Facebook Ads and Google AdWords dominate the world of digital marketing. Businesses on average spend 35% of their marketing budgets on digital marketing (BiznessApps). Understanding how both Facebook Ads and Google AdWords operate is essential for you to maximize your ROI in digital marketing. While both have many similarities, each has distinguishing features that impact how they should be used. To make matters more complicated, there are countless sources of conflicting information about the two. “In a 2014 study conducted by Neustar, social media advertising was found to be the most effective form of online paid advertising for increasing impressions, clicks, and conversions at a low cost” (Moz.com). On the other hand, “traffic from AdWords tends to convert at a higher rate because of the higher level of intent with keyword-word based targeting…” (WebRunnerMedia.com). The truth is, there is correct strategy for digital marketing, depending on your audience, objective, product/service, and more…

Digital Marketing

Before diving into the specifics of Facebook Ads and Google AdWords, let’s talk about digital marketing. Simply put, digital marketing is promoting your products/services via various forms of electronic media (mainly the internet). Marketing is all about connecting your business and your audience. When your audience is spending so much of their time online, digital marketing becomes a vital part of your strategy. There are a lot of advantages to effectively using digital marketing:

Hands on Laptop with Smartphone

  • Increased Attention: Americans spend an average of over 10 hours a day online and growing (CNN). Whether that time is actively looking for a product/service online, or just scrolling through their newsfeeds, you have their attention.
  • Strategize with Data and Analytics: With digital marketing, you have greater insights into your customer/audience. You can analyze their demographics, interests, behaviors, preferences, buying patterns, and much more. By creating specific target audiences for your ads, you can reach your perfect target audience. In fact, you can have several ads running at the same time, each designed for a specific audience, and will be seen by only that audience.
  • Improved Conversion Rates: With this data and analytics, it comes as no surprise that when businesses communicate with their target audience, you start with a stronger lead, and your conversion rate improves.
  • More Cost Effective: In the days of traditional media, businesses invested a substantial sum in various marketing methods. Traditional media was not only more expensive to use, but the process of creating the advertisement (whether a television commercial, radio commercial, or newspaper ad) often outpriced a small business’ marketing budget. Digital marketing is accessible to small businesses. More importantly with digital marketing’s benefits, you can achieve the same or better results with a significantly decreased cost (leading to a higher ROI).
  • Real-Time Results: Digital marketing allows you to specifically track the results of your campaign. By understanding the results in real-time, you can update your content/marketing as the campaign is happening. This means you don’t waste your resources on a marketing campaign that isn’t effective, once again increasing your ROI.

Facebook Ads

Effective Facebook Ad

Facebook revolutionized the way we use social media only a few short years ago. Today, people share almost every detail of their lives on Facebook. When users post about their lives, they are sharing their personal accomplishments, interests, ideologies, values, etc. In addition, when users engage with other content (e.g. liking, commenting on other posts, articles you read, etc.), Facebook tracks that information. Facebook has more than 1.55 billion monthly active users (more than one fifth of the planet’s population). That doesn’t include inactive or frequently unused accounts (Wordstream.com). In addition to the data it collects itself, Facebook also purchases supplemental demographic data from a variety of third-party data sources such as Axciom and Experian.

Creating a Target Audience

With this information at Facebook’s disposal, you can choose the best person to reach with your ads. The more exact you are, the more effective your ad will be. Just to give an example of the level of detail you have in choosing your audience for the Facebook ad, you can choose options like, what kind of income they have, how old their children are, if they have any friends who have a birthday coming up (and you can specify how soon the birthday is coming up), what model car they drive, what kinds of music, tv shows, movies they like, and so much more. You can essentially build your exact perfect audience. This kind of information being available to marketers was unheard of prior to social media. For example, with television or radio, the closest a business could get to targeting their audience was choosing the right channel to advertise on. With Facebook Ads, you can get closer to your customer than ever before.

Effective Facebook Ad


Facebook Ads are powerfully visual. Your audience is already on their newsfeed, scrolling through their friend’s updates. When designed well, Facebook Ads blend perfectly with the videos and images already on the user’s newsfeed, while simultaneously piquing their interest. You want your ad to be aesthetically pleasing, and draw the attention in of the user. Thanks to being able to specify your audience, you know exactly who you are designing the ad for. If the user responds more to videos than to images, Facebook’s algorithm will push more video ads on their newsfeed, than ones with images on them.

Cost Effective

Facebook Ads are extremely cost effective, and flexible with how much money you want to spend. While the budget of Facebook ad campaigns will vary widely, you can choose your budget and still have a campaign. This is yet another quality of digital marketing which is different from traditional marketing. With this competitive pricing, small businesses and companies who have limited resources can have an effective ad campaign within their budget.

Google AdWords

Like Facebook revolutionized social media, Google revolutionized search engines. 81% of shoppers will do online research before buying anything (AdWeek.com). Even more overwhelming, 94% of B2B research online before making a purchase decision (Brafton.com). Over 77% of those searches are done using Google (SmartInsights.com). That means that your customers are mostly on Google, searching for your product/service, likely before knowing who you are.

Keywords and Timing

Effective Google Ad

With Google AdWords, you use the keywords (as opposed to demographics) that they search to determine when your ad will be shown. Keyword targeting can be very effective since the person searching for that keyword is already showing interest in your product/service. That user is a strong lead.

Massive Reach

While Facebook Ads are only seen on Facebook and Instagram, Google’s Display network covers over 2 million websites and can be seen by over 90% of the people on the internet (AdSharkMarketing.com). Using Google AdWords, you can use a variety of ad formats to fit the various dimensions available.


When a user is looking for a business in a specific location (e.g. restaurant, gas station, etc.) they are more likely to search on Google than on Facebook. In 2016, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches (TheGuardian.com). This indicates that a higher amount of people are using their phones to search on the internet, likely while not sitting at their desk. This gives an advantage to local businesses to have ads in their geography.

Quality Score

While spending more money on Google AdWords helps, it isn’t the only factor that Google considers in its algorithm. The more relevant an ad is to the user, the better experience the user has, and will be more likely to use Google as their primary search engine. Due to this, Google also analyzes “your click-through rate, the relevance of each keyword to its ad group, your landing page quality and relevance, the relevance or your ad text, and your historical AdWords account performance” (Wordstream.com). It is unknown how much each of these factors weigh in the overall algorithm. However, this indicates that not only does the money you spend impact your AdWords success, but more importantly your relevance to the search and the quality of your content. Learn more about how you can optimize your content.  By optimizing both your keywords (to ensure that they are relevant to you) and the quality of your online content, you will be rewarded with lower costs and high results.

Effective Google Ad

Variety of Ad Formats

Google offers both display and text ads. Google’s Display Network allows you to target strategically and can be seen all over the internet. Google’s display ads are cost effective as well. However, since Google’s display ads are targeted differently and not search-based, the intention of the user does decrease.


Advertising on Google tends to be more expensive than advertising on Facebook, but it is still more cost effective than most traditional media advertising. The average cost per click is between $1 to $2 (Wordstream.com). Certain keywords cost more than others, depending on how much competing advertisers are willing to spend.

Factors to Consider

Both Facebook Ads and Google AdWords have proven themselves to be invaluable platforms of advertising. Having read all this information, which one works best for you? Definitively, the answer depends on several factors.

Your Target Audience

Every advertising professional knows that the most important factor to consider in every marketing decision is understanding your target audience. As discussed above, digital marketing gives you a previously unimaginable method of targeting your audience. Once you know who your audience is, you determine where they would be best reached online. Does your audience regularly use Facebook or other social media? Will your audience prefer to see your business come up in a search, or as they are spending time online?

Your Advertising Objective

One of the most important factors to consider when determining between these platforms is your objective with the advertising. Is this advertisement’s objective instant sales or long-term branding? Both Facebook and Google provide these for businesses. However, based on the factors discussed above, Google has proven that it is more effective for generating instant sales. Users who use Google to search a product/service are typically searching with the intention of becoming a customer of their results. Meanwhile, users on Facebook are not scrolling through their newsfeeds with the intention of becoming a customer. Facebook has proven to be an effective tool for branding and impressions.

For example, let’s say that your business has a Facebook ad and provides custom framing services. If a user sees your ad several times a week for a month, they will likely think of you when they need custom framing services in the following month. On the other hand, if you use Google AdWords, your business will come up when a user searches for your keywords. Both can be effective, but using different methods.

Your Product/Service

Another factor to consider when marketing, is what your product/service something that would benefit from a longer-term branding strategy, or is it ideal to find it in a search? Facebook Ads are best for B2C products/services. Since users on social media are typically doing so as an individual (as opposed to a professional). Also, social media is meant to be a fun and entertaining platform. If your product/service doesn’t match that atmosphere, Facebook Ads are likely not going to be effective for you.

Does your product/service need a visual advertisement, or more written text? Facebook Ads are visual and can include images, video, and text. If you have a product/service that will grab the attention of a user scrolling through their newsfeed, Facebook Ads is the place for you. Google AdWords can have images and video, but only in certain instances. There are significantly more Google AdWords that are entirely text.

Are You Active on Social Media?

You don’t have to have an active Facebook account to use Facebook Ads, but that is ideal. If your audience is on Facebook, actively using it, and sees your ad, they are likely to look at your company’s social media accounts before deciding to use your business. If your business is better suited to Facebook Ads, you should make sure you also have active social media accounts.

Side note: If you are not active on social media as a business, you really should be. Learn more about social media set up and optimization.


Digital marketing provides businesses opportunities in marketing that were unheard of 10 years ago. Those listed above apply to both Facebook Ads and Google AdWords. Specifically, here are the pros and cons of each:

Facebook Ads


  • More targeting options than Google AdWords. Targeting options include geography, age, likes/interests, income bracket, and a plethora of other demographics.
  • Easier to set up and manage than Google AdWords.
  • You reach your audience earlier in the buying process (often before they are aware of their need).
  • Cost per click is less expensive than Google AdWords, on average costing $0.61 per click.


  • If managed or set up incorrectly, it can be expensive (although less so than Google AdWords).
  • Mainly beneficial to B2C businesses.
  • Because you reach your audience earlier in the buying process, there will likely be a lower conversion rate.

Google AdWords


  • Large potential audience. Google AdWords has the potential reach of 90% of all internet users (AdSharkMarketing.com).
  • Targeting strong leads, those who already have an interest.
  • Targeting options include: regions, time of day, days of the week, and specific websites (if using Display Network option).
  • Different advertising options, including Display Network, Search Network, and Remarketing.


  • If managed or set up incorrectly, it can be very expensive.
  • Set up and management can be time consuming and complicated.
  • While the average cost per click is between $1 to $2, the most competitive industries have a much higher cost. It is not uncommon to have a cost per click of $20.
  • The majority of the large potential audience can be irrelevant (depending on if the above targeting methods are enough to narrow your audience).


We’ve officially entered a new stage of marketing. Digital marketing is the way of the future with Facebook Ads and Google Adwords taking the lead. With these two powerful platforms at your disposal, your marketing can be more effective than ever. The trick is determining which platform is right for your business. Your target audience, product/service and advertising objective are the most important factors to consider. However, it doesn’t matter which platform you use if you manage them incorrectly. This is where you may seek the advice of a professional. Digital marketing is a powerful tool which needs to be used properly to maximize your ROI. How can we help you take your business to the next level?