Facebook vs. Google: Choosing Between Digital Advertising Giants

Facebook and Google. Can you think of two names more synonymous with success in the tech industry? At this point, these household names are known for less for their original offerings (i.e., a search engine and a social network) and more for their forays into pushing the technology envelope.

As a result, many marketers have begun to view them as competitive adversaries, especially in terms of their advertising capabilities. And while Google and Facebook’s advertising platforms certainly differ, comparing and contrasting them is helpful for those trying to make the difficult choice between these digital giants.

There are a lot of angles you can make this comparison from, but we’re going to take it from the cost effectiveness angle. Keep reading to learn whether you’ll see less expensive cost-per-click (CPC) and more powerful return-on-investment (ROI) from Facebook or Google.

Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck Facebook vs. Google

Google Adwords: Paid Search

Focused on the targeting of keywords and the use of text-based advertisements, Google Adwords is such a tried-and-true option that it’s often conflated with the industry-wide term PPC (pay-per-click). Adwords users bid on keywords (specific words and phrases) included in search queries entered by Google users, with their ads showing up for users when relevant phrases are searched.

Targeting by keywords essentially translates to targeting based on active interest. So, if someone is already interested in your product, service, or brand, you may be able to capture that interest with Google Adwords. On the other hand, if someone hasn’t shown that interest, Adwords likely won’t pique it. Accordingly, the purpose or primary goal of Adwords users is to find and hopefully convert potential customers that are already looking to buy what you’re selling.

CPC for Google is significantly higher than Facebook, though. Moz reports that one of its clients paid between $9.90 and $22.84 per click with Google Adwords. Whether this increased price is worth it depends on details such as your goals, your industry, and your audience.

Facebook Ads: Paid Social

While Google’s ads are served via its search engine, Facebook’s ads are found, naturally, on its social network. While this may seem obvious and potentially not worth mentioning, where the ads are served is foundational to the differences between the services. Those using search engines are typically actively searching for information, while those visiting a Facebook homepage are likely more interested in being entertained by friends, family, and curated content relevant to their interests.

With the “highest number of monthly active users (or MAUs) of any social network in the world” (WordStream), though, the sheer amount of audience members that can potentially be reached makes Facebook a must-try for most brands.

Clearly, Facebook realizes this as their audience targeting abilities set them apart from (and above of) Google in many ways. Allowing advertisers to target by interest, demography, and geography, Facebook ultimately serves ads to people based on who they are rather than what they’re searching for.

Ultimately, though, Facebook’s real advantage is its price point. Offering CPC rates that are typically much lower than Google, Facebook allows advertisers to reach a targeted audience for a reasonable price while also offering stellar performance. According to Neustar, paid social in general was considered more effective than search engine advertising when it came to less expensive impressions, clicks, and conversions in a 2014 study. (Moz)

Facebook: The Budget Friendly Winner

Facebook’s granular audience targeting coupled with the fact that it simply knows its users better than Google allows advertisers to reach exactly who they want to reach. An ideal choice for B2C, Facebook’s low prices and great ROI simply cannot be beaten.


Is This Really the Full Story?

Clear-cut answers are great – Facebook is cheaper; Facebook is the winner. We can all go home now, right?

The truth is, in an ideal, integrated world, you would be using both Facebook paid social and Google Adwords. A price point is certainly important, but integrated marketing strategy requires thinking deeper than both budget and vanity metrics such as impressions. When considering including tactics such as Facebook advertising and Google Adwords in your holistic marketing plans, the most important points to consider include your goals and your audience.

To prove that the Google vs. Facebook conversation should be bigger than budget, next week we’ll talk about situations in which Google Adwords is a more economical and strategically wise choice.


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Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Punch Above Your Weight: Why Digital Favors David, Not Goliath to discover how identifying your unfair advantage is key to operating above capacity.


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  • Adwait says:

    Really interesting analysis. If I have to choose between Facebook and google, I will go for google ads for sure. I think people use Facebook for more of the entertaining purpose and they go to google if they are in need of any service or products. So if you are a business, I think it makes more sense to opt for google ads instead of Facebook ads.

  • I agree with Adwait. Google is definately number 1 for me in regards to generating new clients. Facebook is great and not to be missed out but if you havnt quite got the content to back it up it is definately going to be more difficult to convert a visitor into a sale. Facebook is free to build your audience and if you have a lot of friends and family members to help you build your audience its no brainer. If your stating out in business the most important thing is aquistion so for that purpose I would definately recommend Google number one for paid ads for any start up business.

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