As Facebook continues to carve its share of the online advertising industry, the burning debate of AdWords vs Facebook only intensifies. Not only that, but the nature of the debate is changing too, because the role of Facebook advertising (and how users interact with social ads) is constantly evolving. It’s a fast evolution too, as the concept of social commerce becomes a reality, and the gap between Facebook ads and conversions grows ever smaller.

Meanwhile, AdWords gets more competitive and expensive every year. So is now the time to ditch Google’s advertising platform and move on over to Facebook?

Google vs Facebook: The pros and cons in 2016

If you’re looking for an easy answer in the Google vs Facebook debate, then you’re sadly out of luck. But the best way simplify this complex topic is by looking at the pros and cons of each – an up-to-date version of the pros and cons, as things stand in 2016.

Karen James does a fine job of this in her article My Story: How Facebook Advertising Performed vs. Google AdWords. Here’s what she had to say:

Google AdWords

Pros

  • Detailed measuring tool makes your campaign easy to track
  • Large potential audience
  • Immediate influx of traffic
  • Complete control over your daily budget and maximum cost per click
  • Instant return on investment (You can easily define a cost per conversion and understand at what point your profit is made)
  • Targeting options, including regions, time of day, days of the week, and specific websites (if using Display Network)
  • Different advertising options, including Display Network, Search Network, and Remarketing
  • Targeting those who already have an interest and, therefore, are more likely to convert into sales

Cons

  • If set up and managed incorrectly, it can be extremely costly
  • Setup and management can be very time consuming
  • Limited space within your ad (Three lines of text when you are using Search only)
  • Unless you use other forms of Google advertising, such as Google Shopping and YouTube Advertising, you cannot include images or videos to sell products and services
  • Depending on your industry, the cost per click (CPC) can be substantial (For example, one client paid between $9.90 and $22.84 per click)
  • Depending on your target market, the majority of the large potential audience can turn out to be irrelevant

Facebook Advertising

Pros

  • Campaigns are easy to track
  • Immediate influx of traffic
  • Complete control over your daily budget and maximum CPC
  • Instant return on investment (You can easily define a cost per conversion and understand what your profit is)
  • More targeting options, including, towns, regions, age, likes/interests, income bracket, and other demographics
  • Easier to set up than Google AdWords
  • The ability to reach people early on in the buying process, before they are aware of their need, whilst capturing those who are aware of the need in a subtle way
  • You can use images and videos to capture the interest of your target market, helping you to sell your products and services
  • CPC is relatively cheap, depending on your industry (On average, our clients have paid no more than $0.61 per click)

Cons

  • If set up and managed incorrectly, it can be costly, but less so than Google AdWords
  • Depending on your target market, the majority of the large potential audience can be irrelevant (For instance, we would not recommend Facebook Advertising if someone only served or supplied their products and services to one town)
  • There is no option to target your ads at certain times within the day or on certain days of the week unless you choose a lifetime budget (Most of our clients request daily budgets)
  • Only really suitable for those operating in B2C markets.
  • Reaching people too early in the buying cycle could potentially reduce your goal conversion rate

As Karen points out, Facebook advertising is typically better suited to B2C businesses – although it’s not as clear cut as she makes out. And even then it’s only effective if you’re fully invested in creating visual content – this is something many advertisers overlook when they weigh up the cost of Facebook vs AdWords advertising.

— Facebook is only effective if you invest in visual content – something many advertisers overlook when they weigh up the cost of Facebook vs AdWords advertising —

 

The case for Facebook advertising

The key takeaway from Karen’s article over at Moz is that Facebook can be more cost-effective than AdWords. This is something many advertisers are starting to see, as the price of advertising with Google continues to rise.

This article from Market Results explains how they managed to cut advertising cost for some of their clients with Facebook and the numbers are certainly compelling:

  • The company cut its web and mobile lead costs by 89%
  • They cut cost per lead from $250 to $25
  • They increased conversion rate from 2.5% to 10%
  • They cut visitors needed to generate a single lead from 40 to just 10

All this happened by switching from AdWords to Facebook advertising and the results are impressive. So things are swinging pretty much in favour of Facebook at this stage, right?

Why now isn’t the time to ditch AdWords

The idea that AdWords advertising is more expensive than Facebook isn’t as simple as many make out. You can make AdWords work with little more than text ads, landing pages and a half-decent website. Overall, this often works out cheaper once you consider the cost of all that visual content you need to make Facebook advertising work. There’s a difference between ad spend and the overall cost of an advertising campaign.

— There’s a difference between ad spend and the overall cost of an advertising campaign —

All this talk about cost is counterproductive though. Cost is important, sore sure, but it’s the end result that counts and sometimes spending more to get more is the only way to go. But forget cost for a moment, because the important point is the whole AdWords vs Facebook dialogue suggests you have to choose between one or the other. The reality, in fact, is that most businesses should be investing in both.

— The whole AdWords vs Facebook dialogue suggests you have to choose between one or the other. The reality, in fact, is that most businesses should be investing in both —

If you really must choose between the two, think about why people use Facebook and Google in the first place. This “user intent” is what you need to engage with and turn into potential leads. You may find your business is better suited to channelling search intent over social, for example. This is common for software companies and many B2B firms, as we’ve already mentioned. On the other hand, if you’re an up and coming fashion retailer with a bunch of product images, visual ads and videos to show off, then you may have a decision to make.

The most important thing with AdWords, though, is the kind of leads you can expect to generate. Search tends to come with a much higher purchase intent than casual Facebook users and AdWords is pretty good at helping you target people who are ready to buy now. And here we come to the crux of the issue: AdWords and Facebook typically generate a different kind of lead. And the reality is your business wants both kinds of lead, which is why serious brands invest in Facebook and AdWords advertising.

So, if you’re already running an AdWords account, we would never suggest ditching it for Facebook or any other kind of advertising platform. What we would say, is that now is the time to consider Facebook advertising and how you might implement it into your marketing strategy, if you haven’t done so already.

Are you new to paid advertising? Get in touch with us if you need advice on choosing the right platform to get your advertising campaign up and running and how to implement a long-term strategy. You can give us a call to speak to our team directly, fill out the contact form below or reach out to us on social with any questions you might have.