Social Media Ads vs. Google AdWords: Which Should You Be Using for Your Business?

While agencies and large companies will typically use a combination of social media and Google ads to market a business or product, small businesses typically choose one or the other. And until a few years ago, many marketers didn’t see much of a difference between using Google AdWords and Social Media Ads. They were often seen as competing products when, in reality, the platforms are quite unique and suit very different needs.  

So, you’re probably wondering what is the difference between advertising on Google and Facebook or Instagram ads?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the different uses of these platforms and why they might be a good fit (or not) for your business.

social media ads
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

What’s the difference between Google AdWords and Social Media Ads?

Before we hone in on which platforms might be a good fit for your business, it’s important to note that there is a fundamental difference between the purpose of Google AdWords versus Social Media Ads, platform intent.

Google is a search engine, and therefore, Google AdWords is for Paid Search. It’s the most popular PPC ad platform in the world. This platform focuses on using targeted keywords and text-based ads in order to “rank” your page above others and therefore, attracting more customers. You could say that users finding your company on Google may even already be looking for your product or service because they searched for it specifically.

On the other hand, Social Media ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, are considered Paid Social. Advertising on social media platforms is different because all content is user-generated (even if some users are businesses) and, with the exception of Pinterest, these platforms are not considered search engines.

On social, users are not necessarily searching for your product, and ads on these platforms are designed to stimulate the desire of your target audience. The ads are more creative-based (photo and video) since there is no “ranking” based on keyword optimization like on Google.

So to summarize, Google Ads helps you to find new customers and Social Media Advertising helps potential customers to find you!  

Advantages of Google AdWords

Since Google has been known for a long time as the “king of search” it simply makes sense to use their platform. AdWords has gone through years of evolution and refinement and fielding billions of searches a day, ranking on the first page for products in your category is kind of a big deal. The potential audience here is absolutely massive and unparalleled by any other service online. 

Google Ads also focuses more on the search terms and ad specifications rather than the dollar value behind the advertisement, so in terms of budget (if the targeting is right) a little really can go a long way.

Think about it: Google wants to provide the most relevant search results possible for users, to help them find what they’re looking for. If you can get your targeting right, your page will come up more than others in your category, if you’ve got even a few ad dollars to spend here.

google adwords
Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash

In summary, Google Ads is great because:

  • They have the largest audience size
  • There’s an equal PPC playing field
  • A wide range of ad formats are offered

Industries like finance, banking, electricians and other services or trades would benefit from Google AdWords because they need to rank higher than their competitors providing similar services in the same area.

Advantages of Social Media Ads

Social ads, compared to AdWords, are relatively new. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are some of the most “established” social media in existence and have been working on their advertising solutions pretty much since their inception.

Like AdWords, you can define your advertising parameters quite narrowly, however instead of optimizing your search terms to gain the most traffic from users looking for you already, you’ll be defining your ideal target audience (or retargeting one) to receive your advertisement.

This requires your brand to include an actual advertisement and maybe even complete A/B testing through the platform to ensure your dollars are going towards the right ad for your audience.

The fact that users share so much of their personal demographic information on social media is a dream for advertisers - it makes their jobs selecting a target audience to receive paid advertising so much easier. The features of these ad platforms have also grown to be extremely useful, to the point where you can create a “lookalike” audience of users that engage with competing brands or your existing customers.

google analytics
Photo by Myriam Jessier on Unsplash

Social media is obviously extremely visual (as opposed to Google’s text-based search results). This makes it a great option to advertise physical products and use visually appealing imagery to captivate audiences.

Because social advertising is so granular (due to the amount of data shared with the platforms by their users) if you play your cards right through targeting or run a successful split test, you can gain an incredible Return on Investment (ROI). Again, with the right strategy, a relatively small budget can stretch a long way here.

To summarize the benefits of social advertising:

  • Super-powered targeting
  • Visual advertising options
  • Phenomenal ROI

Businesses like retail shops, food businesses, those selling handmade goods, physical stores or eCommerce stores would benefit from social media ads since they can use the visual platform to display their products in an appealing manner.

So, which ads should your business use?

It’s no secret that in today’s competitive online market, advertising should be part of your strategy. When considering which platform to use for your ads, take a look at your target audience and consider a few questions:

  • Are people already looking for my product/service?
  • Am I advertising a physical product or an intangible service?
  • Where would I look for this product or how would I find this company if I needed to buy something?

And if you’re looking for ad management, has the most cost-effective ads management platform where most companies charge a percentage of your budget. charges a fixed fee for management of ads so if your ads budget is $500 or $50,000 we charge the same fee. We will test, optimize, analyze and report to get you the best ROI possible. Visit our website for more information.

Cover photo: Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

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