Digital advertising is more accessible than ever, with low costs and easy set up. It means that almost any business can take advantage of online advertising, regardless of size or experience.
Google Ads and Facebook Ads are two of the biggest Pay Per Click (PPC) ad platforms currently available. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and each one will reach a different kind of audience, target different parts of the customer journey, and incite varying responses.
So, which is the better option for your business?
Cost and Return on Investment (ROI)
When compared to traditional advertising media such as print and TV adverts, all digital advertising is cheap. Instead of paying thousands of pounds for one advert in a newspaper that may be hidden amongst dozens of others, you can instead spend a few hundred pounds on highly targeted audiences.
But is Facebook or Google cheaper?
It really depends on what you’re measuring, your industry, and what kinds of ads you’re running.
In general, Facebook is considered to be the cheaper option, especially when you look at Cost Per Click. However, you need to consider what those users are doing once they’ve interacted with your ad. Do they need to be served adverts more times before they buy? Are they converting once they land on your site?
In general, users clicking on a Google advert are further along the customer journey than those clicking on a Facebook advert. So even though the CPC may be higher, they may require less encouragement (i.e. fewer ads and a smaller portion of your budget) in order to buy from you.
Also consider the industry you’re in, as cost will vary depending on this. In a 2020 study, the Food & Beverages industry had the lowest CPC on Facebook. In 2022, a similar study for Google found that E-Commerce was cheapest.
Ultimately, there is no right answer to this one, but you can be more-or-less sure of good value when adverts are set up well on either platform.
Ease of use
If you’re a beginner or basic user of online advertising platforms, then ease of use is important. No one – even the experts – wants a complex set-up in order to run the most simple of ads.
To get the best out of either platform, you will need to know the basics, so there will be a learning curve either way. Both also offer simplified set-ups that allow you to quickly run ads without too much effort.
However, if you want to gain more from your ads set-up, most will find Google’s interface easiest to work through. Facebook’s range of options can be a huge advantage, but can be detrimental to its ease of use.
Winner: Google Ads
Customer journey will be one of the big factors that affects which platform is better for your business. So, before setting up, make sure you know who you want to target and why. Are you raising brand awareness? Do you want to capture an audience that is almost ready to buy?
On Facebook, users generally aren’t actively looking to buy. That means that the wrong kind of advert can be jarring and you may put potential customers off if you sell to them as if they’re already a warm lead. However, Facebook is an excellent platform for making a cold audience aware of your brand.
Over on Google, however, you’re generally targeting users who are searching for something specific. Users on this platform could be almost anywhere on the buyer’s journey, but the use of certain words and phrases indicates how likely they are to buy. You can target such phrases specifically, or Google’s machine learning can do the work for you. Either way, you can convert these warm leads into paying customers more quickly.
Winner: Facebook for brand awareness, Google for high purchase intent
If you’re looking for the biggest possible audience, then Google has it, with over 5.6 billion searches every day and more than a billion users. Comparatively, Facebook has almost 2 million daily active users worldwide, so it’s no small fry either.
For sheer volume, Google has the edge but, again, things aren’t so black and white. Facebook’s targeting options are much more comprehensive and you can really drill down into your ideal client, targeting by interests, location, behaviour, connections, and demographics. You can choose to target those who like your business page, or who like your competitor’s page, those who visit your website, contacts from your mailing list, lookalike audiences, and much more.
Google, while it has some audience targeting options, doesn’t go very deep. It focuses more on machine learning, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
Both platforms allow you to make use of remarketing and retargeting so you can follow up on potential leads.
Where you place a digital ad will affect how (and if) your target audience will interact with it. With Google, you can place ads on the search engine itself, or on one of its partners sites. Ads can show up above organic search results, in the sidebar, on YouTube videos, in Gmail, and across any number of other sites. Some high-profile Google Search Partners include Amazon and The Guardian.
Facebook has numerous places it serves ads within the platform, including within the feed, on the sidebar, and in Facebook Messenger. You can also advertise on its expanded Audience Network, a number of mobile apps where your adverts can be served to a wider audience.
So, although both have plenty of placement options, Google’s reach is much wider.
Facebook’s in-depth audience targeting is a definite advantage, especially if you have a clear idea of who you want to target. Yet Google makes it easier to catch leads that are already warm and have some intent to purchase.
If you can afford to advertise on both platforms, then that is ultimately going to be your best option. That way, you can take advantage of the benefits of both platforms, and plug the gaps where each falls short.
However, chances are that you’re reading this guide because you only have the time and/or budget to focus on one or the other. And I’m afraid the answer is: it depends. It depends on your advertising goal (brand awareness or conversions), your industry, and your understanding of the platforms.
In general, Google Ads will see the best results for the widest range of businesses, so I’d recommend, in most cases, starting there. You can run tests with Google Ads for a few months, then transfer your budget to Facebook and compare your results on each platform to find what works best for you.
If you’re ready to dive into Google Ads, don’t forget to read my beginners guides to Google Ads to get started and make the most of your budget.