The PPC War

AdWords vs. Social Media ads

Competing for a share of your limited online marketing budget

With social media advertising and analytics platforms both competing for a share of your limited online marketing budget, it becomes important to think about where you’re going to get the most of a bang for your buck. Tho­ugh most online marketers would recommend a combined approach, there are some clear differences that you, as an online business owner should understand, in order to better be present where your customers are.

When estimating the effectiveness of your online advertising campaign, there are three variables that play a key role. Taking Facebook as the benchmark for social advertising, since it is the most sophisticated social media advertising platform currently available, with the largest amount of traffic, we can then compare it to Google AdWords, the kingpin of online advertising.


Targeting: Are you reaching your customers where they are?

The key difference between Facebook’s advertising platform and AdWords, is that while the former allows you to target users based on behavioral or demographic parameters, the latter triggers ads based on search preferences.

Facebook’s array of parameters on which customers can be segmented goes far beyond Google’s demographic and interest targeting. Facebook’s vast knowledge of its user base, including people’s likes, follows, and other interactions, enable it to really narrow down customers based on their specific preferences and online behavior.

On the other hand, Google AdWords, which has had years to refine its algorithm for “matching” user search terms to search results, has many more applications with which Facebook is still struggling.

Remarketing, for example, is an important feature that Google offers, which allows online advertisers to take advantage of Google’s extensive Display Network. Remarketing allows online advertisers to serve ads to users who have previously visited their website, which increases brand recall and propensity to purchase. With display partners like YouTube, Blogger, and Gmail on its portfolio, Google boasts of a reach of 90% for all internet users, compared to Facebook’s 51% (1).

Another advantage that Google has over Facebook is its keyword-based advertising. While Facebook knows people better than Google does, Google ads respond to specific search queries, whereas Facebook ads are more likely to be viewed as “noise” on what is essentially meant to be a social networking platform.


Cost: How much are you paying for clicks?

The difference in cost-per-click for Facebook vs. Google is much harder to compare, since both are based on an auction-style system, where one bids for keywords. However, on average, Facebook ads are known to be cheaper than Google ads, depending on how much competition there is for your targeted audience. A study has revealed that the average cost-per-click for Facebook has been steadily declining, while the click-through rates for Facebook ads are up by a whopping 375% for ads in a desktop format.

The Google platform also works on a bidding system, though the cost-per-click is usually defined by the popularity of the keywords you are targeting in your advertising. Keywords with high search volume tend to have a higher cost-per-click, but this can vary tremendously.

It is also worth noting that Facebook offers alternative pricing options, such as cost-per-mille, which is the cost per 1000 impressions that your ad receives, and cost per action, for likes, shares, and comments. This allows you to advertise based on the marketing objectives you want to achieve – broader exposure, engagement, as well as conversions.

While Google does offer a cost-per-mille option, it is restricted to advertisements on the Google Display network, and is only available for certain campaigns.


Conversion: Where do your customers come from?

The ultimate goal of online advertising is conversion. Clicks and impressions, while useful, are ultimately not providing any real benefit to your bottom line. The platform from which your true customers are arriving, should therefore be the one you focus on.

Google is the clear winner in this space. The first sponsored result on the Google search engine results page has been shown to average a click-through-rate of 7%, with the first four results averaging a click-through-rate of 3.6%. These numbers may seem low, but considering the vast potential target market of your ad, actually has more impact than it seems to. (2)

Facebook, on the other hand, is not far behind. Click-through-rates for “sponsored stories” that appear on your newsfeed stands at an impressive 2.09%, whereas the display ads on the right hand column of Facebook turn over 0.04% of customers. (3)

What is mostly responsible for this difference is the fact that Google displays ads to users based on their search preferences, whereas Facebook leans more towards a traditional push model of advertising. However, if Facebook’s matching algorithm continues to develop as it has been over the past years, this difference could diminish even further, making it a worthy contender for Google.


Formats: What do your ads look like?

Facebook and Google both provide diverse options for ad formats. The difference between the two is that while Facebook ads are restricted to Facebook alone, Google’s extensive display network gives it far more leeway to experiment with different ad formats.

Facebook’s traditional ad formats are the newsfeed ads, or sponsored stories, the display ad, and mobile advertising. While sponsored stories are known to have a good click through rate, Facebook display ads have been criticized for their small size, in spite of Facebook making recent changes to increase this. Sponsored stories work because of their ability to tell a brand’s actual story, along with great visuals, in a format that integrates with the user experience.

Display ads, on the other hand seem more like classifieds, and rarely grab the same amount of attention as sponsored stories do.

The Google Display network gives users the option of traditional text ads, image ads, Flash-based ads, as well as video ads. This allows them to design ads that truly fit their requirements, and help deliver the value proposition of their brand in various formats. YouTube advertising, for example, was shown to be more influential in shaping purchase decisions than traditional television advertising in a recent study conducted by Google. (4)


Your best bet as an advertiser is to diversify, and use the different platforms for different advertising objectives. For example, Facebook, with its alternative pricing models, can be used to drive engagement rather than conversions, which traditional search and display advertising from Google can be used to capture potential customers.

While Google seems to be the undisputed champion of online advertising for now, it is clear that by no means can Facebook be ignored. In fact, Google may well have to face competition from other social networks as well, as giants like Twitter and Pinterest begin to push their advertising platforms. As the PPC war between the ad giants continues, it is clear that online advertisers, for now, will be the biggest winners.

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Edward Abraham
Edward Abraham
Abraham's Hybrid Resume - Abraham's Linkedin - Abraham's Indeed - Abraham's Gravatar I'm a professional that lives and breathes the technology industry. I love to promote education in my field, and I'm all about teaching younger and older generations about technology. I tinker with objects, and have been known to be a "hardware hacker". Web Design .ig-b- { display: inline-block; } .ig-b- img { visibility: hidden; } .ig-b-:hover { background-position: 0 -60px; } .ig-b-:active { background-position: 0 -120px; } .ig-b-24 { width: 24px; height: 24px; background: url(// no-repeat 0 0; } @media only screen and (-webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min--moz-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (-o-min-device-pixel-ratio: 2 / 1), only screen and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2), only screen and (min-resolution: 192dpi), only screen and (min-resolution: 2dppx) { .ig-b-24 { background-image: url(//; background-size: 60px 178px; } }
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