Which Is Better: Facebook Ads or Google AdWords (and Why You May Fail with Both)

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“Hi Gill. My updated website looks great, thank you. But I have no visitors. I was thinking about running some ads. Which is better, Facebook ads or Google AdWords?”

I had to answer this question multiple times this week, so I thought I put it into the post.

What should you do if your website isn’t getting any traffic?

Sure, content marketing is great, but you have neither money to pay someone to write you dozens of articles, nor time to do it yourself and then wait for a year for the SEO to work.

Indeed, the most quick solution to your traffic (and sales!) troubles are paid ads, most popular among them being Facebook ads and Google AdWords.

Below, I’ve described how Facebook ads and Google AdWords work, how they are different from each other, and what I think would be best for you to use (and why).

How Facebook ads work

Setup and targeting

With Facebook, you create a couple of ads (usually 3-5) that consist of text and visuals. Then, you target the people based on their interests – age, language, county, what pages they liked, what interests they specified, etc.

And get that: You can even upload an email list of your subscribers and, if they signed up for Facebook using the same email address, remind them of your course, webinar, or your newest book (what?!)

Once you start your campaign, your target audience will start seeing your ads in their feed.

One problem though: You don’t know what a person who’re looking at your ad in that moment wants right now.

Do they want to post their vacation photos? Stalk their ex? Read the news? Play a game?

In case of Facebook ads targeting, there is an indication that people may be interested in your product based on their profile and behavior data, but you have no idea what they are thinking right now.

Plus, Facebook is a social network, not an online store, and most of the people who hang out there treat it as such.

“I need new shoes. Let’s log into Facebook and see what they have to offer”, said no Facebook user ever.

Extensions

Facebook has powerful lead generation ads where your target audience can sign up for your webinar or your freebie without leaving their platform.

If your goal is to get more likes for your Facebook page or post, you can create the ads that allow people to do that right there on Facebook as well.

Costs per click

Fun fact: You won’t know how much a click on your ad will cost you before you’re knee-deep into creating your ads.

Ad optimization

Facebook show you the relevancy metrics for your ads, and you can A/B test them. But if none of them is working, it’s hard to see why it’s the case, because you only have a vague idea about the state of mind of people who saw it.

For example, two people from the same audience segment could have totally different state of minds, and your ad may work for one person and not work for another. But you’ll never know the difference, because they are all lumped together under “female, 25-45, married, liked Facebook group X”.

So, if it’s not profitable from the start, you don’t have much chances to optimize based on data but will have to try and guess again, so it’s kind of a gamble.

Also, if you decide to create a new ad, because you need a new visual, it will take you more time. If you’ve hired someone to do it for you, creating more Facebook ads can quickly become expensive.

Azriel Ratz
“Facebook ads are great for marketing to an existing audience, regardless of your business focus.”

Facebook is great for marketing to your existing audience – your email subscribers, Facebook page followers or people who engaged with your posts. If you already have an audience, then your success doesn’t depend on your business focus but only on the right strategy.

Marketing to people who’ve never heard of you is indeed harder, but still possible.

For example, if you sell a product for basketball players, you can target people who are interested in basketball.

Also, Facebook ads may work for you, if you’re a local business offering a generic service many people need (handyman, lawyer, accountant, etc.) where you can target people from your location.

Yet, it will be hard to make your Facebook ads work if you sell generic products or services where you can’t narrow down your audience to those who’ll be likely convinced to buy without multiple touch points.

Azriel Ratz, Marketing Consultant, Ratz Pack Media

To summarize, here are Facebook ads pros and cons

Pros:

  • Easy to create yourself
  • Extremely specific custom audience targeting
  • Visual ads, which can trigger a stronger emotional response than a text-only ad
  • Integrated lead generation ads*

Cons:

  • The specific intent of the target audience is unknown
  • Cost-per-click is not clear before creating the ads
  • Creating new ads takes time because of visuals
  • Little room for ad optimization

* – also there are strong reasons why landing pages may work better than Facebook lead ads.

How Google AdWords work

Google AdWords is a very different story.

Targeting

With Google AdWords, people see your ads not based on their general interests they may have specified ages ago, but based on the keywords they typed into Google this very moment.

Which means, if you target the keywords that indicate a strong buying intention or a strong interest in your offer, you’ll show your product to people who are much more likely to click and buy.

You can also target people based on their gender, age, location, etc.

Setup

The ads on AdWords don’t need any visuals (unless you are eCommerce, then see next section). You start with a keyword research to uncover the keywords you think indicate that there is a good chance a person will be interested in your product.

Then, you separate your keywords by intent into ad groups and create 2-3 ads (a title and a short description) for every group.

After you selected the keywords that should trigger your ad and wrote the ads, by default, Google starts showing those ads to people selecting randomly from ads that belong to one group.

Soon, you’ll see which ad among the ads that target the same keyword get more clicks and sales, so that at the end you can leave only the most effective ads running and get more conversions with fewer clicks.

Extensions

In most of the cases, people will have to navigate to your landing page to buy, sign up or get in touch. But AdWords has also some extensions to highlight important info (for ex., callout, reviews) or for people to get in touch with you with just one click right from the ad (for ex., call, click to text).

Google Shopping ads, a type of an ad you set up in AdWords and your Google Merchant account, allows you to add a visual of your product and place your ad separately from the text search results, like this:

Example: Google Shopping ad
An example of a Google Shopping ad.

Cost per click

In AdWords, you know an approximate price in advance, as it depends on the keyword you target. You can look it up anytime in Google’s Keyword Planner. You may even decide that it’s too expensive for you before you even write one line of text, saving yourself time and money.

Ad optimization

AdWords also show you a couple of metrics that indicate what their algorithm thinks about your ad and the landing page connected to it. If your metrics are low, there are particular strategies to optimize them (and pay less for a click).

One important thing to consider

For the first 1-2 weeks, an AdWords campaign is unlikely to be profitable.

This has to do with the fact that at first, even if you selected good keywords, the ads will get triggered by their “bad” variations that you didn’t anticipate.

For example, if your keyword was “X”, your ad will be triggered by “how to clean X”, but a person who clicks on it (probably, just for fun) already has X (as the keyword indicated), so they won’t buy it from you.

So, you would need to mark such keywords as negative to prevent it triggering the ads next time.

Plus, because you have many ads in the beginning, some of them would perform worse than the others. It’s hard to predict what ad will perform better in advance, and the only way is to create different ads and test them against each other.

But…

Once you get the initial amount of clicks and start seeing what ads perform better, you have a good chance to optimize your campaign: Leave only the super-targeted keywords that get you many people who buy, and run only ads that attract the right clicks.

Dan Charles
“You can benefit from AdWords quickly if you have a product or service that solves an existing problem”

If you offer a product or service that solves an existing problem, you can benefit from AdWords very quickly by matching your ad with the search query around that problem. For example:

Problem: “My business is losing money”.

Your service that solves it: “Expert financial advisers”.

Also, Google Shopping ads can be very powerful for small eCommerce stores that don’t rank in search organically.

The key to run a profitable AdWords campaign is knowing your target audience and why they’re looking for your solution, as well as understanding your own margins – the costs of delivering the service or product to assess whether running a campaign given the current pay-per-click cost will be profitable.

Dan Charles, Marketing Consultant, Be Fair Marketing

To summarize, here are Google AdWords pros and cons

Pros:

  • Exact knowledge about the intent of your potential customer in that very moment
  • Google Shopping Ads for eCommerce with possibility to include visuals of products
  • Ad extensions to highlight important info or to offer a one-click action
  • Clear strategies to optimize the ads
  • It’s fast to create more ads

Cons:

  • Text-only for non-eCommerce
  • Takes time to set up
  • Requires specific knowledge and skills (keyword research, copywriting, Google AdWords interface)
  • May require a larger investment in the beginning

And the million dollar question is… should you use Facebook ads or Google AdWords?

You probably think I’m going to leave you with “it depends, go figure it out for yourself”.

Well, it does depend, but I have a strong opinion on this one.

Even if your ads are set up by a skillful professional, they may still not work for you.

As cost per click is determined based on the highest bid, you may be unable to compete with the big spenders in your niche who have larger advertising budgets.

Or you may sell less tangible services with unclear scope or “return policy”, where even the best website won’t be able to get you a sale because you’ll need around 10 exposures for your prospects to take some kind of action (hello, copywriters and business consultant!).

Below is an overview of the cases when Facebook ads and Google AdWords may work better (or not).

Google AdWords

…can be highly effective, if you sell:

  • physical products people are already searching for
  • tangible services or services relevant for your location (handyman, lawyer, dog walking, etc.)
  • services that match an existing problem well (online self-study courses, Skype lessons, etc.)

…may be less effective, if you sell:

  • new physical products or services people haven’t heard of yet
  • high-investment or less tangible services that’s hard to sell without multiple touch points (copywriting, business consulting, web designers, etc.)

Facebook ads

…can be highly effective, if you want to:

  • get more likes for your page or post
  • get more sign-ups for your freebie or webinar
  • show your offer to your email subscribers or page followers (again)
  • market a product / service that’s generally relevant to people in a specific area (handyman, lawyer, dog walking, etc.)

…may be less effective, if you want to:

  • sell anything to strangers who never heard of you or your brand
  • sell a product / services that’s generally hard to sell without multiple touch points

Bottom line

Despite of both being “ads”, Facebook ads and Google AdWords are very different. Moreover, none of them guarantees you new sales and clients, even after you thought it through and carefully executed your campaigns.

But if your website is new or has no traffic, and you aren’t planing to write a lot of articles and wait for a year for the SEO to kick in, PPC campaign is your only choice to make the time and money you spent creating your website worth it.

Here are a couple of articles that will help if you want to run a campaign yourself or if you want to double-check that a person you hired to do it for you is doing a good job.

Facebook ads

Google AdWords

What’s your experience with paid advertising?

Have you ever tried Facebook ads or Google Adwords? How did it go? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

11 Comments

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  1. Nice article, Yeah I had experience with paid advertising both Facebook and Google AdWords. I have used Facebook ads for driving the traffic to my blog and lead generation for B2C and Google AdWord used for lead generation to B2B. When I was started Google AdWord to generate the B2B leads and I used to get false leads and it takes time to understand. I have got some good information in this article.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I know you were asked about Google vs Facebook, but I think it’s worth mentioning LinkedIn as well. At least for B2B promotion.
    Whole range of targeting options (industry, location, job title, keywords…)
    Images and video if you want them
    And if you have a good reason for people to engage (ie your freebie or webinar has some real value to your target audience), it’s a great starting place for those high investment less tangible services.

    1. Hi Bridget. I’m not a fan of LinkedIn ads, to be honest, especially after John Espirian ran them and reported about his disappointing experience. There were also many comments on his post from people they didn’t help them, either.

      I also can’t imagine them being effective, as people who’re on LinkedIn don’t come there with the intention to buy. Plus, many of them working in marketing and sales, will be even more irritated seeing an ad.

      Sure, if someone wants to try, they should go for it. It’s just not something I’d recommend.

  3. Hi Gill,
    thank you for your kind reply.

    Yes, indeed we are more a local service…also if here in Italy you can consider “local” almost all the country 🙂

    I will definitively follow your precious advices…and your blog!
    Thank you
    Dave

  4. “you may be unable to compete with the big spenders”

    Online advertising does look tempting.

    But if your competitor has a higher customer lifetime value than you have. And they get a higher conversion rate from their ads than you get. They can out bid you and dominate the ad buying market.

    This can make it difficult for smaller businesses to compete in any ad bidding war.

    My plan is simple.

    Read Gill Andrews blog and put her advice into action. That way you’ll get more of the people who do visit your site to buy from you.

    I look at a lot of websites for my job. Most of them would be better off if they read your advice and put that into action, before they did anything else.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Philip 🙂 You really make me blush there. And you’re totally right, not every small business can win the ad game, and even less so if their website is a mess. So, before considering ads, you should make sure your website has a higher chance of converting those clicks in to sales, or you’re likely to lose money.

  5. Hi Gill, very interesting article!
    By what you advice here, it seems my product photography business would benefit more from Google Ads than FB ads. My prospects are mainly fashion/sportswear companies with 200 to 1000 articles to photograph per year. E-commerce managers (and sometimes also marketing managers) are the people I interact with, so…please do you confirm Adwords could be the choice for me? Thank you!

    1. Hi Dave. Glad you enjoyed the article.

      Re your question:

      Indeed, I think your business will benefit more from Google Ads. As far as I understand, you can only work with local businesses, right? If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to take advantage of local search and target phrases like “product photographer near me”, “product photographer ” or any other relevant keyword + “near me” / area.

      Thanks for reading and best of luck,

      Gill

      1. Agree with Gill. Google is the way to go. But if you haven’t done Google Ads before, there are some basic things you should get right when you set up your campaign:
        campaign type, keyword type, location targeting, negative keywords if you’re a local business.
        You might find some useful tips in this case study: https://nobullmarketing.com.au/adwords-case-study-tale-of-two-campaigns/
        Also if you search Wordstream and Tenscores they have lots of good blog content on getting more out of Google ads.
        Good luck!

        1. Hi there, Bridget. Of course. That’s why I included the Recommended Reading in the article with some links to the articles that should tell you about all these things, also a guide from WordStream.

          Thanks for the link. I’ll be sure to check it out.