Facebook Versus AdWords: Is One Better Than The Other?

Those who are new to digital marketing often wonder where they should invest their advertising dollars.  Should they pump resources into Facebook, which is newer, shinier, and all the rage in the digital marketing world?  Or should they run Google AdWords, the tried and true (but less sexy) platform?

Not surprisingly, there’s no cut and dry answer to this question.  Both platforms are great, and in many cases you’ll want to run both.  However, there are certain instances when you may want to run one instead of the other, or invest more in one over the other.  Here are four questions to ask yourself when deciding where to invest your advertising dollars:

1. What is the Goal of Your Advertising Campaign?

This should always be the first question you ask yourself.

What is your top priority? Are you trying to create awareness and generate demand or are you looking to generate leads, sales, and revenue?

If branding and awareness are your goals, you’ll probably want to invest more in Facebook.  Facebook’s cost per click is generally cheaper (although this isn’t always the case, and Facebook cpcs are on the rise). But overall, you’ll likely get more bang for your buck on Facebook (from a clicks standpoint), so if your goal is branding, this platform is probably the way to go.

If, however, your goal is to generate leads and sales, you may want to opt for AdWords.  Since AdWords is keyword-targeted, you’re able to reach people who are searching directly for your product or service.  And if they’re searching for the service you offer, they’re more likely to convert into a customer.

Contrast this to Facebook traffic, which is “top of the funnel” traffic where a user may or may not be actively looking to purchase your product.  When a Facebook user sees your ad, you’re essentially interrupting them when they may not be ready to purchase.  Therefore, these users are often less likely to convert and may take more coaxing (i.e. in the form of free offers) to push them further down the funnel.

This is why we often see that the overall cost to acquire a customer with AdWords tends to be cheaper, even though the initial clicks may have been more expensive than Facebook.

2. Is There Already Demand for Your Product or Service?

Is your product something people actively search for and know about?  Is it a common product or service?  For example, there is a lot search volume for most kinds of local businesses (dentists, lawyers, med spas, auto mechanics, etc).  There is also a lot of search volume for consumer goods (electronics, clothing, sporting goods, etc).

If you fall into these categories, AdWords will be important for you.  You can capitalize on existing demand for your service.  If you’re a dentist and someone searches for “dentist” in your city, you can capitalize on this by showing an ad right when someone is searching for your service.

If you’re not sure whether there’s demand for your service, you can always use Google Trends or the keyword planner in AdWords (need an AdWords account to view) to get a better understanding of the search volume for your product.

If, however, your product is a recent invention or concept, it probably doesn’t have a lot of search volume yet.  In this case, it may make more sense to drum up awareness and demand via Facebook.  Then later, if demand grows for your product, you can always run an AdWords campaign to capitalize on it.

3. Is Your Product Tied to a Particular Demographic?

Do people purchase your product or service after certain life events (i.e. engagement, marriage, birth of a child, etc)?  Or is your product perfect for a particular demographic (i.e. people who have a certain interest, men or women of a certain age, etc)?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” you may want to invest more in Facebook.  Although there is some demographic targeting in AdWords, the capabilities are currently much more robust in Facebook.

4. How Competitive is Your Vertical?

Do you operate in a vertical that happens to be extremely competitive?

For example, are there several national brands who also offer your service? If so, it’s likely that these competitors dominate the search results (conducting a quick search of your keywords will tell you).  It can be difficult to compete against these brands, who often have larger budgets and greater brand affinity.

Or, do you fall in a niche with particularly high cpcs?  Personal injury lawyers, rehab centers, and damage restoration companies tend to have high cpcs (however, keep in mind that a customer can be very valuable in these industries as well – so the high cpcs may be worth it).

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, AdWords may not be your best bet because it could be cost prohibitive.

To get an idea of how competitive your terms are, you can check in the keyword planner within AdWords.  Also, this article highlights the top 100 most expensive Adwords keywords in the U.S.

So, Which One Should You Use?  Facebook, Adwords or Both?

The answer is obviously going to be extremely dependent on your business.

The above tips can help guide your investment decisions, but are not inclusive of every situation that may be out there.

As a general rule, Facebook is great for creating awareness and demand, while AdWords is great for harvesting demand that already exists.  Both strategies may make sense for your business, and you should invest accordingly depending on what your priority is.  And as always, be sure to test and measure to see what’s working!

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  • Updated January 23, 2018