Online Advertising Wars: Who is Better? Google or Facebook?

by Wayne Sharer

International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.

April 29, 2013

facebook vs google online advertising image

Who are you betting on?

If you read any amount of information and absorb it from this website, you know search engines only provide about 9% of the traffic for online advertising.  Ninety-one percent comes from elsewhere.  That being said, you likely are aware of an informal dual between Google and Facebook.

Facebook is acting more and more like a search engine, though with a distinct focus on social interaction, and the commonalities of friends and associates.  It gives them many advantages over search engines like Google.  Plus, they use Bing as their base for search.  Most likely an association that irks Google just a bit.

So as they dual it out, who is really better for advertising?  You certainly hear enough hype about massive advertising success on Facebook for much lower costs.  But have you tried yourself?  What were the results?

The same is true for Google.  Google claims they send you buyers who are much more targeted.  Is it true?  Have you tried?  What were your results?

As an agency for clients, here are some insights into Google vs. Facebook for your online advertising and marketing.


Getting highly targeted traffic and laser targeted visitors is very important to actually converting leads to sales.  So who is best at targeting?

Both Facebook and Google have targeting.  But Facebook goes into what is known as psycho-graphics.  This is the ability to target common things shared like TV shows watched, books read, and specific hobbies.  Facebook also gives you the ability to make to custom lists, which is a powerful feature most do not know how to use.

Both Google and Facebook make it so you can target keywords, and common demographics, as well as location. The one advantage you might give to Google is the ability to re-target ads.  This is a powerful feature that most fail to use.  It can virtually make specific, targeted ads follow your prospects around the web.

Nonetheless, the targeting edge goes to Facebook.  Facebook can target almost anything about a group of people, including what they do in their homes.

Getting Buyers

Here is where Google is still likely to outperform Facebook.  It is true that more people are using a search engine like Google to search for real products and solutions you may be offering in your business.  This is clear.

When people come to Facebook, it is not with the purpose of buying or searching for products.  Thus, the click through rates on ads are much lower than on Google, Bing or Yahoo.  Often clicks on ads on Facebook can be simply curiosity clicks because of a catchy picture.

On Google, your ad is placed based on expected consumer intent.  This is not so on Facebook.  It is mainly placed on Facebook solely on the listed commonalities of profiles.  It does not capture the intent of the visitor.  On Facebook, the intent of the visitor normally begins with something social, not commercial.

Size of audience, or audience reach

Both sites are viewed by literally billions each month.  Facebook also connects you to them by friend and “like” associations.  Nonetheless, Google provides results to over 1 billion specific searches ever day.  This does not happen on Facebook.

Some of this exposure occurs because Google has the ability to place ads on partner sites in the Adsense network.  Facebook cannot do this.  You only see Facebook ads on Facebook.  This why Google re-targeting is so powerful.  Google ads will follow you to sites other than Google itself.

Facebook is trying to match this.  They are using graph search to try increase this reach.  Time will tell here, but Google still has the biggest reach.

Creating Lifetime Value

Here is a category difficult to measure, but Facebook likely has major impact.  Since often Facebook advertising is used for branding by companies, it does achieve followers that are more likely to stick with the company.

People click ads, then “like” the companies.  If the company is engaging, and shows interest on a personal level in Facebook, they do in fact achieve a much more “sticky” or longer lasting relationship.  There is nothing to compare in Google.  Yes, a Google ad is more likely to convert fast, but the customer does not achieve a significant lifetime value as a result of a Google ad.

What is Best?

The bottom line is for you to determine your goal.  If your goal is faster conversions, then you want search engine traffic from Google or Bing.  If you want to get customers with a higher lifetime value… ones that are more “sticky” to your business, then Facebook is the place.  You will need to test and run your own numbers to know which actually is most cost effective.

It is true, the cost per click can be much lower on Facebook.  However, you must compare the actual cost per desired action when determining which is really most cost effective.

What’s your experience?  Let us know in the comments.  See you soon.

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