How are Facebook ads different from Google ads?

In this post you are going to learn the two big differences between Facebook and Google (intent and creative) ads and the two similarities between the two (data driven and scalable).

Google and Facebook advertising are both data driven and scalable (meaning you can distribute your ads to millions of people in one click). But how does it differ? Google advertising looks pretty straightforward, you type ‘hotel Barcelona tonight’ in Google search and you’ll get served with 4 ads matching this search query. 

The likelihood of you wanting to book a hotel is high, you’ve just told Google. While the underlying technology is complex, the concept is simple. The ads shown have a direct connection to your search. Your intent is known (you typed ‘tonight’), Google surfaces their clients ad and you click and do your thing. This is how the Online Travel industry has grown so much. Booking and Expedia were expected to spend around $11 billion on Google ads in 2019 alone. 

Google works very well when intent is known and people express this intent on a large scale. Industries who benefit from this type of advertising are companies where search related questions make the most sense. To put it differently, where the search phrase ‘I’m looking for’ is related to a product or service and is used widely. Travel (looking for a hotel in Paris), Jobs (I’m looking for a job), Car (looking for a second hand car) etc. Google is your best pick when promoting products or services from these kinds of industries. One disadvantage of this working so well is that every company wants it and it has become very expensive to advertise. You need to make conversions from your ads at a high rate otherwise you’ll be bleeding cash. 

But what if you’re selling fashionable beaded bracelets for men. Sure, you can use Google ads, but how many men are actively putting ‘beaded arm bracelets’ in the search bar everyday? Not too much. You’ll still be able to sell a few but you’re never going to find scale. Facebook will, and has proven it over and over. 

The reason is that Facebook doesn't find active intent but it finds latent intent with their users. It predicts who will potentially be in the market for these bracelets. Sounds spooky but it’s not really. First it needs a data source, that could be pixel data (data from your website and other websites), customer data (you can upload customer emails, which Facebook will match with their Facebook profile) and the interest targeting you can add to the campaign. Second, it builds a very broad target group based on your input. 

Then it’s the algorithm’s job to find engagement or intent (if you set conversions as objective it will be looking for people who are likely to convert) in this group. The way it does that is by running thousands of tiny experiments. It constantly keeps on improving their target group based on how they engage to the ad that is shown. It keeps on drilling down to find the people who show the desired behaviour (click, conversions, leads etc) and still keep a large enough group to ensure scale. And that’s pretty amazing. This makes Facebook the biggest distribution platform out there. One other thing to remember is that Facebook has something called the learning phase, really important.

Google Ads vs Facebook Ads

  • Similarities: data driven, scalable
  • Differences: intent, creative 

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