So you’ve chosen a business idea, built your website, and now you need to get the word out.

Chances are you’re already considering advertising through the two behemoths of the online ad world, Google and Facebook. But is it actually worth it to buy ads ? If so, which platform should you use?

We’ll explore the difference between Facebook and Google paid ads here, giving you the information you’ll need to make the best advertising decisions going forward.

Table of Contents

Online advertising basics

The world of online ads can be overwhelming, especially if you’re starting from scratch without a marketing background. That said, it’s actually pretty easy to get an ad campaign rolling. Let’s start with a few basic terms and concepts:


Facebook ads and Google ads both fall under the category of “pay per click (PPC)” ads. When you buy PPC ads you bid on a price and, once that price is settled, pay that amount of money every time someone clicks one of your ads.

User search intent

This refers to the search terms customers might use to find your business. Why are they looking for a business on Facebook instead of Google? What problem are they looking to solve when they search for a specific term?

User search intent can help you target ads very effectively. This is because you’re basically anticipating people’s pain points and tailoring your ads to address them. If you know someone’s problem, you can figure out how to solve it, then display ads that show them the solution (your product or service).

A person’s intent will be different depending on the platform they use and what point in the sales funnel they’re at. Google’s algorithm in particular is starting to reward pieces optimized for user intent instead of just keywords. Good content wins here, not pages stuffed with keywords and questions.


CPC stands for “cost per click,” and it’s the rate you’ll end up paying to Google or Facebook for running your ads. CPA stands for “cost per action,” where an advertiser pays whenever the customer takes a certain desired action (email signups, product purchases, etc.).

Google Ads vs. Facebook ads: how are they different?

Both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses, and each can reach audiences in their own unique way. Depending on your needs, you might decide to use both Facebook and Google ads to broaden your reach as much as possible.

Paid search and paid social

Google ads are considered paid search ads, while Facebook ads are considered paid social ads. But what’s the difference between these two ad types?

Paid search is when you’re paying to have your ad show up on a search engine results page (SERP). We see these ads every time we use Google: they’re the links at the very top marked with the “ad” label.

Google ads vs Facebook ads - Google search results for "SEO training"So searchers can tell the difference between organic search results and paid ads, Google marks all advertisements with the word “Ad” in bold at the beginning of the ad’s title.

Paid search ads are based on target keywords, not audience interest. You’re building ads around the keywords related to your business that you think people will search for the most. Considering audience intent will help you figure out what those keywords should be.

Paid social ads, on the other hand, are a way for you to get your brand in front of users on social media. As platforms change their algorithms, it becomes more difficult to do this organically. With paid ads, you can move to the front of the line.

It’s also important to consider the distribution network you’re buying into when you purchase ads. Both Google and Facebook have considerable reach.

Google’s network lets you branch out into YouTube, Google Display Network, and even Google Maps. Facebook can get you in front of millions of Instagram users, send your ads out via Messenger, and put you on the news feed. The option that makes the most sense for you will depend on where your customers spend their time online.

Audience size

Both Google and Facebook have massive user bases. Facebook sees an estimated 1.7 billion people on their site daily, and over three billion people are estimated to use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

Google handles almost six billion searches per day. The search engine also owns over 90 percent of all searches through its properties, and people are four times as likely to click on a paid Google ad than any ads on any other search engine.

This brings us to audience sizes. When considering audience size, think about your product. Is it something that people will be searching Google for, or is it something people are more likely to find on social media? 5.8 billion searches a day won’t help you if they don’t get you any traffic.

Likewise, if you’re marketing something that Facebook users aren’t likely to want, you might want to go the broader route with Google. What matters is where your target audience is active.

ROI and cost

You’re buying these ads because you expect a return on investment (ROI). That’s going to vary depending on what you pay for advertising. Ideally, you’re getting the best reach possible while not spending your entire budget.

How much ads cost will vary based on everything from which keywords you’re using to which platform you’re on to which industry you’re in. The CPC (cost per click) for certain keywords on Google can be anywhere from just over a dollar to over fifty dollars.

Google ads cost a bit more than ads on Facebook. The average CPC for Google ads is $2.69, while businesses in low CPC industries like apparel pay around $0.45 per click on Facebook. However, if you go with Facebook and choose to place an ad on Instagram, that’ll cost you about double the amount of a regular Facebook ad.

Price is largely dictated by what industry you’re in. That 50+ dollar price tag, for example, goes to the insurance industry. If you’re in an industry where CPC for Google is steep, Facebook could be a better option to start.

CPC is just one factor to consider. Another is the CPA (cost per action). How many clicks are you paying for and how many of the people who click through are taking the actions you want?

You’ll need to figure out how many conversions it’ll take to make ad costs acceptable. If you’re paying more but getting more paying customers from those targeted ads, it’s probably going to be worth the price in the long run.

Customer intent

You’ll want to consider what context people will search for your services in when choosing where to place your ads. Do you have a business that people are likely to run a web search for or one that they’ll notice more on social media?

For example, if you run a mechanic shop, people are probably going to search for a mechanic near them if they have car trouble. That means a search ad will put you in front of them exactly when they need your business.

If you run a photography business, it might be best to run social ads so people find your page as they’re browsing and come back later when they’re ready to buy. Social ads are great for this type of business because, while they may not convert right away, they’ll broaden your audience in the long term.

It all depends on the intent of your potential customer. Whether you need to be there right when they have a problem, or you want to build brand awareness, you can position yourself accordingly.

Audience targeting

Both Google and Facebook give you super granular options for targeted ads. You can show ads to people based on everything from geographic location to age to income level.

While you might think that Google would win in this category, it’s Facebook that puts the most data at your disposal. You can segment your audience by specific behaviors and interests, which Facebook collects plenty of information on from its billions of active users.

If you’re the type of business owner that likes creating detailed customer personas, Facebook ads will let you match them. You could target demographics as specific as suburban moms in Iowa with two kids that eat a vegan diet. So, if your target customer is a super narrow audience, you might want to go this route.

Available ad formats

Another key consideration for targeted advertising is the ad format. What does your business lend itself to? If you’re selling something you can show off visually, such as furniture or clothing, a medium like Instagram might be best. But both Google and Facebook give you plenty of options to get creative with.

Google’s search ads are usually limited to just text, so that’s going to be your main tool to catch people’s eye. You can also add extensions to your ads at no extra cost to increase the clickthrough percentage. Google ad extensions show:

  • Dynamic site links (about us, menu, etc.)
  • Options to get people to engage, such as a “call this business” option
  • Structured snippets that display a short description along with the link

Ad extensions can be configured manually or show up automatically when Google’s algorithm thinks they’ll increase ad performance.

Facebook’s ads are much more visual. Not only can you incorporate attention-grabbing images, Facebook and Instagram also let you use video content in ads (though it’s also possible to buy video ads that run on YouTube through Google).

The importance of visuals shouldn’t be overlooked. Content with images gets an average of 94 percent more views than text-based content. It can be a powerful way to pull people in and get them curious.

Facebook lets you use a variety of ad types — all of which incorporate visual elements — in targeted ads. Carousels, images, video, and more will help your ads get more attention, especially if you run an ecommerce business.

Facebook can be especially effective when it comes to building brand awareness in this context. Consistently sharing appealing images and short videos from your freelance photography business as advertisements will attract people to your page. Once they’ve arrived, they can follow you to stay updated.

Google Ads vs. Facebook ads: additional considerations

Now that you have an idea of what each platform can offer you, there are a couple more things you’ll want to think through before you make a decision.

First, what will the goal of your ad campaign be? If you’re trying to build a community and awareness around your brand, Facebook would probably be the better choice. If you’re trying to bring in more locals to your business, you could invest in Google ads to boost your visibility in “near me” searches.

You’ll want to consider what stage of the sales funnel people are in when they see your ads, and how that relates to your goal. Are you a mechanic that wants to boost sales by getting more people into your shop? Google ads are probably the right way to go, as the people searching for that kind of service are usually ready to buy.

Think about the maturity of your product or service, and the search volume it’s likely to get. Google ads might not help as much if you’re marketing a service nobody even knows about yet — think Uber before ride-sharing was invented.

Final thoughts

Google Ads vs. Facebook ads — When deciding where to spend your ad dollars, there’s a lot to consider. Your product or service, your business model, and the best format to sell your product are just a few of the factors you’ll need to keep in mind.

No matter what you choose, make sure you’re spending your money effectively. Spending a little more might be a good thing if that extra money brings in a higher volume of people ready to buy from you.

When planning your campaign, consider your budget, goals, and target audience. Experiment with both types of advertising to see which will best help you meet the end goal of your campaign. You might even decide to use both together in different ways.