Comparing Facebook and Google Ads

There have been some recent comparisons of Facebook and Google ads, along with various tech pundits bemoaning the supposed lack of effectiveness of FB ads or how it won’t be as good a revenue driver.

If you’ve been doing online ads for a long time, you get used to tuning this sort of stuff out. However, I wanted to go over something really important when comparing the two.

Google AdWords is intent based advertising.  AdWords ropes you in to a particular purchase as you’re being herded through search.

When you type a keyword into search, you are indicating clear intent about a subject, object or preference. For example, if you type in “New Balance shoes” in Google, you’re obviously pretty interested in New Balance shoes. (I’ll get into the various user/browser types in another post).

This clear indication of intent means that if I want to get money from you, I need to present information about New Balance to you. So, go type that in to Google and you’ll see a metric ass-ton of ads about - you guessed it - New Balance shoes!

This is intent based advertising. I can reach you based on your intent right now, giving me a clear path to convert you into revenue. This is powerful stuff and one reason why Google AdWords dominates all search ads, but is under serious threat from Facebook Ads - and I’ll explain why.

Facebook Ads is interest-based advertisingFacebook targets you when you aren’t really suspecting it and nails you with the product before you even knew it.

Unlike Google, you’re pretty much never going to type in “New Balance Shoes” in the Facebook search box. Furthermore, even though 92,380 in the US people are flagged as liking “New Balance Shoes” in Facebook, they aren’t really a good target if I’m trying to sell them shoes. Interest based advertising requires a completely different approach to profitability.

If I am an online shoe merchant trying to sell shoes to people on Facebook, there’s a myriad of ways to do so. I typically do not deal with stories or likes (in my experience they are not a reliable sales driver, but others have had great success with them). Instead, I look for a clear revenue-response-path, often email lists, FB apps, etc. Ideally, to sell shoes, I would probably have people sign up for an email list where I send them the top shoe deals every few days.

Furthermore, I would likely break it down into several distinct verticals. Active runners most likely won’t give a rats ass about high-heels, especially if they’re dudes. With the low barrier to entry in order to get an email list set up (MailChimp and SendGrid ftw) you can have 100 email list generators instead of one. By targeting narrower sets, you can appeal much more directly to their interests. Hit runners with great running shoe deals along with peripheral stuff. Get ballroom dancers with fancy shoes, club-heads with high hells heels, etc.

Apples & Oranges, etc.

In the end, Google and FB really are completely different. Google took over the advertising world in the early naughts because they gave a clear path to user intent, allowing you to quickly scale a campaign to maximize revenue and reach a large swath of interested customers. The disadvantage is you’re limited to a later stage in the product purchase cycle (research to post decision) and you’re in a venue where you have 1-2 shots only to get that click. Facebook gets people at inception via their interest - I can get you interested in what I have to offer before you’ve really considered the purchase and I can show you ads all day until you click.

The threat Facebook poses to Google is that by leading you to a purchase decision earlier in the cycle, you are much more likely to visit the merchant directly and not even search once on Google for the product. Suddenly, instead of clicking many different search ads in your product search you’ve already made a decision or are dealing with someone who has cut Google completely out of the loop. This is also why Google+ exists, but I’ll get into that later.