Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads: Why You Need Them Both

A few months ago, we broke down all the numbers and took a close look at which was better, Facebook Ads or Twitter Ads. Facebook won that battle without question. With our recent addition of blog posts, resources, and e-courses focusing on Google Adwords, it makes sense that a lot of users have started asking us if we had to pick, which would we choose between Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads.

The answer to this question does not really have a winner, like Facebook and Twitter, which operated off a similar concept and had the same marketing goals. Facebook Ads and Google Adwords are two different systems that go about a similar goal (exposure for a site) in different ways.

Yes, there are similarities (both deal with bidding systems that are affected by competition, for example), but the systems are so different that using both can benefit your overall marketing campaign and increase both sales and exposure.

Here’s why…

Google Adwords: Strengths and Weaknesses

How Google Adwords Works

For those unfamiliar with Google Adwords, the driving force behind it is keywords. Where Facebook relies most heavily on targeting when determining who sees your ad, which can include things like interests, Adwords is all about the keywords.

When someone uses Google (the most popular search engine by far) to search for something, Google almost always will offer up the first several suggestions from their paid ads. These are marked with small yellow “Ad” boxes, but that doesn’t matter—your site will be among the very first that the user sees and likely clicks on.

Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads
When Googling “oil change service,” Google automatically showed me ads for companies near by me that offered this service. The ads are marked with yellow “Ad” boxes.

In addition to having your site show up on the first page of Google results, Google determines whose ad gets shown the most (and the highest) by a combination of factors, including bidding price (how much you’re willing to spend), the quality of your ad and your website, and what they expend the extended impact from ad extensions will be.

Adwords operates off of bidding, just as Facebook does. The more you’re willing to pay for those keywords (some of which you’ll have high competition for, just like certain audiences in Facebook), the more likely your ad will show up.

Strengths: When you’re using Google Adwords, you’ve got a good chance of capturing users that could be further along in the buying cycle. Someone who searches “oil changes” isn’t a random person who may not be interested in actually getting an oil change. They are actively seeking out businesses that provide that service. Grabbing users at that point of the buying cycle—users who are ready to purchase—can boost sales. You’ll rarely get a more relevant audience when they’re searching for exactly what you’re selling, looking to buy (even if they’re only considering it).

In addition to this big advantage Google Adwords offers, you also get the benefit that Google will place your ads on other sites, too. These ads can appear on Google owned sites like YouTube, or on Google’s partner sites, like You’re expanding your reach off the platform of just the search engine.

Google Adwords, when done right, is also relatively cost efficient as Google only charges per click to the website. Since Adwords isn’t necessarily about brand exposure as it is that click, that’s beneficial for this platform.

Weaknesses: Google Adwords relies purely on keywords as a targeting method when deciding who to show your ad to. Keywords can be a tricky business, especially if you’re new to the concept.

With Adwords, this disadvantage of being dictated by keywords (a double edged sword, as the keywords are both a strength and a weakness) means that if users aren’t searching for your product, they’re unlikely to see it. While this isn’t bad if they know what they’re looking for, certain products just don’t get researched before purchasing.

Razors or shaving cream, for example. Except for expensive shaving kits, most users don’t think to search for razors online to research or make online purchases for the company directly; they swing by and grab one from a supermarket or a drug store. If you’re looking to get your brand exposure and to show an audience a product that they don’t know they want or need, Adwords may not be the best approach for you.

Facebook Ads: Strengths and Weaknesses

How Facebook Ads Works

For those unfamiliar with how Facebook Ads works, you can view our extremely thorough Beginner’s Guide. For a basic run down, Facebook uses a competitive bidding system where your ad is shown to users (paid for either by clicks or per 1,000 views), and is driven largely by audience targeting.

You can target users based off demographics, behaviors, and interests, among other criteria, and targeting is the big focus here on who sees your ad instead of keywords. Your ads will appear either in the users’ Newsfeed, smack dab in the middle of the action, or in the right side column. Both placements have their benefits, which you can see here.

Strengths: Remember those certain products and services that people don’t realize they need or want to try, like the razors or shaving cream? Facebook Ads is a great way to showcase your product to a relevant audience, even if they didn’t know they wanted or needed it. Dollar Shave had great success with their Facebook Ads campaigns.

google ads vs facebook ads
This is a great example of a perfect campaign for Facebook Ads. A lot of people may not search for “free genetic testing” or know even about genetic testing. This ad targeted users in my local area (likely those around my age, the child-bearing age) who might be interested.

Perfect for discovery of items that people don’t search for. Facebook is fantastic for exposure for your brand and product. Online companies like AdoreMe, Modcloth, and DollarShave have done remarkably well, largely thanks to their Facebook Advertising, which gave them repeated exposure.

Facebook Ads are also often slightly more eye-catching, with large pictures that can catch a user’s interest and attention. While some Google ads have an image, largely off-site ads, Facebook ads has the advantage of reliable imagery to help attract a user.

google adwords vs facebook ads
I know, here I go again with the food. But the image makes the difference here between whether I’d click or not.

Facebook also offers the benefit of user engagement. Users may flock to a Facebook Page as well as potentially buying or signing up for an opt-in list, giving a business free marketing opportunities to those users via their Page and posts in the future. You can get user engagement, build up excitement, and build a rapport with followers as the ad happens on a social media platform.

Weaknesses: Targeting, like keyword research, can be difficult. It can also be imprecise, especially if you’re new to the system. It can be hard to find the balance of getting your audience narrow enough to find your niche, and broad enough that you don’t exclude too many users.

google ads vs facebook ads
Facebook Ad’s targeting decided to show me a McDonalds ad. Sadly for them, I hate McDonalds and get sick every time I eat it. This can show how imprecise targeting can be.

Because you’re not going off of actual searches happening at that moment, you may miss people at the right stage of the buying cycle. Sure, you can use special targeting to show your ad to someone who’s researching buying a car, but maybe they’re already done researching by the time your ad pops up on Facebook.

Facebook Ads can also easily become expensive, like all paid ad platforms. A lot of inexperienced marketers have lost a pretty penny, but to be fair, that can be said about Adwords, too. While Facebook Ads is now relatively affordable, with organic reach declining, we’ll have to see how that affects overall bidding prices and general affordability.

Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads: You Should Use Both

Facebook Ads and Google Adwords have different focuses, even though the end goal of giving your business exposure and increasing sales is the same.

Dollar Shave is a great example of a business whose campaign thrived on Facebook Ads but may not have done quite as well on Google Adwords. On the other side of this issue, catching users far along in the buying cycle tends to happen best—in the majority of cases— with Adwords.

For this reason, the strengths and weaknesses of each ad platform make it less of an argument of Google Adwords vs. Facebook Ads and more of a “why you should use both” kind of argument. You can utilize Facebook Ads to gain exposure to new clients and capture some sales, but you can use Adwords to capture an audience searching for products like yours, an audience often fairly far along in the buying cycle. Facebook Ads gives you exposure; Google Adwords helps you connect with users looking for what you’re selling.

Both systems, regardless of their respective strengths and weaknesses, are complex and take some time to learn and be successful with. To make this process easier and help you run successful, profitable campaigns every time, we’ve got our FB Ads Formula and our Google Adwords Formula. Make sure you take a look at both and learn both systems. After all, even if you favor one or the other, there may be a time when both systems are best used at once for the maximum amount of ROI off a campaign.

What do you think? Have you used Google Adwords and Facebook Ads? Which has worked best for you?
Leave us a comment and let us know!