Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads: Strategic Insights from the Founder of ConversionEngine

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Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads: Strategic Insights from the Founder of ConversionEngine

Joe Putnam owns the performance marketing agency ConversionEngine where his team helps eCommerce stores use Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) to 2X-10X their sales. He’s helped businesses grow their SEO traffic 17X, rank top 3 for highly competitive short-tail SEO terms, and grow year-over-year sales 70%.

When we decided to put together a high level overview of Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads, Joe was kind enough to sit down with us and explain his perspective on the two platforms from both the 10,000 feet view and the ground level.

In this article we’ll share his insights about the essential considerations that anyone getting started with the two platforms should understand. We’ll discuss Joe’s thoughts on how the two platforms compare on:

  • Audience Intent
  • Audience Targeting
  • Optimizing for Clicks vs. Impressions
  • Ad Placement
  • Basic Marketing Strategy

We’ll also share about the mistakes he commonly sees so you can avoid them, and other considerations such as affordability, ROI, and key performance indicators.

To set the stage, we asked Joe to tell us about the key differences businesses should understand when it comes to the two advertising platforms.

Note: Need to track and report your paid ad KPI’s for clients? ReportGarden’s beautiful dashboards can help you communicate results to clients with ease. Try it today with our 7 day free trial (no credit card required).

Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads: The 10,000 Feet View

At a base level, Facebook is stronger for getting your brand in front of people when they’re not already searching for you, and Google works great for getting in front of people who are presently searching for you or what you sell.

If you understand how to approach using them, both platforms can yield results even in the early stages of your digital marketing. And with data collected in real time, you can see what’s working and not working every step of the way. Both platforms work best when you monitor and iterate your ads to improve their performance.

When your advertising budget allows, using the platforms together can work really well to reach your target audience at various stages of your funnel. Whether you have the budget for launching them together or not, there are fundamental differences to understand.

Audience Intent Comparison

Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads Audience Intent Comparison

Image: Source

The key thing to understand about audience intent is the difference between a prospect’s intent while using a search engine versus their intent while using social media. While using a search engine is active, scrolling on a social network is often passive.

Consider your last Google search. Your intent for finding what you were looking for was probably pretty strong right? That’s why you went to the effort to pull out your phone, open your browser, and search for it. Whereas the last time you were on Facebook it’s more likely you were scrolling mindlessly, passing time while waiting in line somewhere.

This difference in intent warrants different approaches. With Facebook advertising you want to create content and messaging that captures the attention of passive scrollers. Usually this will include compelling visuals that appeal to your target audience.

With Google you usually start with targeting prospects on Google search network who are actively looking for you or what you sell (more on this below). You can see how your strategy needs to take these differences into account.

Audience Targeting Options

Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads audience targeting options.

Facebook Ads (left) lets you target demographics, behaviors, and interests. Google Ads (right) lets you target what people have been actively searching for.

The differences in targeting for Facebook Ads and Google Ads are significant. With Facebook you can target an audience with very specific interests. So if you have a well developed persona of your ideal customer with things they’re interested in (brands, products, activities, etc.), you can direct Facebook to show your ads to those people.

For example, if you’ve determined that people who would be attracted to your product or service are interested in the brand North Face, shop at Nordstrom, and wear Nike’s, you have the ability to target customers based on these exact criteria.

With Google, targeting revolves around what people are searching for. It’s similar in the sense that people generally search for things they’re interested in, but your options to define an audience based on really specific combinations of interests the way that you can with Facebook is slightly more limited.

However, you can use in-market segments to show your ads to people that Google has determined are currently in the market searching for what you’re selling. And if you want, you can use custom-intent segments to show your ads to people who have taken a set of specific actions that you have determined indicate they are in your market and ready to make a buying decision.

Both platforms, while different, allow you a level of accuracy in your targeting that has revolutionized advertising.

Optimizing for Clicks vs. Impressions

When you set up your ads, you can choose to pay for either clicks or impressions, and these general guidelines apply for both platforms.

When you choose to optimize your ad for clicks, this is known as pay per click (PPC), where you bid to pay up to a specified amount for each click on your ad.

With the alternative of optimizing your ad for impressions, you bid to pay a specified amount for a set of one thousand views of your ad (known as CPM or cost per mille), regardless of the number of clicks you receive.

From a high level, optimizing for clicks is best suited if your goal is traffic or conversions, and optimizing for impressions often matches with a goal of building brand awareness.

There are nuances to consider when you make this decision. For example, if you go the cost per click route (CPC) and your ad receives a high click-through rate, you’re on the hook to pay for all of those clicks. With high performing ads, at some point it might be more economical to bid on impressions instead.

This is just one scenario to underscore how a dynamic, iterative approach works best when advertising on these platforms.

Ad Placement Breakdown

When you set up digital ad campaigns you can make choices about where to place your ads or you can allow the platforms to decide for you. Let’s look at some of the different places that your ads can be displayed for target users.

Facebook Ads Placement Options

Note: With Facebook Ads come Instagram ads (Facebook owns Instagram).


Feeds placement options for Facebook Ads.

You can choose to show your ads in both Facebook and Instagram news feeds. You can place them in Facebook “marketplace” or “video feeds.” And you can also place ads in Facebook’s right side column (in the desktop version), Instagram “explore” or the Messenger inbox.


Stories placement options for Facebook Ads.

If you want your ads to show in “stories” you have the options of Facebook stories, Instagram stories, or Messenger stories.


Facebook In-Stream Videos

Source: Wordstream

If you’re using video ads, you can also choose to have your ads placed in Facebook in-stream videos. And the list of ad placement options for Facebook goes on to include:

  • Messenger sponsored messages
  • Facebook instant articles
  • Facebook apps and sites

At ConversionEngine, Joe and his team tend to let Facebook choose where their ads are placed.

Google Ads Placement Options

Google Display Networks Ad example.

Most commonly when you think of Google Ads you think of the ads at the top and bottom of search results. These are ads that have been placed using Google Search Network and they are set up by selecting keyword phrases that you want your ad to show up for.

The other ad placement option is Google Display Network. The Display Network allows you to show ads to people on other non-search Google sites like Gmail and YouTube, as well as other websites that your potential customers visit.

Something like more than 90% of all websites on the internet are a part of this network. The basic sidebar ads you see on your average website are examples of this type of Google ad placement.

So now that we’ve covered some of the basics of Facebook and Google Ads, let’s learn about Joe’s basic strategy and approach to each.

Basic Strategy and Approach to Getting Started

Taking all of the above into account, there are nuances to achieving results with paid social and search ads. Here’s how ConversionEngine approaches each of these platforms.

Approach to Get Started with Facebook Ads

When Joe and his team set up a campaign, they’re already thinking about retargeting. They begin by developing a set of ads for people in the top of the funnel, and a set for people in the bottom of the funnel that they’ll remarket to. The key to developing these two ad sets is to think about what ad copy and visuals will resonate with people in these different stages of the funnel.

The other important element to their strategy is that they usually assign about 70% of their Facebook ad budget to reaching new prospects, and 30% for remarketing to audience members who have already engaged with an ad, visited the website, or began adding items to a cart.

They follow this 70/30 rule for two reasons:

  1. Remarketing will usually yield a higher return on ad spend and thus it requires less budget.
  2. Facebook is a particularly effective channel to target new customers high in the funnel.

Now let’s look at how the approach differs with Google Ads.

Approach to Get Started with Google Ads

ConversionEngine’s first step with Google Ads is almost always to run ads targeting the low hanging fruit: search terms with high buying intent. This is because these bottom of the funnel terms typically have the highest conversion rates.

Then, after these initial campaigns are set up to target people who are actively searching for the product or service on offer, they’ll set up two other BOTF campaigns:

  • A competitor campaign to show ads to people searching for direct competitors of the brand they’re working with.
  • A brand campaign to show ads to people searching for their client’s brand.

From there, they’ll start working on campaigns for related keywords that are higher in the funnel. An example of this is targeting terms that indicate someone is in research phase trying to learn about the general topic.

Once this base has been built out, they’ll begin remarketing with a Display campaign to show banner ads to people who have already visited their client’s website.

And when the budget permits, options for next steps include running general Google Display campaigns and YouTube ads to further the reach and gain brand awareness with new customers.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Figuring out what not to do is one of the best places you can start with any new endeavor. What follows are some of the common mistakes that Joe sees people making when they get started with Facebook and Google Ads.

Mistakes to Avoid with Facebook Ads

  1. Not allocating enough budget to reaching new prospects. Very often Joe sees people use too much of their spend on remarketing and not enough on general prospecting. Because remarketing yields better conversion rates and will more effectively use the budget that you allocate to it, your campaigns to reach new customers should receive a greater share.
  2. Optimizing campaigns for clicks. The problem with optimizing for clicks is that you end up paying for people to click on your ad who don’t stick around for the page to load. To avoid this, ConversionEngine optimizes campaigns for conversions instead. And as a bonus they have found Facebook’s algorithm has gotten stronger at identifying customers who are likely to buy.

Mistakes to Avoid with Google Ads

  1. Bidding on too many keywords. When you allocate your budget to a high volume of keywords (which is tempting to do), it’s usually only a small percentage of those keywords that are going to be converting at an adequate rate. So rather than run campaigns targeting many keywords, you want to focus on allocating your budget specifically to the keywords that are converting well.
  2. Targeting broad keywords without modifiers. If you target “women’s running shoes” without a modifier, Google can show that ad to anyone searching for terms in the broad category of shoes (in many cases wasting your budget). By adding a “+” sign in front of each word (“+womens +running +shoes”), you dictate to Google to only show your ads to people who search terms that are an exact match with that phrase.

Other Considerations For Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads

Before we finished up our conversation, we asked Joe about some of the additional considerations you should think about when getting started with the two platforms.

Affordability and ROI

Both platforms can be affordable and provide a positive ROI, so it really comes down to your particular business and what you’re trying to accomplish. You’ll want to make sure to continue optimizing, allocating your budget to the areas that are working and away from the ones that aren’t.


ConversionEngine focuses primarily on three metrics:

  1. Cost per lead (CPL)
  2. Cost per acquisition (CPA)
  3. Return on ad spend (ROAS)

The metrics you choose to measure depend on the context of your business goals, but these three are generally the most important to them.


In an ideal situation when there is enough budget, the best case scenario is for companies to use both of these platforms to run paid ads. By using them together, you can guide your prospects through the different stages of the buyer’s journey in the places so many of us spend our time (on Google and Facebook).

We hope this introduction to Facebook and Google Ads will set you on the right path to achieving the results you seek. And we’d like to thank Joe Putnam from ConversionEngine for sharing his insight. Thanks Joe!

Need to track and report your paid ad KPI’s for clients? ReportGarden’s beautiful dashboards can help you communicate results to clients with ease. Try it today with our 7 day free trial (no credit card required).

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