Facebook advertising and Google AdWords can both be viable paid media options depending on your goals and the marketing budget your company has. If you want to read how both Facebook and Google AdWords (paid search) can benefit your paid media strategy by targeting the full funnel, check out my most recent blog on “How to Leverage Paid Media for the Entire Customer’s Journey.”
So why is there so much discussion around Facebook Advertising and Google AdWords in the paid media space? Simply put, the continual growth year after year cannot be ignored.
According to Forbes, Facebook saw a 50% increase in active advertisers from 2015-2016 and reached 3 million advertisers. In addition, Facebook accounts for 65% of total social network ad spend expected to reach $36 billion this year. Why such a significant growth? This is primarily due to the platform’s targeting capabilities, the growth of mobile, and the growth of engaged users.
Not to be entirely outdone, Google saw a 17% increase in revenues year over year, comparing 2014 to 2015 according to AdAge. Growth in revenues for AdWords are primarily attributed to the growth of mobile, shopping, and other ad formats.
So, when you must select one advertising channel over the other, which one should you choose? As a side note for this article, when I talk about Google AdWords I’ll be speaking primarily to their search product (so please keep this in mind).
There are several factors to consider when deciding which advertising channel is best for your organization.
Digital Advertising Budget & Average CPC
In most cases, the cost per click (CPC) will be significantly higher for Google AdWords than Facebook ads. Per AdEspresso, the average CPC for Facebook Ads in the US was $0.28 in Q3 of 2016. Conversely, Google AdWords search average CPC was $2.32 according to WordStream. Therefore, on average, Facebook ads were approximately 88% cheaper than AdWords in 2016. So if you have a very small monthly advertising budget (say $500-$1,000), it would be advantageous to run Facebook ads as it will allow you to “get more bang for your buck.”
Granted, clicks are not everything and there are rare occurrences where you can make AdWords work with smaller budgets. However, sometimes advertisers simply do not have large enough budgets to compete on AdWords and they could see much better results (both clicks and conversions) on more affordable channels, like Facebook.
Your Industry & Your Competition
A related point to the first is you should consider the industry of your business and your competition when trying to make the decision. There are certain industries or sub-industries that are crazy expensive from a CPC perspective. For example, if you are considering advertising any of these keywords on Google, and you do not have an insanely large budget, you might want to reconsider. I have firsthand experience working in higher education, finance, legal, and healthcare; all are extremely competitive within AdWords and therefore very difficult to be successful in. Again, I am not advocating not using AdWords, but setting the expectation that Facebook ads might be a more affordable alternative with extremely powerful targeting capabilities for many industries.
Defining Your Objective
Once you’ve determined what your organization can afford and you’ve considered the industry and the competition, you then should consider what you’re hoping to achieve from this marketing initiative. If your goal is increasing brand awareness or demand generation, Facebook ads would be your best bet. However, if you’re looking to generate sales or leads (i.e. demand capture), then AdWords might be a better bet. With AdWords, a user is searching for what your organization is selling. Therefore, their intent to purchase is generally much higher. But you’ll need to once again consider overall costs. In several cases, we have seen lower cost-per-conversions (i.e. cost per leads) from Facebook ads.
Stage in Buyer’s Journey
Understanding where the user is in the buyer’s journey will also help you decide which advertising channel to leverage. If you are looking to capture users in the moment of looking to purchase a product or service, Google AdWords would be your best bet due to the high level of intent from your audience. However, if you’re trying to bring more awareness or consideration to your offering, then Facebook ads can help you target those with a current or unknown need for your product or service. This is how both channels can complement and fuel the growth of your organization.
Product/Service Maturity & Overall Search Volume
This point is obvious and somewhat overlooked. If your organization has a new product or service and there is very little or no search volume, then Google AdWords (paid search) most likely will not generate a ton of traffic and therefore is unlikely to perform. Before you rule out AdWords completely in this scenario, you may consider bidding on a series of keywords which describes a problem that your product or service solves. My recommendation would be testing out bidding on what your product or service solves rather than a product or service that very few have been exposed to.
For instance, Tile, which is described as a “Bluetooth tracker,” was one of the first of its kind. Keywords such as “find your wallet,” “find your keys,” and “find your phone” could have generated significantly more search than “Bluetooth tracker” or even their own brand name.
In most cases, however, I would recommend starting out on Facebook ads to generate awareness of your products or services, explain what problem they solve, and develop brand recognition. Then, you’ll generate demand to set you up for more success when it comes to Google AdWords.
Demographic-sensitive Product or Service
Simply put, there may be certain instances when one advertising platform is a better fit than the other. If the purchase of your product or service strongly correlates based on specific life events, then Facebook is most likely your best option. Facebook has powerful targeting capabilities such as being able to target based on life-changing events. For instance, targeting those who have become recently engaged or married, those turning 65 (Medicare insurance), or those who recently had a new baby are examples of life events that can all be targeted with precision via Facebook ads and not as easily or effective through AdWords. On the other hand, a product or service offering that appeals to larger audiences might be better advertised on AdWords.
Not nearly as important as some other factors, but worth noting and loosely related to the point above. If you are a new company, you are most likely going to be less successful in search compared to a mature, established company in your industry. Why? In this scenario, your competitors have much more brand recognition and brand loyalists. When users see your ad (a company which they do not recognize) and your competitor’s ad (one they do recognize), they will most likely see much more success (i.e. higher click-through rate) in your competitor’s ad. Larry Kim at WordStream wrote a great article on this concept of brand affinity as it relates to search with great insights backed by data. Therefore, make sure you consider your company’s position in the marketplace. You may simply need to build up your brand reputation through Facebook ads and other channels to start, before moving into AdWords to increase your chances of success.
A Bonus Chart to Guide You
Below is a quick chart to help guide you in making the best decision for your organization between Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Although there are exceptions to the rule, if your situation steers more to one side or the other, that is the channel you should test first.
After reading through these points, you will notice that there is not a one-size-fits-all answer to whether you should use AdWords vs. Facebook. When trying to decide between Facebook Ads and Google AdWords for your organization, you need to first take a step back and understand what you are looking to achieve from your investment and your available marketing budget. These are really the two most important factors when considering which channel is best. The other factors are also important and should help support your decision on what is best for your company or brand.
Featured Image: Created by author
Screenshots by Joe Castro. Taken February 2017