Facebook and Google are two of the world’s most visited websites, and I bet you’ve already used one of them today.
With that in mind, I’m not going to spend much time discussing how great they both can be for getting visitors to your website, how they are two 800-pound gorillas in the digital marketing space or how spending on digital advertising is predicted to overtake traditional advertising formats such as radio, magazines, newspaper and television this year. But what I will do is break down the core strengths of Facebook ads and Google search ads, as well as their key differences, so you can make a better-informed decision about which is right for your business.
For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on brand awareness — finding new prospects who aren’t familiar with your brand. Advanced tactics like remarketing won’t be part of this debate.
The Fuel Is In The Fundamentals
At their core, and at the top of the funnel, Facebook ads and Google search ads each come down to one core principle:
• Facebook ads are primarily for showing ads to a targeted audience who possibly don’t even know there is a solution to their problem or that your product exists. They may not even know that they have a problem to begin with.
• Google search ads are primarily for showing your ad to people who are searching for a solution to their problem or product need at that very moment.
I’m generalizing, but that’s the gist of it — the bread and butter. That said, there are some other things to consider before you jump to any conclusions about which ad platform is right for your business, so let’s dive on in.
The Ultimate Example For Clarity
To make things clearer, here’s the example I often give to business owners: Say you own a personal injury law firm. Your main objective is to find clients who are currently dealing with personal injuries. They need you to solve the current problem they have.
In this case, if the prospect has never heard of you or visited your website before, using Facebook ads would not be such a good idea, as Facebook’s main strength (when not retargeting old leads) is broadcasting products to unexpecting audiences. It’s cold outreach.
In other words, if you show a personal injury law firm ad to new audiences on Facebook, it’s likely that 99.7% of the people who see the ad won’t need the service at that given moment. So that’s probably a huge waste of money.
With Google search ads, however, if someone just got into a fender bender yesterday, is currently in excruciating pain and types “personal injury lawyer” into a Google search, that’s when your ad would pop up and they would contact you directly. You would then have a hot, interested lead and could get some actual return on your investment.
You might be thinking, “OK, so that must mean Facebook ads are utterly useless, right?” Wrong.
Say you run a youth charity center and are throwing a big event this Saturday for all kindergarten through fifth grade students to come out, eat, enjoy fun games and win cool prizes. In this case, if you try to use Google search ads to promote the event, the only people who will likely show up are the organizers. You see, not many people are going to Google to randomly look for “youth charity events this coming Saturday.”
With Facebook ads, you can reveal the opportunity to the right audience, such as moms browsing their newsfeeds. This is likely an ad that they’ll be interested in, even if they had no intention of doing anything that Saturday morning. And they’ll probably be thankful that you presented them with the opportunity, and thus will take their kids to your event.
Other Key Differentiators
Let’s imagine that you have a business where both platforms could be ideal (say, a catering business). What are the major factors to consider, and which platform should you choose for finding new prospects?
Again, with Google search ads, people are already looking for a solution, so technically, every lead is a warm/hot lead. The biggest downside to Google, however, is all the competition that’s also displayed on the screen when customers initiate their search: It won’t just be your ad, but 5 to 15 competitors also.
This is where Facebook ads can have a huge advantage: When someone sees your ad on Facebook, often the only thing you’re “competing” with is their friend’s baby picture below your ad. In other words, there may not be as much competition for your ad on Facebook. Your audience may see your ad and your ad only.
Facebook also allows more diverse ad formats (such as pictures and video), and the social sharing aspect of ads is a nice bonus that’s not available on Google, especially considering the way people consume information visually these days.
And The Winner Is …
While both of these platforms are absolute behemoths, they are vastly different behemoths, and choosing the one that’s best for generating new leads for your business can be critical to your digital marketing success. There truly is no right or wrong answer we can give to suit all businesses. The correct choice will vary greatly from industry to industry and business to business. And in some cases, both ad platforms can be useful. Your strategy should be just that: yours. It should be tailored to your audience and based on your goals.
That said, rather than calling Facebook and Google two 800-pound gorillas, perhaps an 800-pound gorilla and a swift, nimble tiger would be more accurate. Both are powerful beasts in the digital marketing jungle, but as much as they have in common, fundamentally, they couldn’t be further apart.