Google Ads vs Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads vs Google Ads


Google and Facebook are two of the largest online advertising platforms on the internet. They each have billions of monthly users that advertisers can target via their respective advertising system. Since both Facebook and Google serve predominantly pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, they might seem similar as advertising platforms. This can make it difficult for online marketers to decide where to spend their advertising dollars to get the most bang for their buck. 

However, the truth of the matter is that as far as advertising goes, Facebook and Google are actually quite different. Each platform has its strengths and advantages and it is crucial for a savvy marketer to know what these are and how to take advantage of them to create successful high-converting online advertising campaigns.

In this guide, we will look at the differences (and similarities) between Facebook Ads and Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords), their strengths, and when to use which of the two:



As mentioned earlier, on paper there are many similarities between Facebook Ads and Google Ads. Both reach billions of users every month, both serve ads to users via pay-per-click advertising models, both can be pinpoint targeted, and both Facebook Ads and Google Ads are extremely effective online marketing tools. But that’s where the similarities end (aside from the obvious, the one is a social media platform and the other a search engine). 

Here’s a look at some of the main differences between the two:

i. You’ve been served

The main difference between Facebook Ads and Google Ads is the way that advertising is served to users. Google shows ads that are relevant to users’ specific search queries, while Facebook’s ads appear according to the users’ interests, behavior, and interaction with others. Thus Google Ads is paid search advertising, whereas Facebook Ads is paid social advertising. 

ii. Text and graphics

Google Ads usually consist of descriptive text that appears above, below, or next to search results without any graphics or images. They’re designed to look similar to search results. Facebook Ads, on the other hand, include rich media like images and video that entice users to engage with it via likes, shares, or click-throughs.

iii. Building leads vs building brands

Google Ads tend to be most effective at generating lead conversions, while Facebook Ads are mainly used to  build brand profiles. In other words, Google Ads helps you to find customers, and Facebook Ads help customers to find you.

iv. Who sees what?

There is also a difference between how these two platforms target specific audiences. When you target Google Ads, you target specific keywords that are related to a certain product or service that you think users are likely to search for. On Facebook, you pick your audience’s demographic, interests, and behavioral data, and ads are then served to users who meet those criteria.


With an estimated 2.7 billion monthly active users (a number that keeps rising every month), Facebook is the largest social network in the world, collecting thousands of data-points on each user every month. Considering this reach and pinpoint targeting potential, it is no surprise that Facebook has become such an important part of businesses and marketers’ online marketing strategies. As a matter of fact, advertising on Facebook has become so popular among marketers that in 2018, Facebook accounted for 25% of ALL online ad-spend!

Facebook offers many options in terms of where you can place your advertising, including: 

  • Facebook News Feed
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Facebook Video Feeds
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Facebook’s Audience Network
  • Instagram Feed

Let’s look at some of the social network’s strengths and advantages:

Facebook’s main strength lies in three key areas, namely pinpoint targeting through ‘lookalike audiences’, the visual nature of the platform, and its incredible ROI.

i. Targeting ‘lookalike audiences’

One of the major strengths of Facebook as an advertising platform is its ability to build ‘lookalike audiences’ for advertisers, made possible by the enormous database of data that Facebook has on each of its users. Since Facebook has an enormous database of user data, advertisers can specify their ideal customer to the finest of details, for instance, what they look like, what they’re interested in, who they hang out with, what colors, music, and art they like, what their hobbies are, and much more, and Facebook can then build a lookalike audience that closely matches those criteria.

This is extremely valuable to marketers because it means their advertising dollars are not wasted on users that don’t necessarily fit that exact description, thereby increasing the chances of conversion.

ii. A very visual platform

Facebook is an inherently visual platform and visual ads are extremely powerful. Put these two together and you have an advertising match made in heaven. Being able to create visually pleasing and engaging ads, as opposed to Google’s predominantly text-centric advertisements, also enables marketers to position advertising in such a way that it looks more ‘organic’. This makes consumers feel less ‘sold’ to and more open for engagement. 

iii. Incredible ROI

A Facebook Ads campaign can be very cost-effective. While the price of a campaign is determined by many factors such as messaging, scope, and the objectives of a campaign, overall Facebook Ads are quite affordable. This makes Facebook very attractive to especially new and small businesses that have limited advertising budgets. 


Formerly known as Google Adwords, Google Ads is another behemoth in the online advertising space. With an incredible 6.9 billion searches every day and more than 1 billion active users every month, is the most visited website in the world. It goes without saying that the advertising potential on google is massive and it is one of the most widely used online advertising platforms, especially for pay-per-click, or PPC advertising. While the majority of google’s ads is served on search results pages, they also offer other advertising avenues, including:

  • Youtube ads
  • Google Display Network
  • Google Shopping
  • Google Maps
  • Google Play

Here’s a look at some of the strengths and advantages of the search giant’s advertising platform:

Google’s strength as an advertising platform is built on three distinct pillars. These include the size of its audience, the wide range of advertising formats, and the way it levels the online advertising playing field.

i. Giant audience

Arguably Google’s biggest drawcards for advertisers is its phenomenal reach. Each of the more than 40,000 search queries it receives every second presents an opportunity to reach a customer. But it’s not just the volume of search queries that hold potential, Google’s RankBrain AI and machine learning technology is becoming ever more sophisticated, enabling it to better profile users based on what they’re searching for. This is great news for marketers, as it allows them to choose more effective keywords to bet their marketing dollars on.

ii. Many ad options to choose from

Google Ads is synonymous with text-based ads that appear around search results. This is because the format hasn’t really changed all that much since it launched all the way back in 2000. However, over the years this system has become much more sophisticated and offers advertisers many options to tailor their ads to specific audiences. This includes things like ad extensions, site links, location targeting, shopping-specific ads, and user reviews, to name but a few. The platform keeps evolving and while text-based ads still make up the vast majority of advertising, more and more visual advertising elements are starting to appear.

iii. Levelling the playing field

Audience size aside, one of the biggest reasons why Google Ads is so popular is because it levels the advertising playing field. The way that the platform is set up means that big budgets don’t necessarily ‘beat’ smaller ones. Since one of Google’s main goals is to create the best possible search experience for their users, they look at many factors when serving ads, including things like relevance to the topic and the quality of the ads. This means that no matter what your budget, as long as you have high quality, relevant ads, you can achieve success on Google Ads.


Whether you should choose to advertise on Facebook or Google depends on a number of factors such as what you want to achieve with your campaign, do you want to build leads or brand awareness? What audience would you like to target, what kind of return on investment would you like, the type of product or service you sell, the industry you operate in, and what your audience is after. For instance, if you are running a tow-in service you’re probably better off advertising on Google, since its not a service most people think about every day, and chances are that in the event that their car breaks down they’re more likely to Google a tow-in service than go look for one on Facebook.

Whether you choose to advertise on Facebook or Google or include both in your strategy, it is important to continually measure campaign performance, analyze the results, and make adjustments if you need to. By doing this you can ensure that your campaign stays on track, that it keeps hitting the right audience, and that it remains cost-effective to ensure maximum return on your investment.

Last Updated on November 29, 2021 by Gregor Blair

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Greg is co-founder of Kenekt Digital and is interested in where business and social change intersect. He uses his background in Philosophy and International Development to develop new ways of marrying these two areas, and aims to build an organisation which is maximally responsible, maximally useful as a service, while at the same time fulfilling its function to bring wealth to its employees. He runs the company with his 2 best friends, who share his passions.

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