With the rising popularity of social media, advertising through traditional channels like television, radio and newspaper has been systematically replaced with online advertising. As a cheap marketing method with the ability to reach more people than traditional outlets, online advertising has particularly become popular amongst startups and small businesses. In fact, Facebook Advertising and Google Adwords are now two of the major online advertising contenders for companies. With billions of users located worldwide, these dominant online advertisers compete for a chunk of today’s valuable online market, which has an estimated worth of $10 billion according to The Atlantic and The Economist. Both outlets, however, have significant advantages and drawbacks, both of which are determined by user preference. In order to accurately understand which of these advertising giants are more successful, it’s important to juxtapose their elements, like advertising mediums, data bulk, relevance, and cost efficiency.
Facebook is a social media platform that has exceeded expectations in terms of its popularity. It has an estimated 1.32 billion people that log on daily, which makes it a powerful platform for advertising. Facebook Advertising has therefore been incredibly successful financially, as it offers a wide variety of publicity opportunities for pages, groups and ads. Through these opportunities, companies have the ability to market their products and services in inexpensive ways. The platform’s methods of outreach, like pairing a demand generation model with the waterfall model, combined with its huge number of users particularly gives it the effect of an advertising publisher. Although Google Adwords also applies this model to its business strategy, Facebook Advertising has the ability to use it on a grander scale since it has more user data to work with than its competition. Facebook Advertising is equally more flexible than Google Adwords in terms of its advertising. Its dynamism has thus given this platform an advantage, as it quickly incorporates new trends and expands through competition buyouts.
One factor that particularly appeals to advertisers when considering a publicity platform is the cost. Although both advertising giants claim to be less expensive, Facebook Advertising is actually cheaper. The reason for this is because, as previously mentioned, Facebook offers various advertising opportunities. A Facebook page, for example, is a free page that can publish content and reach a wide audience, well beyond the individual user’s own Facebook friends. Users have the ability to interact with the page in many ways, including the option to “like” the page, hide the page, and give feedback about the content and its relevance. A well managed page will sell the company’s ideology through graphics and logos on the profile, which can then encourage followers or viewers to follow hyperlinks to the company’s website. Unfortunately, pages are limited in their abilities because this platform does not give users the opportunity to create a fan base. Instead, all users must click a link to the site for more information. In addition to free Facebook pages, companies have the option to create sponsored pages. These paid-for pages will appear before any free pages and Facebook Advertising will provide feedback on how all ads are performing to ensure improvement.
Apart from pages, Facebook also has groups which make content distribution easy and free. A group is a forum for discussion in which users can invite friends or people with common interests to interact. Of course, users may accept or decline their invitation. A “wall” exists in all group pages, which can serve as an advertising board. Users in the group can post content and updates here with links to websites or coupons, all of which is for public consumption. Like any type of advertising, the content in the group must be captivating and interactive to keep members from leaving. Administrators must therefore work hard at not only maintaining, but also increasing the number of members in their group.
Facebook ads is the third category of advertising for this platform. These are paid, promoted ads, which can appear in a variety of forms, from banners to videos. Depending on the user’s preference, the ads can appear on different parts of the Facebook page. There are also different budget ranges users can work with; it all depends on how much the advertiser is willing to pay. Overall, Facebook ads are easy to access and manage, as the platform ensures that the ads reach specific demographics.
Google Adwords, on the other hand, does not have the multiple publicity options that its rival possesses like pages, groups and ads. This outlet therefore depends solely on its ads, which for some can be seen as a limitation. Since Google Adwords is a pay-per-click advertiser, however, it is seen as cost effective because advertisers only have to pay when a viewer clicks on the ad. The concentration is basically on the keyword search, which makes the campaign profitable since the advertiser doesn’t have to spend money without seeing results. This also ensures that Google directs more ads toward sites where traffic is generated in order to ensure visibility. Although this strategy seems laudable, Facebook’s multiple tiers continue to give it an advantage over its competition.
Similar to Facebook, Google is a wildly popular platform. With interactive outlets like Google+, the platform has a large follower base – but not as large as that of Facebook. According to the Pew Research Center, Facebook has been the most solicited social media platform in 2017 and with this fame comes many benefits. With a higher follower base, Facebook can collect a huge bulk of data from subscribers through their biography, education, career, hobbies and additional sections in their personal profiles. Through this information, advertisers can tell which goods or services might appeal to different users. As a result, many people prefer to place their ads on Facebook because they feel that they will have better outreach in terms of their target demographic.
Time is money according to the time tested adage, but when it comes to Facebook, the more time a user spends on the platform, the more money the advertiser gets. Facebook Advertising is geared towards making users spend time on distractions like games. This is not the same with Google Adwords. Instead, Good Adwords cherishes relevance over monetary value. In many cases, Google Adwords even gives preference to relevance over ad dollars. This level of competition gives advertisers of all budgets an equal chance at making highly visible ads. In this light, the ads that are promoted through the unified auction model are those that appeal to the needs of those viewing them. Google Adwords particularly favors landing pages that are easy to access since this increases click probability. This platform is more sophisticated in determining relevance and therefore saving time. It is thus effective because the platform successfully matches keywords with relevant ads.
Facebook, in turn, receives many complaints about irrelevant ads and time consuming feeds. This is because Facebook is a pay for play enterprise, so those who pay more for their ads get more promotion benefits, like ads sometimes showing to irrelevant or random demographics. In addition, Facebook Advertising generates too much feed that is sometimes completely ignored by its users due to the multiple promotion options like pages and groups.
This strategy typically leads to lower click through rates (CTR) and conversions, especially in comparison to Google Adwords. The click through rate is simply determined by the number of visitors that click on the ad and are directed to the advertiser’s website. In other words, the more people that click the ad’s link, the more effective the marketing campaign. Google Adwords tends to have more success with this, as it takes the target audience’s interests into consideration, while Facebook Advertising can be irrelevant and overwhelming with its number of feeds. In terms of cost conversions, it is also very easy for Google Adwords users to track their total number of clicks.
When comparing the platforms’ efficiency in terms of location, time, language, and mobile targeting, Google Adwords again comes out on top. While Facebook Advertising also provides these targeting features, Adwords offers more options. More specifically Google Adwords has over forty language options in its ad library. This ensures that ads will display in the correct language. Its geographical locations are just as accurate.
Although both Facebook Advertising and Google Adwords give statistics to advertisers on how well ads are doing, Google Adwords goes further and offers test runs. After the test run phase, users can refashion their ads in order to best appeal to their target demographic. This is the kind of personal touch that most advertisers seek and is why Adwords has an edge over Facebook Advertising in this dimension.
In addition to test runs, Google Adwords offers its advertisers the ability to re-target, which means it will show ads to people who have visited their website or used their mobile app. This is advantageous because people who have interacted with a brand or are visiting a website for the second time are more likely to pay for the product or service offered. It also encourages people who didn’t complete a purchase to return to the website and reconsider buying the product.
On the downside, since Google Adwords uses demand fulfillment advertising, it can be more costly and inefficient because marketing is done on the premise of existing demand. The ads will mostly target customers who are looking for the service or product in question, while Facebook Advertising forces people to want the product. Sometimes, people might not know what they are actually seeking until they find it. Google Adwords therefore becomes costly because advertisers might have to advertise over a period of time before getting the traffic they seek.
In terms of demographic, Facebook Advertising hits a roadblock because of its age appeal. Statistics have indicated that Facebook is popular amongst users between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine. Many products and services relating to IT and technology will therefore be well received by this demographic, while other products and services, like medical supplements, might not appeal to them. Google Adwords on the other hand reaches a wider age range.
Overall, Facebook Advertising and Google Adwords each have their own strengths and weaknesses and apply to various types of users. Facebook advertising has multiple tiers, a huge bulk of user data, and inexpensive ad options; however, it has lower click-through and conversion rates and more irrelevant ad placement. Google Adwords is more focused on relevance over monetary value, is time efficient and has the ability to re-target, yet it has less data and can be more expensive in the long-run.
The Economist. “How Facebook became an Advertising Behemoth”. Retrieved 3/08/2017.
Thompson, Derek. “Facebook, Google, and the Economics of Time”. The Atlantic. Retrieved