Pay Per Click

Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords: Which Service Should I Use?

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Lots of eyeballs.

What’s the quickest way to get lots of targeted eyeballs these days?

Answer: Google AdWords and Facebook Ads.

In a matter of minutes, you can get an advertisement in front of the right people and instantly stir up business with either advertising service. The issue, of course, is that both can be expensive and deliver undesirable results.


Businesses tend to set up their campaign incorrectly with the wrong goals in mind, end up failing, and inevitably blame the platform.

In fact, it’s not the company’s fault, but rather that the business is not a good fit or has used the platforms to achieve the wrong goals.

Before you decide to use Facebook Ads and Google AdWords, it’s best to know which situations each platform is best used for, and how using these services will help you achieve your goals.

Awareness or Conversion?

If you’re a business that is wanting promotion and to expand a customer base, then Facebook Ads is the right medium. The effectiveness of the platform will vary depending on which type of business you’re running.

If you run an online store that sells products, you can expect higher conversions when using Facebook Ads. If your business offers a service, Facebook Ads are more effective for gaining awareness.

In September 2016, Facebook announced the platform has 4 million advertisers, dominated by mobile advertising. Yep, mobile – keep that in mind ;).

So how can your business use Facebook Ads to achieve your promotional goals?

Record Factory

Source: Record Factory

Music company Record Factory offers training programs to help people become music producers. However, people were not aware they could access this training. So Record Factory turned to Facebook. It used photo ads, carousel ads and link ads to promote its courses and events.

record factory in action

The ads featured people using its recording equipment, information about free seminars, open house and music events. The company spent 85% of its marketing budget on Facebook Ads, which resulted in 269 new students in 12 months, a 10 times increase in sales after 3.5 years, and a 15 times increase in profits after 3.5 years.

Record Factory’s success can help businesses know what is needed when trying to promote their business through Facebook Ads:

  • Aim to raise awareness: Facebook Ads are passive. They are displayed when the customer isn’t specifically looking for a product or service. Businesses should aim to raise awareness of their company through Facebook Ads.
  • Make sure your ad is visual: this will mean the ad is treated favorably with Facebook’s algorithm and is also more likely to be memorable.
  • Include a USP: the potential customer wasn’t looking for your business, but now the ad is in their timeline. Make sure your ad includes a USP – that is, why should the viewer click an ad to see your website, and not go to a competitors website?
  • It’s relevant: Facebook ads now includes a free feature which rates your ads and gives businesses a relevance score. This ranks how relevant your ad image, ad copy and destination page is to your audience. A higher score means your ad will be treated more favorably with Facebook.
  • Include a call to action: this will be something to entice the viewer to click your ad. “Save 20%”, “Offer ends soon” “Buy one, get one free” are some slogans businesses can use to encourage people to click their ads. For example, Nordstrom was able to mention free shipping and free returns on their visual Facebook Ad.

Nordstrom Ad

Source: Ryan Shaw

These tips will ensure you will successfully be able to use Facebook Ads for the promotion of your business.

Targeting a specific audience

Facebook gains so much data from its users – name, age, geographic location, to name a few. Businesses can use these demographics to target their products or services to the right audience.

There are numerous ways targeting can be beneficial for a business. If you are promoting an event, you can target the friends of people who have registered, and are therefore more likely to be interested in attending.

You can also create a custom audience. This is an audience that has the same interests and likes as your existing customers. Simply upload a customer list to Facebook, and Facebook matches the email addresses with the email addresses of users within the website. Of course, not all email addresses will match, and you can expect an average of 30-35% to match.

There are several ways you can use Facebook Ads to target audiences in order to achieve your goals, including:

  • Create a Facebook Ad for existing customers on your email list but who hasn’t liked your Facebook page. The success rate will be higher as the customer is already familiar with the brand.
  • Segment your email list by what purchases customers have made from your store. This way you can advertise similar products or services to what they have already purchased.
  • Create lookalike audiences. Facebook will generate an audience that is similar to your custom audience. This is useful for businesses with a small customer list, as it allows you to expand by targeting similar audiences.

Seoul Store, an online shopping mall, used Facebook Ads to raise brand awareness and drive sales. They had a specific goal – to raise brand awareness in its main target demographic: females in their 20s to 30s. They used Lookalike Audiences to reach people who were similar to its existing customers, and excluded people who had already visited the website from the group.

Seoul Store’s campaign has been ongoing since July 2016. It has achieved a 4 times return on ad spend, 3 times increase in searches and 50% decrease in cost per action. As a result of being able to target the right audience, Seoul Store was able to achieve its awareness and sales goals.



Unlike Facebook Ads, AdWords works effectively because people are searching for something they need then and there. Businesses don’t have to try and raise awareness to promote their product or service.

For example, if you need a plumber, chances are you’re going to use Google to find one in your area, rather than hope an ad appears for one on your Facebook timeline. This platform works well for services. This is because the customer is searching for the business, rather than the business reaching out to the potential customer. That means it is more likely to result in a conversion than using passive advertising.

A conversion is any meaningful action completed by a visitor on your website. This could be anything from downloading a document, to subscribing to your business’ emails. Businesses need to ensure they define what they consider to be a ‘meaningful action’ in order to be able to track conversions.

Tracking conversions is vital to any successful AdWords campaign. You need to track conversions in order to find out:

  • What is and is not working within the campaign
  • How you can improve performance or alter your campaign to gain more customers
  • How you can save money and improve your ROI

Businesses can track conversions to tweak their campaigns, continue to increase conversions and accomplish their overall goals.

Family owned store Jerome’s Furniture was able to use AdWords to dramatically increase its conversions and sales. While the business had been using AdWords since 2000, Jerome’s Furniture added AdWords store visits to its overall measurements in 2015. Because of this, Jerome’s Furniture saw a 44% decrease in its cost-per-acquisition, as each AdWords click led to more sales. As a result of this success, the company increased its investment in mobile search, which caused a 93% increase in sales. Jerome’s Furniture was also able to open two more storefronts to keep up with demand.

If your business is wanting a cost effective way to see an increase in conversions, then it’s worth considering running an AdWords campaign.

Driving relevant traffic

Google Adword Chart

Source: Google AdWords

While an ad doesn’t always lead to a conversion, AdWords does help to drive relevant traffic to a landing page. However, it is important to ensure you are driving relevant traffic in order to keep your campaign cost efficient and profitable. AdWords is a pay-per-click platform, so you will end up paying even if there is no sale. This is why it is important to ensure you correctly target and track your AdWords campaign.

Using tracking means you can have a very cost effective campaign. With AdWords, you only pay when someone clicks your ad, and you can determine exactly how much you want to spend. However, this means it’s important to monitor your statistics. There are a few metrics that are important to measure, including:

  • Click-through rate: this is a key metric to measure. This is because it determines your Quality Score and lets you know if your ads are appealing to potential customers. As the name suggests, this metric measures how often people click on your ad. Remove or modify ads with a low click-through rate.
  • Quality Score: each of your keywords will be assigned a Quality Score. This is used to determine your ad ranking and how much you pay. It measures how relevant your keywords, landing page and ads are to the people viewing your ad. If you have a low Quality Score it means you will need to alter your campaign or keywords.
  • Conversion Rate: this will tell you how many times someone has clicked on your ad and it has resulted in a conversion. This can be calculated by dividing the total number of conversions by the number of ad clicks within the same timeframe.
  • Keywords: businesses should regularly monitor their keywords to ensure they are spending money on the correct keywords. You want to ensure you are using the correct keywords to describe your product or service.

You can use tools such as Google Analytics to measure your metrics and ensure your AdWords campaign is on track.

Travel company Trivago was able to use AdWords to successfully increase its click-through rate and drive traffic to the website. The company had been using AdWords since 2009, but recently decided to tweak its strategy.

In 2015, Trivago investigated whether its original marketing campaign overlooked long-tail search queries. The company knew to increase conversions and traffic, its long-tail search queries needed relevant ads.

Trivago created a Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) campaign, which expanded the company’s reach. DSA scanned Trivago’s website and identified category targets, which meant the ads were optimized for the right target audience. Using DSA meant Trivago didn’t need to manage individual keywords or ads, and as such were able to launch DSA campaigns in more than 50 markets within a week. This resulted in Trivago gaining a 140% higher click-through rate on ads from its DSA campaign, when compared to its regular search ads. There was a significant increase in conversions, as well as a drop in cost-per-acquisition.

Which one works best?


That’s a personal decision. But here’s what one PPC user experienced when he used both Google Adwords and Facebook ads to promote his own product:

When we launched our product globally we decided to run campaigns on both Google and Facebook. I put equal amount of money on Google Adwords and Facebook for CPC campaigns.

Our product, Shufflr, requires users to download the app and then register.

Overall CPC campaigns on Facebook were more effective and gave a better ROI than Google. There are probably a couple of reasons for that:

On Facebook I could target users by their place of work. For Shufflr we targeted users from technology companies like Google, Amazon, Oracle, Cisco, etc. Probably these users understood the value proposition of Shufflr much better, which led to more registrations.

Shufflr requires users to download Adobe Air. With Facebook I could target users who had shown “interest” in Tweetdeck, which meant they probably already had Adobe Air installed.

We have a Shufflr page on Facebook, which had approx 850 fans. With Facebook I could target friends of people who were already fans of Shufflr. When the friends of people who are already fans of Shufflr page see the ad it shows them below the ad “X likes Shufflr”. This probably lead to better click-thru rate.

The combination of Facebook page “Like” button and the Facebook CPC campaigns delivers better targeting and hence improved CTR’s. So using real-time data on consumers clicking on the “Like” button on the CTR’s for campaigns, Facebook does a much superior job of optimization than Google.

It’s important to keep in mind that Facebook is changing. With new algorithm updates, it’s harder to get the same reach that was available in the past. But if you’re willing to invest by buying ads and/or promoting posts, you may still be able to get noticed by your best customers.

Every industry is different

There’s not a specific situation where one platform is better over the other. It is important for businesses to analyze their options and know their goals before embarking on a campaign with either Facebook Ads or Google AdWords. Once you have outlined your goals and started your campaign, make sure to always measure and track your campaigns in order to ensure it is still accurate, targeting the correct audience and cost effective.

About the Author: Ben Maden founded digital marketing agency Matter Solutions in 2000 and is currently the Director. As well as blogging, Ben Maden works with clients to plan projects, manages projects and coaches team members.

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