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Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads - Feature IMage

Facebook Ads vs Google Ads: Which should I use for my ecommerce business?

In 2020, both Google Ads and Facebook Ads are part of most eCommerce founders and marketers’ toolbox. Although most beginners will follow a linear approach when it comes to Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads channels (ad, site, cart, checkout), there are certain things one platform does better than the other, depending on which business you run. 

Facebook Ads: A Look Into Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger 

Facebook Ads screen on laptop
Image by Will Francis

With 2.6 billion monthly active users across their properties, Facebook is by far the largest social media platform (or assembly of people, for that matter) out there. That means there is no better place to get in front of consumers, regardless of demographics. 

Even better, Facebook users are incredibly engaged. The average social media user spends almost two and a half hours a day scrolling through their feeds, a lot of which is spent in Facebook properties, which include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Both Facebook and Instagram have mature advertising products, with deep targeting and great engagement. Campaigns for both can be run seamlessly from your Facebook Ads Manager and use similar creative, making it easy to scale. If you target a younger audience (18-40), chances are Instagram has already overtaken Facebook in impressions, conversions and relative importance. 

Now, WhatsApp and Messenger are not quite there yet. 

WhatsApp is ad-free. After spending $19 Billion some years ago to acquire it, Facebook has taken their time adding ads to the WhatsApp platform. They have added WhatsApp for Business support, which is great for small, local businesses, but no advertising options quite yet. Although not as popular in the US, WhatsApp is hugely popular everywhere else in the world, with almost 2 billion users using it as their #1 platform for texting

Messenger now has minimal ad support, with relatively low engagement. Messenger ads drive people to live chat with one of your people, or to a chat-bot, which adds an interesting wrinkle to the way most eCommerce brands think about advertising. 

Facebook Ads provide Behavioral Targeting Advantages for eCommerce Businesses

Interest based and behavioral targeting

In marketing, making your ads relevant to the audience you are targeting is half the battle. Nobody does this better than Facebook. 

They allow you to target customers based on interests (things they like), behaviours (things they do), engagement (things they’ve interacted with), life events (what’s happened recently in their lives), as well as job titles, age, demographics, location, etcetera. 

This opens up an outstanding amount of targeting opportunities, mixing and matching interests, behaviours, demographics and more.

Targeting Opportunities for Facebook Ads, Explained

Targeting OpportunityTargeting Examples
InterestsIf you sell high-end handbags you may want to target people who like specific designers, designer brands, fashion industry events, fashion magazine and publications who are also women above a certain income threshold. Although you can no longer target income levels directly, you can target your audience based on the average household earnings of their zipcode.
BehaviorsThis is by far the most extensive targeting option. If you sell men’s grooming products, for example, you can target people who have previously interacted with and purchased products in the same category. This applies to hundreds of other behavior categories.
EngagementGet some great ROAS and Conversion % wins by targeting people who have visited your product pages and your cart page. Use Facebook’s pixel to record your users’ engagement.
Life EventsIn the wedding business? You can target couples who are planning a wedding, whether or not they’ve told Facebook. The same way they can predict breakups, they can also predict weddings with a high level of certainty. 

Facebook still boasts top-of-the-charts engagement

Despite the rise of competitors like Snapchat and TikTok, Facebook (and their other properties) have done an outstanding job of protecting their audiences, while having by far the most mature ad product.

As we mentioned, with 2.6 billion monthly active users, Facebook is more than twice the size of both the aforementioned competitors, combined. Users also spend more time on Facebook across the board than on any other platform. 

They engage more, they click more, they scroll more and they comment more, which translates to a very healthy amount of inventory. Google’s inventory is limited by people’s tendencies to search a specific term, and they have no control over that. However, Facebook can keep you scrolling forever.

Advantages of Facebook Ads for eCommerce 

Relatively low CPM

With Facebook being so adept at creating inventory, that means they can offer very competitive CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) while delivering very targeted advertising. Simply put, there is no better bang for your buck online if your goal is to get your logo in front of the right people. Google Display is not as targeted, LinkedIn Ads are exorbitantly expensive. 

Facebook knows how to do it.

Easy to operate bidding system

As we mentioned earlier, Facebook owns the most mature social media advertising platform out there and they have done an outstanding job making it very easy for small businesses to start advertising with minimal marketing experience.

They offer simple targeting options that help you meet your goals, regardless of what they may be. If you choose Conversions as your goal for your advertising, Facebook will do a good job at delivering sales at an affordable CAC (customer acquisition cost) while meeting a target ROAS (return on ad spend). 

In short, Facebook will put your ads in front of people (within your cohort) that are likely to purchase, delivering the best possible campaign results.

Disadvantages of Facebook Ads for eCommerce

Low relative intent

If someone searches for your specific product on Google, chances are they are ready to buy. In this scenario, Google search ads can come in handy. When using Facebook ads, you target people, not queries, therefore your average target will be further from the point of purchase than in other channels.

This for the most part is offset by cheaper costs per click and CPMs, but it is something you must have in mind when designing your ads. Facebook is a lot more about discovery–finding something cool that matches who you are and what you do.

Because of this, you may want to create campaigns that foster awareness of your product, that allow your consumers to familiarize themselves with it, and that enable you to retarget engagement with straight-to-purchase ads. 

Creative requirements

All ads on Facebook are image based. That means that if you don’t have a graphic designer near you, you may have to do a lot of the designing work yourself. 

Facebook is also quite specific about the type of images that are accepted. For example, they have specific dimension requirements and only allow up to 20% of the image’s surface to be covered by text (including your logo). Additionally, success in Facebook is largely dependent on the quality of the creative, so you will want to spend extra time making sure your creative is as good as it can be.

Thankfully, this is now easier than ever. Marketers  have tools like Canva, Figma and a lot of other online platforms where theycan design theirown ads from scratch in a very easy manner. Businesses can also go to Fiverr and hire someone to build their ads for relatively cheap.

Google Ads: A look into Ads for Search, Display, Gmail, Shopping, YouTube, and More 

Google Adwords image
Image by Launchpresso

It may not surprise you that Google is the #1 search engine, and effectively the only widely used search engine in the western world. Even then, their size is astonishing, owning over a third of the online advertising market (almost double that of Facebook) and over 75% of the search advertising market (over six times the size of Amazon’s).

Google Ads include Search ads (the ones in your Search Engine Results Page), Display (banner ads you see in websites), Gmail ads, Shopping ads, Youtube ads and more.

Shopping ads have been recently made ‘free’, meaning that Google will crawl online stores looking for relevant product results for users’ searches. That will create a push to do ‘eCommerce SEO’ or something similar, the same way updates around 2014 and 2015 created the Local SEO category.

Regardless of that, eCommerce marketers should familiarize themselves with Shopping ads, since the SERP is likely to be ad-dominated.

Youtube Ads are still an underutilized tool in eCommerce. There is no better way to get well-produced brand introductions and product highlights in the form of video in front of your customers. We have also seen them utilized to great success with creative in the form of product reviews, either by consumers or influencers. 

Another big advantage to Youtube ads is the delivery model. It allows users who are not engaged to simply skip out of the ad after 5 seconds, and only charges you for views of the video beyond that.

Advantages of Google Ads for eCommerce

Intent based targeting

Google Ads shine closest to the point of purchase. That means that people that look up your product category, let’s say men’s black dress shoes, are very likely to be looking to purchase your product, and not very likely to just be browsing around, versus Facebook, for instance.

This type of targeting makes it very easy to:

  1. Get very specific about the product searches you want to target (men’s black dress shoes vs dress shoes, for example)
  2. Cut through the noise and only target people ready to buy
  3. Achieve great conversion rates on your campaigns

Competitive targeting

If you are an up-and-coming player in an established industry, Google allows you to target your competitors’ customers at the point of purchase.

If you have your own D2C sunglasses brand, you will want people searching not only for sunglasses but also people searching for sunglasses brands such as Rayban, Carrera and others, as well as designer brand sunglasses by using broad match modifiers (Prada +sunglasses, Gucci +sunglasses).

Many competitors will protect their brand by advertising for their own brand name. That only means your CPC may be higher than in other keywords, and that you will struggle to ever achieve position one, but that should not deter you. The quality of the traffic far outweighs any disadvantages.

Lower creative requirements

While we said that success on Facebook Ads largely depends on the quality of the creative, most Google ads don’t have that requirement.

Google Search ads, and some Display ads are purely text, so  there is no design required there. Shopping ads use the same product images you use in your store, so limited added effort is required.

Youtube ads can be the most resource intensive ad type, but most good brands are very adept at creating video nowadays, whether that is a professionally produced 30 second ad, or a customer testimonial recorded with a phone camera.

Disadvantages of Google Ads for eCommerce

Limited inventory

Google has limited ways of creating additional inventory therefore your ability to scale may be hampered by the lack of searches. 

This is particularly difficult for niche products, that may be used only by a small number of people in your target market, or for a brand new category, which consumers may not be yet aware of.

Some ways to get around this are to target whichever category you are trying to replace (for example, at Wayflyer, we are trying to replace inefficient and antiquated methods of funding for eCommerce, such as bank loans, so we will target people searching for those) or targeting queries for products whose buyers are likely to also need your product  (if you sell organic shoe polish, you may want to target people who are buying shoes).

High CPCs in crowded verticals

As a result of all the advantages Google Ads provide, the largest disadvantage of the platform is how expensive clicks and conversions can be in crowded spaces. 

If you are in a space dominated by big players (fashion, for instance) it may not even make sense to advertise on Google, unless you can get very creative (and specific) with your targeting.

Our recommendation as always is to start specific, track your ROAS closely and move your budget elsewhere if the channel does not deliver the results you need.

Using Google Ads and Facebook Ads together

Working together - business team
Image by Canva

For best results, there are a couple of ways you can use Google and Facebook Ads together.

Retarget Google Ad landing page visitors with product-specific ads on Facebook

The average landing page converts at only 11%, meaning 89% of customers leave your page without purchasing. By using pixel retargeting on that cohort, you can re-engage them at a better time on Facebook for little cost.

For even better results, link the Facebook creative to the original Google Ads query. For example, if their query included ‘black shoes’, make sure to add that keyword to the landing page URL (utm_campaign or utm_term are both good places for that). On the Facebook side, you can then retarget users that have visited pages that include ‘black shoes’ where the source is ‘google’, ‘ppc’ or any other tag you use to define your PPC efforts.

Lookalike audiences from Google Ads

Looking for a way to expand your Google Ads efforts but the inventory is not there? Facebook can help. Identify your previous conversions from Google Ads PPC and create a custom retargeting audience on the Facebook side.

Once that’s done, create a lookalike audience of that, and you will get a new audience of people with shared interests and behaviours as those that looked up your product and Google and converted. 

Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads: When should I use one over the other?

All eCommerce brands should test and use both platforms, albeit in slightly different ways.

Although both can occupy the whole funnel, from first touch to purchase, in most practical cases Facebook dominates early in the funnel, while Google is best used late in the funnel.

Product category also matters when picking one over the other. Facebook works best for products that require discovery, or are novel applications or solutions. Google works much better for established products with well-defined categories and incumbent players.

No one size fits all, so where you draw the line in terms of spending more time and budget in one over the other depends on your product category, customer profile, vertical maturity, brand recognition, and a lot of other things that may be outside of your realm of control. Our advice is you test both and let sales drive your future decisions.

About the Author

Nicolas Derico is the Director of Marketing at Wayflyer. Wayflyer provides eCommerce brands with revenue-based financing they can use to grow their marketing budgets and fund inventory purchases, as well as the analytics they need to measure and guide their success. You can apply for up to $500,000 in funding in 30 minutes at wayflyer.com.

Feature Image by Nerfee Mirandilla

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