre-sale teaser lead gen campaign, a lead magnet or a very enticing offer), Facebook Ads are your winner. For leads without a strong ‘offer’ (e.g. get a quote for this service, book a chat with us to learn more, etc), Google Ads are best due to the searcher’s intent.
  • Facebook Ads: This can be effective for sales, especially with retargeting campaigns that focus on users who have previously shown interest in a product or service.
  • Google Ads: Strong for driving sales, particularly through Shopping Ads and Search Ads, as they target users with high purchase intent. Ideal for businesses with a clear sales funnel and specific products or services.
  • The winner: Google Ads Search campaigns are usually the overall winner when it comes to sales, but it’s definitely worth running conversion-focused campaigns on both Google Search and Facebook Ads to determine which is best for your audience and business type.
  • Facebook Ads: Offers visually appealing ad formats that are conducive to eCommerce, such as Carousel Ads. Facebook also allows you to set up a Facebook shop platform and Facebook Ads, but this gets quite advanced.
  • Google Ads: Very effective for eCommerce, especially with Shopping Ads that showcase products directly in search results, leading to higher click-through and conversion rates. Google Search is a high converter for intent-based searches: people searching something to buy it, right there and then.
  • The winner: Google Ads for eCommerce businesses. Google is best for customers ‘in market’ (ready to buy). Google Ads are great for quick purchase decisions.
  • Facebook Ads: While not as intent-driven as Google, Facebook’s detailed targeting options can also be effective for direct response campaigns with a strong offer (like an amazing deal, a lead magnet, or a very exciting product) — especially when combined with compelling visuals and calls to action.
  • Google Ads: Google Ads are great for direct response marketing, as it captures users at the moment they are searching for a solution or product. When customers search for something, like ‘Dentist in Brisbane’, ‘Pink running shoes’ or ‘Safety training courses’, they’re ready to purchase/sign up, right there and then. Google Ads lets you target them then and there based on these intent-based search phrases.
  • The winner: Google Search ads. With Google Search, you can specifically target the relevant ‘high intent’ searches people make when they’re ready to buy.
  • Facebook Ads: For high-value and aspirational purchases, the customer journey is longer. It takes time to consider a big purchase, and imagery, messaging and awareness is important. For high value and aspirational purchases, prospective customers often need several interactions over a long period of time to convert. But, if you stay in front of your target audience, and present the content and messages, they’ll remember you when the time comes to act.
  • Google Ads: Can be effective for high value sales, especially if the marketing goal is to convert the prospect into a lead to open discussions, or enter as a player for their consideration while they way options. Depending on the keyword cost per click, this can be expensive.
  • The winner: Facebook Ads for high-value and aspirational sales, due to the ability to use powerful imagery, video and messaging, and the targeting options which allow for passive advertising.

Grudge sales are what we call the things you don’t WANT to buy but have to — like when you have a flat tyre and need it fixed pronto.

  • Facebook Ads: Facebook Ads can be effective for low-cost items and grudge sales if you amp up your advertising for awareness; the idea here is to get enough brand recall that they remember your name when they go to buy.
  • Google Ads: Google Search Ads are great where there is low consideration involved and the customer is just looking for a fast solution. This includes low-cost items, as they don’t present much risk for the customer and generally don’t need a long customer journey of consideration. A customer searches for whatever they’re looking for, and you bid to show up. All things going well, they purchase then and there. Done.
  • The winner: Google Ads are best for both grudge sales and low-cost items. The potential customer is searching for a solution, and you show up when they do.

A piece of advice: keep your sales funnel full (for ongoing business, over fast wins) 🏃

It can be tempting for businesses to see they get more trackable conversions on Google Search Ads than on Facebook Ads (key word being trackable) to want to pull the pin on Facebook Ads. But it’s important to mention that for ongoing sales success, you need to keep your customer funnel full.

While Facebook Ads are often more of a slow burn and a slower path to conversion and Google Search Ads are more of an immediate result (targeting people when they’re ready to buy), keeping your Facebook Ads running will usually result in more sales over time — as you are keeping your sales pipeline constantly pull, bringing new eyes to your products, services and website and reaching people at all stages of the customer journey.

Audiences are key 🤝

It’s important to note that audiences are an important factor to consider when it comes to figuring out which advertising platform is best for you.

To make your decision, you’ll need to know:

Why do you need to know this?

Getting expert advice 🤗

This brings us to our last point: if you’d like to know which is best for your business, Google or Facebook, getting expert advice from a digital marketing specialist is highly recommended.

So many variables come into play when determining which is best. Sometimes all platforms need to be tested against each other to determine a winner. Other times, you’ll get a pretty good idea based on your specific business, industry, audience size, and marketing goals.

Experienced digital marketing specialists can help you discover the key pieces of information you need to make an informed decision; like the average Cost Per Click and average monthly search volume of the keywords you would look to target in Google Ads, or the size of your target audience on Facebook.

When in doubt, ask the experts. This is where we come in.

We love helping businesses reach their marketing goals and boost their success. We’d love to give you advice and create a strategy that drives your business forward.

Get in touch with us today to have a chat about how we can help.

Andrew Pitchford
AUTHOR

Andrew Pitchford

Director of Client Engagement
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