It’s the online advertising heavyweight title fight that many small business entrepreneurs are struggling to judge.
In the red corner is Google AdWords, the undisputed champion for many SMEs.
In the blue corner is Facebook Ads, the up-and-comer with a growing reputation.
Both offer huge marketing opportunities for businesses. But which one is right for your firm?
Push and pull
The best way to think about advertising on Facebook and Google is to consider how each interacts with consumers, says the founder of AdWords management company SponsoredlinX, Ben Bradshaw.
“Google is best described as pull marketing, because they’re already searching for a plumber in Brisbane, for example, so you know you’ve got a captive audience of people who are in the market for what you’re offering,” Bradshaw says.
Facebook ads, on the other hand, need to give people a reason to click on the ad.
“Facebook is push marketing, because you’re trying to push people who aren’t necessarily searching for whatever it is you’re promoting.”
Google Adwords target users with keywords that are configured to reach customers in certain stages of the buying cycle. This means that Google ads are generally presented to users who are actively seeking out information on a product, brand and service.
Facebook ads, on the other hand, are displayed to users based on a profile when they’re socialising, according to digital advertising agency founder and director, Karson Stimson.
“With this being the case, Facebook ads need to entice or generate interest in your product, service or brand. Facebook will also stop showing your ad if no-one is clicking on it, so testing and targeting different ads is the key.”
Both Facebook and Google ads have their place, Stimson says.
“Budget, target market and campaign objective will generally dictate what mix or which channel is selected. Both can produce incredible results, it’s all about finding the right mix of creative and targeting criteria,” he says.
The great thing about online advertising is that for once, SMEs are on a level playing field with big budget advertisers. Both Google and Facebook allow advertisers to spend as little or as much as they like, with a daily budget capping expenditure. Facebook ads cost around $1 to $2 a click, while Google is around $5 to $6 a click in most instances, Bradshaw says.
Google Adwords enables advertisers to set the cost they’re willing to pay, says Google Australia spokesman Henning Dorstewitz.
“Advertisers only pay when they get a click, and they can see what clicks convert into sales. Therefore they can make informed decisions about what they’re willing to spend. Ultimately, because of this auction model, the price an advertiser ends up paying is determined by supply and demand. The higher the return searches made, the more advertisers are likely to enter the auction and as a result the bid made by the advertiser is likely to be higher,” Dorstewitz says.
Ability to target customers
Both Google and Facebook ads are highly targetable platforms.
Nathan Bush, head of interactive strategy of advertising agency BCM Partnership Brisbane, says Facebook can get a bit deeper with its targeting because it knows more about your personal details.
“But this isn’t the most important targeting. The most important is what we call behavioural targeting. There are three general reasons people search: to get an answer, to educate themselves or to find inspiration. If you can match a keyword relevant to your business to one of these states, Google advertising can be very beneficial.”
Facebook, however, offers behavioural targeting, which allows you to go beyond demographics by targeting the friends of your best customers and target complimentary interest groups, Bush says.
“Behavioural targeting allows you to enter the mindset of the consumer, rather than just throwing ads at them, which is very powerful.”
Benoit Thorp, online account manager, umm..communications in Sydney says Facebook’s ability to target consumers is unmatchable.
“Facebook ads that lead directly to a customised Facebook page, allowing for data to be scraped from users, and for people to remain connected with a brand even if they don’t purchase from that initial visit is a massive point of difference between Facebook and Google ads. This is a hugely powerful marketing strategy if executed properly that allows for a brand to remain connected with someone who has shown some initial interest in it,” Thorp says.
Both Facebook and Google enable businesses to account for every marketing dollar being spent, with Google Analytics the best tool around to measure your campaigns.
Bush says: “You can see a direct correlation to the number of pages clicked through to, new Facebook fans and even the number of people to have purchased from your website. Measuring and adjusting ad campaigns, in both targeting and messages, is easy and essential to do.”
And the effectiveness of Facebook ads is ever increasing as the social web continues to evolve, with peer recommendations holding more weight online than a simple ad without third party endorsement, which is where Google AdWwords fall behind, Thorp says.
“Ads that are liked by someone you know have been shown to be a lot more effective than those without a friend endorsement,” he says.
Laurel Collins, retail strategy director at Melbourne digital advertising agency emitch, says if you just look at click-through rates, Google will almost always look best. But it’s not that simple, with audiences and approaches for each site different, meaning they can’t really be measured side by side.
Josie Brown, director of digital, Melbourne advertising agency JWT, says that Google Adwords is targeted, so you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and you can track your spend.
“The other advantage Google Adwords still has over Facebook is habit. Google has embedded itself as the default place to start online search in Australia. So brands and businesses can be fairly confident that their paid advertising will be seen by those who are actively looking. It’s one of the few media where the consumer is looking at you.”
Facebook, however, is all about connecting people and good ads will drive response, Brown says.
“Great advertising, however, will amplify the reach and impact, because any action taken by one person could be documented in their news feed for many of their friends to view. JWT research shows that indifference to communications is a growing problem as consumers actively filter out everything but the most relevant content. However, word of mouth skips that filter, so having one of your friends alert you to the products and services they use is one antidote to brand or communications indifference.”
Ability to DIY
While many SMEs manage their own Google and Facebook advertising, the experts suggest this isn’t wise.
Collins says that while both Google and Facebook ads can work wonders for a business if managed properly, it takes a while to learn the ropes.
“Both can be very expensive with very little return if the advertiser falls into some of the common traps. Initially, Google and more recently, Facebook, has developed advertising dashboards that are very user-friendly and easy for advertisers to dip their toes into the digital water. However the intuitive nature of these dashboards can deceive advertisers into thinking that managing their campaigns is simple – this is not the case.”
“There are many nuances and layers to managing a good Google paid search or Facebook cost per click campaign to ensure that the advertiser gets its most bang for buck. Professionals take years and years to hone their craft and thus I always recommend hiring a specialist (even for small business).”
Making a decision
Despite growing numbers of Australians joining Facebook, there are certain industries that the social web is less suited to. In this case, a campaign with Google Adwords might be better.
When trying to decide where to place your advertising dollars, Thorp recommends a period of testing across various platforms.
“The benefit with digital advertising across these platforms is that campaigns can be as short or as long as an advertiser wants,” Thorp says.
Sarah Pavillard of high end women’s apparel and accessories store the-dreamery.com believes that Google remains more effective in terms of generating sale. “From my experience, Facebook advertising is effective in raising brand awareness but not in generating direct sales.”
While Facebook enables targeted advertising, it’s costly, she says. “But with clever, relevant keyword selection Google allows the advertiser to specifically target potential customers who are already looking for a specific item, so this is still an effective, targeted channel for advertising.
“And I believe one of the downsides of Facebook is that consumers still view Facebook advertising as an intrusion and have an element of suspicion about Facebook advertisers,” Pavillard says.
Brown from JWT says that if she had to choose, she’d favour Google advertising.
“It should have a place on every communications plan, because when customers are researching, you want to be in the consideration set – and the best way to do that is to have a visible presence on the search results page. A search strategy, which would include paid AdWords as well as non-paid search optimisation), needs to be planned in conjunction with the destination your AdWords will drive to (website, mobile site),” Brown says.
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