Understanding the Major Differences Between Google and Facebook Ads

As part of your digital marketing strategy, you have likely considered using either Google AdWords or Facebook Ads. After all, both of these advertising tools are connected to two of the biggest sources of potential customers in today’s internet world. But is one better than the other? How do they differ? How might each affect your marketing strategy? 

These are all good questions. Let’s try to answer those along with explaining what Google AdWords and Facebook Ads are all about.

The Main Difference? Search Intent!

Search intent is one of the major factors that separate Google AdWords and Facebook Ads. Here’s what we mean by that.


Searches are conducted by internet users who are actively seeking something. This is a pull marketing strategy.


Users of this platform are shown ads that are based on their interests. This is a brand awareness strategy.

Differences Between Google and Facebook Ads

Although you can retarget ads with both Facebook and Google, there is a fair deal of documentation coming from marketing agencies that say they have experienced far more success retargeting with Facebook. It doesn’t hurt that the system is easy to set up and equally easy to use.

Digging Deeper – Facebook Ads

Where Facebook Ads step away from the pull marketing strategy of Google AdWords is that when you run an ad on this social media platform, you can have it shown to people who are not searching for and have not expressed interest in your product or service. They end up seeing your message in their social media feed as they are doing whatever else they use social media for. This exposes them to your message even though they were not looking for it.

Facebook’s Super Power

Another main difference between the two types of digital marketing is that Facebook offers incredible targeting options. This means that you can send your message to Facebook users based on a variety of factors ranging from age, gender, and interests to many more, so that you can narrow down who gets to see your message in their feed.

Google AdWords’ Super Power

The most powerful thing about Google AdWords is search intent. We’ve already touched on that, but how does that work? When you use AdWords, you must bid on the terms available that permit you to target the demographic you are trying to reach, where they are geographically, and where they are in the buying process.

The unique way that Google AdWords works is that you can have an article on how to use a chainsaw and target your advertising to people who search for “chainsaw operation tips” or you can advertise your chainsaw products to people searching for “best chainsaws for sale.” The first example would be addressing searchers in research mode. The second example would target a higher buying intent. By using search ads, you can specifically target individuals that are interested in the type of products you sell and match where they are in the buying process by putting the right offer in front of them.

The Cost-Per-Click Difference between Facebook Ads and Google AdWords

As noted by Digital Authority Partners, cost is where there can be a huge difference between the two advertising platforms. In competitive industries, advertisers can spend upwards of $100 per click with Google AdWords. Conversely, depending on the click-through ratio and other factors, you can spend as little as $0.25 per click with Facebook Ads. 

It is common for the cost-per-click (CPC) for Google AdWords to be considerably higher than that for Facebook Ads. So when putting together your digital marketing budget, it is a good idea to factor in that Facebook Ads will cost less per click than Google AdWords. However, with the CPC difference, you can still run your ad longer on Facebook if you had the same budget for both platforms.

But another formula you can use is the cost per acquisition formula. How much does it cost you to acquire a sale? For example, if the CPC for Facebook Ads is ⅕ of Google AdWords, but AdWords has a conversion rate that is ten times that of Facebook Ads, then AdWords is the better advertising platform. Its cost per acquisition is less even though the CPC for Facebook Ads is below that of AdWords. 

The bottom line is that both platforms are good for advertising. Facebook is the preferred choice of many small businesses based on the cost-per-click. However, when you factor in the cost per acquisition, you get a much better idea of where the best return on investment (ROI) is coming from.

More on Facebook

Facebook does have a few more benefits over Google AdWords. Here is a quick review of what those are.

More Customers

Facebook Ads target demographics you have defined. To see your ad, these users only have to fit into the parameters of your definitions. 

This means that far more people are going to see your message than with Google AdWords. Because to see your ad on Google, they must first be already searching for something in your product niche. That doesn’t mean you should spend your entire marketing budget on Facebook. But your product/service will reach a lot more people overall if you create a marketing program that has a balance between Facebook Ads and Google AdWords.


Although you can retarget ads with both Facebook and Google, there is a fair deal of documentation coming from marketing agencies that say they have experienced far more success retargeting with Facebook. It doesn’t hurt that the system is easy to set up and equally easy to use.

Recapping the Differences

Here is a short review of the key differences between the two ad platforms.

Google AdWords

● Excellent for reaching customers with a high buying intent

● Also effective for advertising content when customers are researching products

● The cost per click will be more, but you are reaching people looking for your product niche

Facebook Ads

● Excellent targeting that reaches people not even aware of your product/service

● Effective in creating brand awareness, interest, and desire.

● Access to a large audience at affordable prices with retargeting options.

Final Thoughts

There are very specific differences between Facebook Ads and Google AdWords. While one is not necessarily better than the other, both serve purposes can address various digital marketing needs depending on the goals of your ad campaign. It is probably best to create an advertising budget that factors in both platforms, so that you have a balance that reaches a much wider audience than just using one or the other.

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Dyka Smith
Dyka Smith is a content marketing professional at Inosocial, an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Previously, Dyka worked as a marketing manager for a tech software startup. She graduated with honors from Columbia University with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.

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