The Ultimate Battle: Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads

Most businesses, both small and large, have a strong interest in attaining new customers, boosting sales and increasing leads. One of the most effective ways to accomplish those goals is to maximize visibility with online advertising. In the following post, we will face off the two biggest online marketing channels, Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads, and find out which one wins the battle as the supreme PPC (pay-per-click) advertising option for your business.

Google was the first search engine to incorporate PPC, cleverly taking advantage of its immense clientele base of individuals searching for information on their search engine. Advertising is a huge part of Google’s continued success and profitability, accounting for over 90% of its revenue in any given year.

Facebook, on the other hand, being a younger company and a different type of company, may not have as many active users as Google, but it most certainly has a lot of its users’ information. Facebook knows what we like, what we don’t like, where we live, who our friends are (and what they like), our relationship status, and many more details about each one of us that uses their social media platform. Facebook certainly knows a lot about its users, which is perfect for advertising products and/or services to those that would be most interested in them.

So the question is – where do I spend my advertising budget? Let’s compare these two online advertising giants side-by-side and see who comes out on top.

Round 1 | Reach

Google has an immense audience. It now handles 40,000 search queries every second! That translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. There’s no other search engine that even comes close to those numbers! Consider that every single one of those searches is someone looking for a product, a service, a photo, the answer to a question or some kind of information – so yes, the marketing potential is huge! In the United States alone, Google controls over 67.6% of the search market and through their Google Display Network, which is a collection of websites owned by Google (such as Google Finance, Gmail, Blogger, Youtube and many others), you can reach 92% of all Internet users in the U.S. That is beyond astonishing.

It is most certainly impossible to reach all Google users, but with the use of keywords in Google Adwords  (Google’s online advertising service) and SEO, targeting your audience becomes much easier.

Facebook has over 1.71 billion users worldwide, and 1.31 billion of those users visit Facebook on a daily basis. In 2012 alone, 1 in 5 page views in the United States occurred on Facebook – that is an extraordinary percentage! Furthermore, as I mentioned previously, Facebook has a lot of information about its users (geographical location, interests, likes, dislikes, and many more details) giving it a massive marketing advantage over Google.

Round 2 | Targeting


Here’s how you can target your ads on Google:

Keyword targeting is pretty straightforward and is available both on Google search itself, as well as on partner sites that use Adsense. Keyword targeting involves choosing words or phrases relevant to your product or service so that your ads appear when customers search those terms.

Location targeting allows you to make your ads visible on queries coming from certain geographical locations – such as a country, a region, a city, even a postcode or a congressional district – wherever your customers are located. For example, you can decide to display an ad only to users in the United States, Germany and Japan. You can also exclude certain areas. An example of this would be setting up a global ad and forcing it to exclude Asia entirely.

Language targeting allows you to include or exclude certain languages from queries. Each country or region will have their default language. In the United States, the default language is English, but you can choose to have Google Adwords include Spanish or French queries, or any other language – whatever language most of your customers speak. An example would be, say you’re living in Italy (making the default search language Italian), but you’re only trying to target Americans living in Italy. You could then assign Italy as the location, but use English as your query language, while excluding Italian.

With device targeting you can limit your ads to only appear on certain devices – PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets, or a combination of any of them. You can also specify which devices to display ads on based on the location and time of day. For example, you can decide to target ads at PCs on weekdays during normal working hours, and smartphones and tablets during weekends and weekday evenings.

Audience targeting allows you to determine who to show your ads, with several options to choose from. One option is to target people that have visited your site before, thus creating a remarketing campaign. Another option is to target affinity audiences, which are users that have shown an interest in the type of products or services you are offering. The third option is to target users that could be interested in your product or service based on their general interests. For example, if you have a business selling fishing poles, you could target your ads to users with an interest in fishing boats.

Contextual targeting is available only on sites that use Adsense and are partnered with Google. Contextual targeting is not available for Google searches. In essence, in order to better target potential clients, you can place ads on sites that cover particular topics, such as travel, or fashion, or cars, or science – any topic that would interest your target audience. You can usually find these ads in headers, footers and sidebars, but also in other places that can be seen by viewers.

Similar to contextual targeting, topic targeting allows you to target various topics at once, instead of limiting you to only one topic. It allows you to reach a broad range of pages that focus on the topics chosen.

Placement targeting allows you to decide precisely which websites, apps and videos you would like to display your ads on. Since the location of the ads is chosen entirely by you, unlike contextual targeting and topic targeting, placement targeting doesn’t require keywords.


Here’s how you can target your ads on Facebook:

Location targeting allows you to reach customers in the areas where they live or where they do business. You can target your ads by country, city, region, county, postcode, or even specific areas around your business.

Targeting by demographics allows you to choose the audience for your ads based on their age, gender, interests and even languages spoken.

Targeting an audience based on their interests is a great way to advertise your product or service. If they are interested in your type of business, they are most likely to take action and click on your ad. You can choose from hundreds of categories such as music, movies, games, sports, shopping, fashion, and many more.

Behaviors are the activities people take part in online, both on and off Facebook. This may include purchase behaviours, shopping interests, travel preferences and many other activities. By analyzing a person’s activity on Facebook as well as their online activity off Facebook, you can target people that have shown interest in the product or service you are offering. Third-party partners provide the offline activity information to Facebook.

Custom Audience
Custom audience targeting uses information you already have to target different audiences. You can target these audiences in a few different ways. The first way is to target current customers by uploading a contact list of people you’d like to reach. The second way is to target people who are similar to your customers. This “lookalike audience” (as it is referred to) is generated from your Facebook page fans, customer lists and website visitors. The third way is to remarket to people on Facebook who’ve already visited your website.

Targeting Conclusion

Comparing the options for Google Adwords and Facebook Ads, you may have noticed some differences in the methods they offer to target customers. Google Adwords is more textual and based on an immediate need, while Facebook Ads is more visual and more closely connected to a person’s interests, not necessarily an immediate need. I will explain this a little more in detail in the conclusion of the post.

Round 3 | Cost

The average CPC (cost per click) for Google Adwords is between $1 and $2, while on Google Display Network the average is under $1. Being that Google Adwords is based on an auction system, highly competitive keywords with lifetime value customers, such as insurance, can cost up to $50 per click (or more). For this reason, the cost of running a online marketing campaign on Google can vary considerably.

The average CPC (cost per click) for Facebook Ads is between 25 cents and 30 cents (so considerably less than Google Adwords); however, this cost per click can also vary drastically depending on many factors, especially on which country you are in. For some countries, the average CPC can be up to 20 times higher than it is in others.

In my opinion, it isn’t very wise to determine whether to choose Facebook Ads or Google Adwords solely based on cost, because there are so many variables that affect each one – competitiveness of the keyword chosen, the geographical location, the quality of the ad, so on and so forth. The cost of Google Adwords may be higher at first, but the results (and the sales) are usually immediate since you are targeting people that are specifically looking for your product or service. Using Facebook for your online marketing will certainly cost less, but most of the people that will click on your ad aren’t necessarily looking for your product or service, when they click on it. A cat lover may click on your Facebook ad showing personalized kitty collars, and may even “like” your page, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re looking to buy one in that moment. On the other hand, someone that purposefully goes on Google and searches for online pet stores selling personalized kitty collars, is most likely looking to buy one in that moment, or in the very near future.

And the winner is...

After comparing these two online marketing giants, you may still be wondering, which one should I spend my marketing budget on? There are pros and cons to both, so the real question you should be asking yourself is, what is your goal or expected outcome for your ads?

The main difference between Google Adwords and Facebook Ads is search intent. When someone searches on Google, they are usually looking for something, whether it be the answer to a question, a solution to a problem or a specific product or service. On the other hand, Facebook Ads are shown to people based on their interests, so they’re not necessarily looking for something, but the fact that you are offering a product or service they may be interested could lead to future sales and brand loyalty.

Google Adwords is about increasing immediate sales and revenue, while Facebook Ads is more about increasing brand awareness, lead generation and long-term traffic growth. Google Adwords is more short-term, while Facebook Ads is more long term. For this reason, they are both winners.

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