Google Ads vs Facebook Ads: When to Use Each Ad Platform


Imagine you’re walking down the street and the sole of your much-loved sneaker finally separates. Your sock starts flapping in the wind.

“Now I need another pair of sneakers!” you exclaim, and a well-dressed man walks up with a pair in his hands. “These ones are 50% off,” he tells you.

That’s Google Ads.

Now imagine you’re walking down the street and the sole of your much-loved sneaker is almost separated. You’re concerned, but keep walking.

A man, noticing your rapidly-deteriorating footwear, walks up with a pair of sneakers in his hands. “Hey friend!” he exclaims. “You look like you might need a new pair of sneakers. These ones are 50% off!.”

That’s Facebook Ads.

Because the Google Adman approached you when you were in clear need, you’d be more likely to buy from him. But perhaps he’d have to pay a bit more to be on that street in the first place.

Because the Facebook Adman approached you when you weren’t 100% thinking about buying a replacement pair of sneakers, you’re less likely to buy. So perhaps he wouldn’t have to pay so much.

That’s the difference between Google and Facebook: the first platform puts your business in front of people looking for your solution. The second puts your business in front of people likely to be looking for your solution at some point.

Both platforms are awesome, massive, and (when we follow your sales funnel all the way down to the “customer” stage) there’s really not much difference in terms of cost.

So, in the real world, when should your business advertise on Google, and when on Facebook?

This article will break it down.

When should you advertise on Google?

This section covers the three primary reasons to advertise on Google based on three business objectives:

  1. Driving direct sales
  2. Standing out from competitors
  3. Retargeting

Advertise on Google When You Want to Drive Direct Sales

Advertising boots on Facebook is a challenge, because nobody’s looking to the platform to provide them with new boots.

On Google, however, that’s exactly why someone might be there.

So you should be there for them.

For instance, when I type “buy men’s leather boots” into Google, the first page explodes with ads. My search is high-intent (as if my shoe just broke on the sidewalk), and if you sell boots, your business should be there.

Take a look:

Google Advertising Best Practices for Driving Direct Sales:

  • Show your product in the best possible light. Use high-quality images.
  • Show your best-selling product for generic searches.
  • Add ratings/reviews to your display ads (see how the “Free People UK” ad stands out, above?)
  • Use copy which makes your ad stand out: “handcrafted,” “unique style,” “authentic.”
  • If you’re running a promotion, change your ads to reflect the discount you’re offering.
  • Create individual ads for every product: “men’s leather boots” should have a different ad than “men’s boots” or “men’s shoes.”

Advertise on Google When You Want to Compete

It’s likely that your competitors aren’t paying to show up on Google search results for their own brand name – especially as they’lll already own top spot organically.

As a result, there’s an opportunity for you to show up when someone searches for them.

See how Greenrope and Ontraport are bidding to show in the top spot for the search term “Hubspot.”:

Google Advertising Best Practices for Competing:

  • Identify and feature your unique selling point in relation to the competitor you’re bidding for. Ontraport, above, chose pricing.
  • Link to a comparison landing page to educate people about how and where your platform or product is superior to your competitor.
  • Use their brand name in your ad headline before your own. People are searching for your competitor, using their name will catch the eye.

Advertise on Google When You Want to Retarget Lost Visitors

Retargeting, or (remarketing, as it’s called by Google) is an incredibly useful form of advertising, given that it targets only people who you know are interested in your business.

You know that, because retargeting ads are only shown to people who visited your website and left.

Remember, the point of retargeting isn’t to drive a sale there and then. Instead, it’s to keep you top-of-mind as people shop around.

My recommendation for remarketing is actually YouTube.

Yes, it’s more costly and time-consuming to create a great video ad, but YouTube ends up being cheaper and you get a lot more time with your prospective customers.

Here’s a remarketing YouTube ad we’re running for our bounced website visitors right now, giving a general breakdown of Wishpond’s software, showing before a video from Late Night with Seth Meyers.

Google Advertising Best Practices for Remarketing:

  • Google only charges you for ads that people watch for 30 seconds (or when they click on something). Consider making an ad 29 seconds long.
  • Focus 50% of your time on the first 5 seconds of your video, and 50% on the last 25 seconds. You want people to watch all of the video.
  • Even if you’re not seeing direct sales from your remarketing ads, remember the point of them is to increase brand recall. Show them, for a month, to everyone who viewed a product or pricing page and then bounced. Turn them off and see if your sales, *inexplicably,* go down. (I bet they will!).

Advertise on Facebook when…

Because Facebook users aren’t on the platform looking to engage with a brand or buy, they’re cheaper.

It also means the click-through-rate is significantly lower. But that’s okay. We can do something about that with the ridiculous targeting capabilities that Facebook gives us.

And, with Facebook ads, we’re not necessarily looking for click-through anyway.

This section will cover the three primary reasons to advertise on Facebook:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Generating leads
  • Promoting your sale

Advertise on Facebook When You Want to Increase Brand Awareness

If you’re just looking to put your brand in front of your target market, and get people talking about you, Facebook Ads are perfect.

For one, “per impression”(1000 views of your ad) bidding can cost as little as 50 cents.

Consider, as well, that Facebook’s ads are visual in nature. You can showcase the look of your boots, or software, or whatever, far more effectively than in a Google search ad.

And information which includes graphics or images is recalled 300% more than information without visuals.

So, when it comes to brand recall and brand awareness, Facebook Ads are where it’s at.

See below for a “Brand Awareness” Facebook ad example from Mevo camera:

The targeting here is fantastic, by the way. Consider that, in the past month, I’ve started to put together introductory videos for our blog content. I would love “A TV studio in my pocket.”

Facebook Advertising Best Practices for Brand Awareness:

  • Focus intensely on the audience you target (even more than normal). If you’re going to pay per impression, you want those “impressions” to be on people likely to buy from you.
  • Use the carousel ad format (see above). You get more square-footage of ad space, and can showcase more selling points.
  • Consider *not* bidding for impression. Try PPC, and then build an ad that doesn’t entice clicks. You may pay less for impressions.

Advertise on Facebook When You Want to Generate Leads

Facebook is a great “top of funnel” advertising platform.

People may not be intersted in buying directly from Facebook, but they may be inclined to enter a contest, download an ebook, or register for a webinar (top of funnel conversions).

Remember, though: If you’re going to use Facebook to generate leads, you need to have a strategy in place to turn those leads into customers. Otherwise you’re just throwing money down the drain.

Here’s the full breakdown of a Facebook Ad we ran for one of our clients promoting entry to a contest:

First, targeting:

Locations: Placement: Age: Detailed Targeting:
United States Desktop Feed
From 30 To 65 Interests Include:
Compression garment
or Compression stockings

AND Job Title includes:
Charge Nurse
or Nurse Manager
or Nurse anesthetist
or Student Nurse

And here’s the Facebook Ad:

And here are the results:

For this ad campaign, our client spent 31 cents per contest entrant: $57.72 total.

They ran four campaigns like this one on Instagram and Facebook, driving 759 entrants.

Imagine if even 10% of the contest entrants decided to purchase a pair of Doc Miller’s compression socks ($20 retail) down the line. – That’s $1,460 profit.

Looking to run a Facebook ad campaign like this one? Wishpond’s managed account team can help set it up. Speak to a representative today to get your questions answered.

Now, you’re not going to get these results every time you run a Facebook Ad.

But, if your contest prize is good, your audience is well targeted, and your Facebook Ad effectively communicates the value of the prize, this isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Facebook Advertising Best Practices for Lead Generation:

  • Put the value of your offer (whether contest or gated content) front and center.
  • Imply urgency with an end-date or limited availability.
  • Keep your ad image simple
  • Create the best target audience you can, but don’t be afraid to tweak it. Iterating is the quickest and most reliable way to lower costs.

Advertise on Facebook When You Want to Promote a Sale

The Facebook newsfeed is a bit like Costco.

You go in there for one thing (like to see your cousin’s baby photos) and, sometimes, you come out with one of those flat carts full to the brim with things you didn’t know you needed.

I don’t go on Facebook to buy, but if I see something that looks desirable and that thing is discounted?

Who am I to argue with 60% off headphones?

Facebook Advertising Best Practices for Promoting a Sale:

  • Consider the carousel format, showing mutliple products and the prices (both before discount and after).
  • Use the “Shop Now” CTA. You’d be surprised by how effective the right CTA can be on final conversions.
  • Use the same design elements (color, language, etc) on your promotion landing page that you do on your ads. Consistency across the whole sales funnel is key.
  • Put the discount (percentage) or price in a contrasting color from the rest of the ad (see the bright yellow in the ad example above).

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this walkthrough makes the Google vs Facebook argument a bit clearer.

To recap:

Advertise on Google when you’re looking to…

  • Drive direct sales
  • Show when your competitors do
  • Retarget your website traffic

Advertise on Facebook when you’re looking to…

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Generate leads
  • Promote a sale or discount

Do you agree with my assessment? Or have you had success retargeting on Facebook? Or using Google ads to increase brand awareness? Get in touch in the comment section below!

Want a hand with Facebook or Google Ads?

Wishpond’s managed accounts team is comprised of funnel optimizers, ad specialists and marketing experts. Set up a time to talk about how we can grow your business, today.

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