How To Choose Between Google AdWords And Facebook Ads

SMBs with tight budgets and schedules can't afford to throw their online advertising dollars against a wall to see what sticks. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right site.
Facebook's lower click-through rates--which Kim said can be as much as 1,000 times lower than comparable Google campaigns--make their ads more like traditional display ads, just with much, much better audience targeting. Put another way: Facebook Ads could be better at building a brand or delivering a marketing message over a longer period of time, but Google offers a clearer opportunity to capture consumers that are itching to buy now.

"[Google users] are trying to find exactly what they're looking for, so that leads to high click-through rates and high conversion rates, because they have a pain or some question that they're trying to resolve when they're doing that search," Kim said. "[Advertisers] are capturing that intent right at the right time."

Ease Of Use

Kim wouldn't describe either platform as easy for do-it-yourselfers: "They're both quite challenging," he said. But Facebook could have a slight edge over AdWords because so many people have personal accounts and therefore are generally familiar with the user interface. (Those that use AdWords for fun are a lonely bunch.) Google recently launched AdWords Express to appeal to SMBs without the time or interest in navigating the complexities of the flagship platform.

[ Google may offer some unusual advertising opportunities through recent acquisitions, such as Google Gobbles Zagat Yum. Yum. ]

"Facebook might actually be easier," Kim said. "The reason is because Google has just such tremendous depth and breadth of features and functions. Every week there's a new AdWords feature or function that you need to learn about."

Kim added that the SMBs he works with tend to be "overwhelmed" by AdWords. In either case, he points out that effective campaigns--regardless of channel--require SMB marketers to move seamlessly between different roles such as creative director, business analyst, media buyer, and the like--all while running their actual day-to-day operations.

Audience Granularity

While Facebook's recently announced updates don't directly change its advertising platform, Kim said they're likely to make that granularity, well, more granular. More data on what people eat, watch, read, and buy could lead to more targeted advertising opportunities.

"I think that will trickle down to the advertising platform to provide greater granularity in terms of the ability to segment their audience and present different types of ads and offers to users," Kim said. "Facebook will have more data."

Google, too, is all about granularity--it's just that it remains more keyword-driven. And though keywords remain the lifeblood of advertising on Google, it's not like AdWords doesn't provide other means of targeting an audience--all those features and functions Kim mentioned have to do something, right? Geo-targeting and language specification are two basic ones.

Coming Attractions

Beyond the immediate AdWords ecosystem, Kim said Google has been offering more demographic-based advertising options via its Google Display Network. Specifically, Kim said there's more emphasis and interest around retargeting--sometimes called behavioral marketing or remarketing--which involves showing ads to users based on their past Web activity. Kim said that has particularly powerful implications for Google (and its advertisers) because those ads can follow their intended audience through the company's vast network of partner sites. (Facebook Ads, on the other hand, only show up within Facebook.) In the past, those ads were based on the content of the Web page. Now, they can be based on the user's past behavior.

"It targets audiences--so it's starting to sound a little like Facebook," Kim said. "It's kind of a shift in Google's targeting strategies."

Audience-driven (rather than keyword-based) ads on Google are almost certain to increase via another channel, too: Google+. As the young social site matures, expect additional advertising opportunities as a result. For the time being, though, Facebook still has the edge on audience accuracy.

"On Facebook, you actually specify what school you went to and what you like, whereas on Google they're trying to infer it based on your surfing behavior," Kim said. "However, now that they have Google+, they're going to have the same ability to target your interests and memberships just how Facebook does."

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