Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads: Can You Really Choose One?

Jan 29, 2024
Jan 29, 2024
14 mins
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Facebook ads vs Google ads

Learn which ad platform you should use, how much they cost, benchmarks, and how to maximize ROI in the ultimate Facebook ads vs. Google ads showdown!

If you're just starting your business (or experiencing a budget reduction), you won't have the money to use every tool under the sun.

And sometimes you need to make tough decisions about which to use—and with that, which ad platform you're going to devote your time and budget to.

In this guide, we're about to tackle one of the oldest debates in digital marketing: Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads.

We'll cover both platforms' ins and outs, including how they work, the types of ads available, how much they cost, and, most importantly, how to decide which is right for you.

How do Google ads work?

The mechanics of Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) hinges primarily on keywords. For example, if you’re marketing a yoga studio, keywords might include "yoga classes" or "beginner yoga courses."

Once you have your keywords, you enter into a sort of auction, where you bid on these keywords, essentially stating how much you're willing to pay each time someone clicks on your ad.

It's not just about the highest bidder, though; Google places a strong emphasis on the quality and relevance of your ad. They evaluate how well your ad matches the searcher's intent and the overall user experience your website provides.

This means that even if you’re not the highest bidder, having a well-crafted, relevant ad can still secure a top spot in search results.

It's also important to note that Google Ads campaigns encapsulate several formats, including:

  • Google Search ads: This is the backbone, where you create ads to appear on Google's search engine results. Let's say you're selling handmade candles. When someone types "handmade candles" on Google, your ad might pop up at the top of their search results.
  • Google Display ads (GDN): The Google Display Network is a collection of websites (outside of Google.com) on which your Display ad can appear on the sidebar, header, or other website placement. So, if your potential customer is reading a blog about home decor, your candle ad might appear there.
  • Google Shopping ads: These are the ads that show up above or beside Google search results, displaying a product's image, price, and store. It's like a mini-catalog of your products right on the Google search page, making it super easy for shoppers to spot what they want.

How do Facebook ads work?

Facebook advertising is a term that describes ads on the entire Meta ads network—Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Audience Network (Facebook's version of GDN). The strength of Facebook ads lies in their:

  • Advanced targeting capabilities which allow you to specify your audience based on demographics, interests, and behaviors
  • Incredible reach (more on that in a second)
  • Innovative ad types like Instant Experience that allow businesses to present their messages in more engaging and creative ways

Just like with Google ads, Facebook ads are part of an action system that also considers the user's ad relevance, quality, and bid price to determine which ads to display.

Facebook ads vs. Google ads: similarities and differences

Audience size and reach

Given that both Google and Meta are some of the top titans in their industry, it's no surprise that the reach for both platforms is pretty astounding.

On Meta's side, their suite of products (which includes Facebook, Instagram, Threads, and WhatsApp) reached over 3 billion monthly active users in 2023.

Statistic: Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 3rd quarter 2023 (in millions) | Statista

Google does win this particular showdown, however, with an incredible 8.5 billion searches each day.

It's safe to say that no matter which platform you pick, audience size and platform reach shouldn't be a problem.

Buyer intent

When a pipe in your house springs a leak, you don't rush to Facebook to scroll until you come across an ad for a plumber.

More than likely, you instead head over to Google, type in 'plumber near me', and frantically try and call anyone that answers while holding a towel to your wall to plug up what feels like a waterfall.

(Not that I have any personal experience here 👀)

And this intent is exactly where the platforms deviate the most.

When you visit Facebook or Instagram, you're not actively looking to be sold to. More often than not you're there to catch up with family, watch funny Reels, etc. This means that ads are technically an interruption to your experience.

On the other hand, typing in things like "Thai food near me" into Google indicates that you're actively looking for a solution, and ads are less intrusive (and usually more helpful).

Conversion rate and ROI


ROI, or Return on Investment, is a pivotal metric for marketers. After all, an ad platform is only as effective as the amount you can earn from it.

As per Google's own 2022 Economic Impact report, advertisers can expect to see an average of 8x the profit they spend on Google Ads—though the explanation of how they got to that figure is wordy at best:

Facebook ads vs Google ads - ROI

On the other hand, anecdotal reports from various publications have put Facebook ad ROI anywhere from 2:1 to 5:1—meaning that for every $1 spent on ads, you can expect to see anywhere from $2-$5 in revenue.

(Author's note: ROI is a notoriously difficult benchmark to compare, given that profitably can vary wildly from industry to industry, and even businesses selling the same products can have vastly different profit margins. When gauging your ad performance, you'll want to use a combination of ROI and ROAS to ensure profitability.)

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is a general term that refers to the number of people who take your desired action (a sale, video view, etc.) as a result of your ad efforts.

Google ads conversion rate benchmarks
Source: Wordstream

On Google's side, we see an average of 4.40% for Google ads on the search network (Google's own ad placements) vs. the Display Network, where it averages at 0.57%.

Facebook ad conversion rate benchmarks
Source: Wordstream

On the other side, Facebook's ad conversion rate averages around 9.11% across all industries.

Targeting options

Both advertising platforms have their own unique targeting options, though both have a large overlap in terms of basic audience capabilities.

Google Ads targeting

Google Ads features all of the basic targeting options you'd need in a platform, including age, location, and language targeting.

In addition to this, they also feature pre-made audience segments to make campaign creation even faster. Those in the eCommerce realm, for example, can find categories like shopping enthusiast readily available:

Google Ads audience segments

For those looking to get even more detailed, you can create your audience segments from things like customer lists, website traffic, mobile app users, or even YouTube watchers.

Google Ads audience segment 2

The biggest difference between these two platforms, however, is the keyword angle. On Google, you're actively bidding on ad placement for specific keywords that users are entering into Google's search bar and suite of apps.

Google does a lot of heavy lifting to help you out with this, like recommending different search terms for you based on your website as in this example from Nike:

Google Ads Keywords

You can also do things like add in negative search terms to weed out audiences who wouldn't be a good fit for your product, saving you some much-needed ad spend in the process.

Facebook Ads targeting

Over in the Meta world, Facebook takes full advantage of its platform engagement and behavioral data to create a wide variety of demographics and attributes that advertisers can select from.

Facebook has recently released the Advantage+ audience targeting option, which allows advertisers to let Facebook's AI automatically find the right audience for their ad campaigns. Advertisers can still recommend some criteria, but the algorithm will still expand its search outside of it.

Facebook audience targeting

Those preferring the old option that restricts the ad delivery to only those specified can customize the selection by switching to the original audience options.

Just like with Google, Facebook offers some more detailed ad targeting options in the form of custom and lookalike audiences.

Facebook custom audiences

Custom audiences allow you to dive into more niche audience retargeting segments, like those from your email list, website traffic, those who follow your Facebook page, or even anyone who has interacted with your online store.

Once you have a custom audience created, you can create a lookalike audience based on it. Lookalike audiences look at the common traits and characteristics of the people in the custom audience you created and then try and find entirely new people (not on the seed list) on Facebook that share them. This is a great way of reaching a ‘cold’ audience while ensuring they will have similarities to audiences that have performed well for you in the past.

It's safe to say that no matter which ad platform you choose, you'll find the right campaign objectives and audience targeting options for your campaign.

Ad formats and creative

To be frank, there are an overwhelming amount of ad formats on both sides, which change depending on placement and campaign objective. Here’s a quick overview of ad types across both platforms.

Google ad formats

  • Text Ads: These appear on Google search results pages and consist of a headline, URL, and description.
  • Responsive Ads: Automatically adjust their size, appearance, and format to fit available ad spaces.
  • Image Ads: Displayed on websites within the Google Display Network, using attractive visuals.
  • Video Ads: Run on YouTube and across the Google Display Network, ranging from short clips to longer content.
  • Shopping Ads: Showcase products with an image, title, price, and store name, appearing on Google Search and Shopping.
  • App promotion ads: Promote mobile apps across Google's properties like Search, Play, YouTube, and the Google Display Network.
  • Call-Only Ads: Designed to encourage phone calls to your business directly from the ad.

You can find a find a full list of ad formats (and their specs) available on Google’s website.

Facebook ad formats

  • Image Ads: Simple and effective, these use compelling visuals to convey your message.
  • Video Ads: These can range from short, looping video clips to longer, more immersive content.
  • Carousel Ads: Allow showcasing up to ten images or videos within a single ad, each with its own link.
  • Slideshow Ads: Create a video-like experience with lightweight, easy-to-load slideshows using images.
  • Instant Experience Ads: Full-screen ad formats that open after someone interacts with your ad on a mobile device.
  • Collection Ads: Feature a primary video or image with a collection of smaller accompanying images in a grid layout.
  • Lead Ads: Designed for mobile, they make it easy for customers to submit their contact information without a lot of typing.
  • Dynamic Ads: Automatically show the right products to people who have expressed interest in them on your website, app, or elsewhere on the internet.
  • Messenger Ads: Appear in the Chats tab of the Messenger app, initiating conversations and driving engagement.
  • Stories Ads: Full-screen vertical ads that appear between organic stories in Facebook and Instagram Stories.

If you want a complete guide to all formats (and which is right for you), you can check out our guide here.

Performance reporting

Google Ads reporting

The one thing Google Ads doesn't lack is reporting templates. Inside the Insights section of your Google Ads dashboard, you can find the Report Editor, which will have a pre-made library based on several different dimensions for any reporting needs:

Google Ads reporting

Once inside the report, you can drag and drop metrics over into your report, change the layout and report type, as well as save or schedule your report. Note that whoever you send the report to will need permission to view the results of that Google Ads account.

Google Ads Report Editor

Facebook ads reporting

Just like Google, Facebook also provides some pre-made reporting templates to help make setup easier. You can choose to view them by level (Campaign, ad set, ad, or objective), demographics, actions, or ad creative. Additionally, you can also choose to create your report from scratch.

Facebook ad reporting

How to combine Facebook and Google ads reports

While you'll find every metric you need with these reports (which you can find under the Customize tab), it's not the easiest on the eyes, and those who struggle with basic tables may find it more difficult to customize their reporting to be more visual.

Unfortunately, both Google and Facebook lack two critical components in performance reporting:

  • the ability to see in-depth results for both platforms in one place
  • a visually interesting display

And given that they're direct competitors, I'm not sure we'll ever see these features from either of them. But luckily, the folks here at Madgicx have your back with the One-Click Report.

Madgicx One-Click Report

Madgicx not only combines Google and Facebook ad data into one place but also adds on Google Analytics 4, TikTok, and Shopify, making it a true one-stop shop for eCommerce advertisers everywhere.

If having all of the data you could need in one place wasn't enough, you also have access to 19 pre-made dashboards that cover everything from a Shopify revenue overview to detailed Facebook ad ROAS data.

Madgicx One-Click Report dashboards

And even though these reports feature every KPI you can think of, you can still easily drag and drop any metrics or chart designs into your report and customize it as needed. Better still, these reports can be shared with absolutely anyone—even if they don't have a Madgicx account.

The cherry on top of it all? You can get access to this entire suite for free for 7 days and only $29/month after.

Facebook ads vs. Google ads: cost comparison

One of the biggest questions on any advertiser's list is going to be cost. Let's see how Facebook and Google stack up in the advertising platform cost comparison!


CPM, or Cost per Mille, is the total cost of 1,000 ad impressions. This metric is a great baseline for determining how much it will cost for your ad to be seen on each of the ad platforms.

Google Ads cost per impression

To start, we see an average of $0.51-$1.00 for Google Ads impressions. This data comes from an independent survey of advertisers by Webfx.

Facebook ads cost vs Google ads cost - CPM

According to RevealBot data, Facebook CPMs averaged around $9.98 by the end of 2023.


Cost per Click (or CPC for short) is another great baseline cost metric to look at.

Google ads CPC
Source: Wordstream

Here, we can see that a typical Google Ads campaign averages $2.69/click on the search network and only $0.63 on the Display Network. Although it seems incredibly cheap, remember that the average conversion rate for Display Network is around 0.57%, so throwing all your eggs in this basket for cheap clicks might not be the best bet.

Facebook ad cpc
Source: Wordstream

Facebook ad campaigns, on the other hand, had an average of $1.68/click across all industries in 2023.

In terms of a cost comparison, both Google Ads and Facebook Ads offer some of the lowest ad cost barriers, have some of the highest conversion rates across any digital advertising platform, and are both worth of your ad spend.

Google ads vs. Facebook ads: when to use each

I firmly believe that the answer to the question of whether to use Facebook ads or Google ads can be summed up in two words:

It depends.

There are dozens of factors that impact this decision, including budget, knowledge of the platform, etc. But if you're looking to quickly decide if you should hit that publish campaign button on one or the other, ask yourself these questions:

Are you B2B or B2C? One of the first things to ask yourself is what type of business you are. Business-to-consumer sales models are selling directly to the consumer (like Amazon, Etsy, etc). Business to Business models, on the other hand, are businesses that are selling business products/services to other businesses. While B2B companies can be successful with Facebook ads, they tend to perform better in situations where the buyer's intent is more clear. B2C companies have the luxury of being able to use both platforms; however, they should always consider the product they’re advertising before picking a specific platform.

What are you advertising? A universal product with broad appeal (think commodities like clothing, accessories, etc.) can be successful on both platforms. A niche B2B cloud software tool for game developers who speak French, on the other hand, may need a more refined approach that Google's search intent can provide. This means that even if you're running a B2C model, you need to look at how 'difficult' the product is to sell to people who are not actively searching for that solution.

What is your campaign goal? If your primary goal is to generate immediate sales or leads, particularly when potential customers are actively seeking products or services like yours, Google Ads might be the more effective choice. On the other hand, if your goal is more about brand awareness or reaching a broad audience to generate more awareness and interest over time, the Meta suite has some fantastic tools aimed at increasing social virality and beating your competitors to the punch.


As with any decision, there are pros, cons, and tradeoffs to be had. The same goes for deciding which ad platform to use.

In reality, using both Meta and Google together will create a 360° targeting (and retargeting) strategy that can significantly improve your results and take advantage of both platforms’ strengths and weaknesses.

However, if you don't have the budget for both, going with the one most suited towards your current revenue goals will help you build a dependable revenue stream that will eventually turn into a profit guyser.

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Jan 29, 2024
Jan 29, 2024
Tory Wenger

Tory is a digital marketing specialist and the current Marketing Manager of Breadcrumbs.io. She's been featured in various high-profile marketing blogs like Hootsuite, AdEspresso, and Databox and holds certificates for both Google and Facebook Ads. In her spare time, she gardens and paints from her house in the Florida panhandle.

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