1. Getting Started
The first thing to consider is how easy (or not) it is to get started. If you want your paid advertising campaigns to start delivering results fast, you don’t want to spend months learning how to use the platform.
Getting started with Facebook Ads
Let’s start with Facebook. To be honest, it takes some time to get prepared for running Facebook ads unless you’ve already done your groundwork. You need a strong Facebook page before you start. Before Facebook starts running your ads they take a look at your page stats to decide whether you’re a genuine business or a scammer. If you’ve been posting to your page regularly, sharing high-quality content and getting good engagement, your Facebook ads are far more likely to be approved straight away.
The next thing to do is install the Facebook tracking pixel on your website so you can track the performance of your Facebook ads. If you’re a dab hand with coding or are using a hosted website provider like Shopify or WordPress, this is pretty easy to do. Otherwise you may need your web developer to add the tracking code for you. Once it’s done, a whole world of data opens up to you, which helps not only with monitoring your ads but crucially, making ongoing adjustments to improve performance.
Installing the pixel also gives you a new set of potential customers to talk to. With the pixel in place, Facebook will let you retarget ads to people who visit your website (whether through clicking on your ads or not). So you have a warm list of potential customers to show ads to, who already have some level of interest in your business. Plus, you can now create lookalike audiences – so you can show your ads to people who Facebook knows share similar characteristics to those who’ve visited your website.
As long as you have an active, high-quality Facebook page, getting your Facebook ads account up and running is a very quick process, but there’s a lot to be taken into consideration.
AdEspresso have published a really clear guide to help you get started with setting up Facebook Ads.
Getting started with Google Ads
With Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) on the other hand, you can pretty much leave the setup to Google. As with Facebook though, there’s some preliminary work to be done before you launch.
You need to undertake keyword research before you even think about launching any Google ads campaigns. Understanding which search terms you want your ads to show up for and which you don’t is the biggest single factor in reaching the right audience. Next you need to make sure your content is organised according to your account structure but that’s more to do with ongoing management than deciding whether Facebook Ads or Google Ads are best for your business.
Setting up your landing pages is possibly the most important factor in getting ready to launch your campaigns. Google looks at the correlation between your paid ads and the URLs they point to when deciding how relevant and valuable they are, which can affect performance. The content on your landing page needs to closely match that in the ads to ensure optimum results. Moreover, you want users to find what they’re looking for after clicking on the ad, so they’re more likely to convert. Think about your CTAs, how easy any data capture forms are to fill out and whether your content is compelling enough to convince them.
For crash course in getting started with Google Ads, this article from Wordstream is a great place to start.
Clearly a big factor in deciding whether to opt for Facebook Ads or Google Ads is budget. Unfortunately there’s no clear-cut answer on “how much do they cost?” because so many variables come into play.
That said, Facebook ad campaigns should generally deliver results in an average range between 30p and £2.50 per response. That’s looking at CPC (cost-per-click) rather than full conversions. A landing page view, for example, costs less than a fully-completed signup form, due to the simple fact that more people will click on the ad and hit the page than will continue on to complete the form.
It’s a far more complicated process to work out average CPCs for Google ads. Mainly because you’re bidding against other people for the same spot in Google’s paid search results. So it depends whether you’re in a high-competition business or targeting a very small niche. Credit card companies can easily pay upwards of £50 per click because there’s so much competition for each customer. But once a customer signs up, their lifetime value is far higher than £50 so they’re worth the initial acquisition cost.
If you’re working in a narrower field with fewer businesses vying for the same customers, average CPC may come down to anywhere from 50p to a couple of pounds. Google estimates CPC when you set up your campaigns, although they really are only a guide not a promise.
Realistically, running paid ads on Google is always likely to be a more costly option than on Facebook. But the trade-off is that everyone uses Google and not everyone uses Facebook, so again it comes down to really understanding your audience.
This is going to be the deciding factor for many people getting started with paid ads – how easy are the platforms to use once you’re up-and-running?
The honest answer is: you need to know what you’re doing with both. Neither the Facebook Ads Manager nor the Google Adwords console are for the faint of heart.
The multitude of options within Google Adwords can be bewildering at first sight, even if they’re relatively logical. And that’s just the start. You then have to structure your campaign in a way that makes sure you’re getting the maximum performance from brand keywords, exact match keywords, broad match keywords and so on. Even a small campaign can rapidly expand to a dozen or more campaigns containing upwards of a hundred ad groups. It gets complicated very quickly.
Facebook’s Ads Manager can be equally daunting. It’s a very powerful platform and, once you get the hang of it, quite intuitive. But you’re handling live campaigns with many different parameters and you can very easily break something if you’re not confident in what you’re doing. Each element of a campaign can be switched on and off individually, so we’ve seen clients with campaigns they think are active, but where one or more of the individual ads has been inadvertently deactivated.
4. Audience Targeting
For most businesses considering whether to launch Facebook ads or Google ads, finding new customers is one of the primary goals. Alongside that will be nurturing prospects who are already aware of your business but haven’t yet converted into customers.
Google Ads Targeting
Looking purely at reach, Google has an obvious advantage. Virtually everyone uses Google, whereas not everyone is on Facebook. So the total addressable audience is going to be larger and pretty much anyone you want to show ads to will be searching on Google. But the options for specifying who you want to show your ads to are actually relatively limited. You can set the age, gender and location, as well as the devices they’re using. Beyond that it’s down to the strength of your keyword research – you have to know which words and phrases potential customers will use to search for your products or services.
There are some other options for targeting, including using URLs for websites or YouTube content related to your business or targeting users who have searched for products and services like yours. These are fairly advanced Google Ads techniques though and are still heavily reliant on the quality and accuracy of the keywords you’ve selected.
Google gives you a good range of ad creatives to choose from, such as text ads, display ads, shopping ads, ads within YouTube streams etc. And there’s the added advantage of the size of Google’s network, including YouTube, which accounts for the two most heavily-used search engines on the planet. Your ads can be shown just about anywhere as long as you have sufficient budget.
Facebook Ads Targeting
One of the biggest positives for Facebook ads is the power of their audience targeting. You can create very specific targeted audiences to ensure optimum responses to your paid ads. But again, Facebook doesn’t necessarily make it easy. In fact, the breadth of options available for targeting ads can be a problem for many users. With so much choice it’s easy to keep adding variables until you end up with either a bloated audience of several million or a laser-focused niche audience of just a couple of thousand. Neither of these is likely to get you a good return on your paid ads.
Additionally, in a bid to maintain a greater level of privacy for users after well-documented data breaches, Facebook removed many of the more obvious attributes you might want to use for targeting customers. So you need to really understand how to construct a clear picture of your users from the attributes which are still available. That’s where an in-depth knowledge of data-based marketing is invaluable.
If you already have a good level of traffic through your website or Facebook page, the clincher for Facebook ads is lookalike audiences. Facebook can look at actual visitors to your website or page, then find other people with similar qualities to show your ads to. Using your best and most loyal customers as an audience template is an extremely powerful technique that can result in a much higher return on your paid social media ads. Plus, it eliminates all the guesswork involved in building an audience from scratch. Lookalike audiences can be particularly useful if you’re on a tight budget.
5. Reporting & Analysis Tools
As you’d expect from two giants of the data business, the reporting available in both Facebook Ads and Google Ads is extremely detailed. For many users, the sheer array of metrics available can be bewildering, so you need to be clear on what you’re evaluating and how each dashboard presents it.
One extremely important, but often overlooked, metric is quality score. Both Facebook and Google use this measurement to evaluate how relevant your paid ads are to users. A higher quality score typically brings better visibility and lower costs. Check your report dashboards regularly and keep fine-tuning ads to ensure the quality scores stay high. For Facebook ads, you can even see how well Facebook thinks your ads compare to those of competitors.
Both platforms also give a very good account of your whole marketing campaign funnel. From top-of-the-funnel activities like link clicks or clicks on ‘see more’, to bottom-of-the-funnel conversions. With the right view of this data you can adapt your campaigns to drive more top-of-the-funnel activity and improve conversion rates, which directly leads to an increase in the total number of conversions, whether that’s a product purchase, an eBook download or a webinar registration.
6. Conclusion – Are Facebook Ads or Google Ads Best For Your Business?
OK, it’s kind of a trick question because the real answer is: both. A blended approach which combines Facebook and Google gives you maximum flexibility. You’ll reach the highest number of potential customers and you’re able to move budget between the platforms as you see what’s working and what’s not.
A strategy that takes advantage of the strengths of both gives you maximum exposure and the greatest potential to convert customers. In turn, that leads to higher return on investment, which should be a key focus for all business owners.
But what if we had to choose just one – where would we put our own money? We’d probably go for Facebook ads to start with.
That may come as no surprise from a social media marketing agency, but there’s one very good reason. As a rule of thumb, you’ll see tangible results faster from Facebook Ads, giving you data you can use to refine and improve your campaigns. The nature of Google Ads can mean that unless you have a huge budget to invest at the outset you’ll probably have to wait longer before you amass enough information to make decisions. And don’t forget those lookalike audiences from Facebook, as they’re another key advantage we believe gives it a slight edge.