What is the Difference between Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads? Which is Better?

People often ask, what’s the difference between Google Ads vs. Facebook ads? Or, which is better: Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads? The two systems are radically different. So let’s go through them step-by-step. Which is better Google ads or Facebook Ads? Short answer: Google Ads are better. Long answer: “It Depends.”



First, you need to understand the basic structural differences between ads on Google vs. ads on Facebook. It comes from how users use the two platforms. Google is, first and foremost, a “search engine.” (We will ignore the Google Display Network, which is generally crap). Users have an intent, a desire to know something, such as the ‘pizza near me,’ or ‘the best cat insurance,’ or perhaps ‘why am I losing my hair?’ They then SEARCH for an answer; hence, Google knows their intent and responds with the “best” answers. Your ads reach people who are searching for what you have to offer. Facebook, in contrast, is NOT a search engine. It’s a social media platform. People are primarily there to interact with friends and family, to share events in their life such as weddings, babies, what’s going on… etc. Facebook is about SHARING content not SEARCHING for it. Ads on Facebook focus on the demographic characteristics of people, but they are not necessarily searching for or even open to what you have to sell.


Second, you need to understand what Google knows about you (the user) vs. what Facebook knows.  Google knows your search intent, and your past searches. Because Google has failed at social media, it doesn’t know much about your demographics. So it knows intent – what you’ve looked for (searched for) in the past, and what you’re searching for right at this moment. Google also knows your location. Facebook, in contrast, doesn’t know what you’re searching for. Instead, it knows a lot about your demographics (age, sex, etc), about the topics you “talk about” or “comment on” (by snooping into your posts and comments at a semantic level). Facebook knows your location, too. So Google knows intent and Facebook knows demographics; both know location.


Third, once you know these facts, you can easily understand which ads should be used for which purpose. Use Google ads if you’re business is focused on intent. If you sell “life insurance,” then when people search for “life insurance,” Google is an excellent way to showcase your products or services. The keywords drive your ad strategy on Google. If, in contrast, you sell something that people are not necessarily looking for… such as see-through tanning swimwear (Yes, it exists), then Facebook demographic targeting (e.g., people who are under thirty and love water sports), might be better. One is not necessarily better than the other. One is based on knowing user intent. One is based on demographics.

Both have their uses. But, in my experience, Google search ads generally have higher ROI’s than Facebook demographic ads. This is because intent is very likely to end in a sale, demographics are much looser (you reach a lot of people who are not interested in you, despite demographics), and the cost per click is much higher on Facebook due to the fact that it has very limited real estate (the “news feed”) to sell vs. Google, which can sell a huge inventory of all sorts of possible searches. This is not always true; it depends on the relative costs and whether there is a search / intent for what you have to sell.

Happy advertising!


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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.