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  • Writer's pictureAbhijit J K

Differences between Facebook Ads and Google Adwords

Marketing campaigns can truly take off on an international market only through large scale digital marketing. But in a world where traditional mass media is being overtaken by the internet, the marketing strategies will have to also adapt to and leverage today’s ubiquitous networking. There are two dominant models of marketing that target itself to only potential consumers over the chaos of the internet: paid social and paid search. Facebook ads follow the paid social model while Google Adwords is a paid search advertising. The difference between the two is exemplified by the very platforms that employ them.

Both these models are efficient in their own domains, and a good advertisement campaign should utilise both strategies. But the content, style and design need to be chosen deliberately to fit each format to target widely varying levels of user interest. There are a few aspects which should be considered while making ads for both kinds of marketing.


Facebook ads are displayed to users who have shown interest in those types of products or have friends and followings who do. This creates a type of systematic and implicit ‘word-of-mouth’ to spread the advert to new potential customers. You can pay as needed to “boost” the ad to increase its spread through the algorithm. There are several user parameters that you can choose to specify the demographics within which you want to boost your ad. You can either set a budget and allow Facebook to optimise spending or you can choose to pay Facebook for every click on your ad (cost-per-click or CPC).

Google Adwords operates on the basis of keyword bids. You, the advertiser, bid on certain words and phrases that you think will be searched by the potential customer in the Google search engine. The higher the bid, the more frequently will your ad be displayed to a relevant search. The relevance of your ad will depend on your Ad Rank generated by using many factors including user history and location, your bid amount, content relevance and the click-through-rate (CTR) and more. The CTR is a measure of how many times a user has clicked the ad out of the times it was displayed. And for each click, Google also charges you a CPC equal to your competitor’s Ad Rank divided by the Quality Score. The quality score is given by the Adwords algorithm and takes multiple factors into account including CTR, the relevance of text and keywords, website quality and advertiser history of that account. Good quality scores both decreases advertisement costs and increases the display probability of your ad. The ad keeps displaying as long as you pay for each click.

Target audience

The fundamental difference between these two strategies arises from the way they fit into a potential customer's intentions. While Facebook optimises your ad’s relevance to the user according to her social interests and behaviour, Google Adwords optimises it according to her active search interests.

In Facebook, there is a large scope to find new potential consumers, that you couldn’t have guessed by yourself. It does this by using the interests of a user's friends, to target the user himself. Thus this leverages not only the user’s tangential interests but also tacitly convinces him to get involved voluntarily in the interests of his social circle. But since digital social media is a casual activity, most consumers are not serious shoppers. Hence, the outreach of an ad campaign is much larger than the actual amount of conversions to buyers. However, with an extensive social media campaign and a good budget, there can be a potentially large return on investment (ROI) following the depth of market penetration.

When these casual shoppers have been motivated by social media marketing, they might begin to actively search for those products and services in Google’s search engine. It is at this point that Google Adwords plays its role in converting them to actual buyers. It does this by prioritising the relevant ads with the highest bids on the searched keywords and placing them even before the search results. Guessing the search words of your potential customers is of prime importance in using paid search.

Content Format

Since Facebook targets casual shoppers who are primarily engaged in a mode of entertainment, there is a huge space for affective design to emotionally arouse the user’s interest in your business. Facebook ads should be mainly targeted towards trends and cultures rather than user-specific demographics. This allows for the ad to be designed to fit in seamlessly with the user’s entertainment experience. Thus the content design and aesthetics should be informed by trending tastes of the target culture. The presence of your business is proportional to the trendiness of your ad and maintaining it requires frequent updates, matching the changing zeitgeist.

Google Adwords requires a more formal approach since this displays text advertisements sorted by keyword bids. This implicitly demands good quality copy which delivers relevant information lucidly in a website or landing page. This also opens up space for design, but here the design should focus more on functionality in presenting the product and brand than catering to varying aesthetic tastes. It will also contribute positively to the quality score. This kind of advertisement content needs updating only with a change in the product itself and new keywords are introduced and bid for.

Budgeting Strategy

The different choices involved in both these marketing routes are limited by their allotted budgets. The budget strategies for each are also determined by their specific workings. But ultimately the overarching budget decision of how much to allocate for social and search marketing will depend on the product pricing and its target demographics.

The Google Adwords model makes it ideal to match every click on an advertisement with a sale of the product. However, this is rarely achieved and a good ROI is only assured when the product or service is priced much higher than the pay-per-click rate. But since users are actively searching, this model maintains a stable rate of sales if the proper quality is maintained. Thus, Adwords is suitable for marketing large scale products or long term services which have a consistent demand in the market backed by a steady supply from your end. Further, since one cannot over- or under-bid too much, this ensures a predictable and stable ROI.

The Facebook model, on the other hand, has a flexible payment model as discussed. But while one can pay more than average to flood the market for a while, such a strategy is unfeasible to sustain long term because the returns diminish when the algorithm targets users with tangential interests. However, market flooding is still a viable strategy if done at specific times within specific user parameters. It can act as a campaign promotion when followed by small but regular boosts. Thus, Facebook is efficient at advertising products which are inexpensive or voluntarily priced, and are easy to buy on a whim. Hence food, art, lifestyle products and donations make up a large majority of advertised products.

As you can see, both Facebook ads and Google AdWords should be used to run an efficient digital marketing campaign. But the budget and process of both models will depend on the type of product and the kind of consumer demographics. While Adwords is more suitable for a well-defined consumer base, Facebook can leverage and even extend a fuzzy consumer base.

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