Facebook ads vs Google ads for eCommerce
May 15, 2020
Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads for eCommerce
In 2020, Google Ads and Facebook Ads are part of most eCommerce founders and marketers' toolbox. Although most beginners will follow a linear approach to both these channels (ad, site, cart, checkout), there are certain things one platform does better than the other, depending on which business you run.
Facebook Ads: A Look Into Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger
With 2.6 billion monthly active users across their properties, Facebook is by far the largest social media platform (or assembly of people, for that matter) out there. That means there is no better place to get in front of consumers, regardless of demographics.
Even better, Facebook users are incredibly engaged. The average social media user spends almost two and a half hours a day scrolling through their feeds, a lot of which is spent in Facebook properties, which include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.
Both Facebook and Instagram have mature advertising products, with deep targeting and great engagement. Campaigns for both can be run seamlessly from your Facebook Ads Manager and use similar creative, making it easy to scale. If you target a younger audience (18-40), chances are Instagram has already overtaken Facebook in impressions, conversions, and relative importance.
Now, WhatsApp and Messenger are not quite there yet.
WhatsApp is ad-free. After spending $19 Billion some years ago to acquire it, Facebook has taken its time adding ads to the WhatsApp platform. They have added WhatsApp for Business support, which is great for small, local businesses, but no advertising options quite yet. Although not as popular in the US, WhatsApp is hugely popular everywhere else in the world, with almost 2 billion users using it as their #1 platform for texting.
Messenger now has minimal ad support, with relatively low engagement. Messenger ads drive people to live chat with one of your people, or to a chat-bot, which adds an interesting wrinkle to the way most eCommerce brands think about advertising.
Advantages of Facebook Ads for eCommerce
Interest-based and behavioral targeting.
In marketing, making your ads relevant to the audience you are targeting is half the battle. Nobody does this better than Facebook.
They allow you to target customers based on interests (things they like), behaviors (stuff they do), engagement (stuff they've interacted with), life events (what's happened recently in their lives), as well as job titles, age, demographics, location, etcetera.
This opens up an outstanding amount of targeting opportunities, mixing and matching interests, behaviors, demographics, and more.
Targeting Opportunities for Facebook Ads, Explained
Interests: If you sell high-end handbags, you may want to target people who like specific designers, designer brands, fashion industry events, fashion magazines, and publications who are also women above a certain income threshold. Although you can no longer target income levels directly, you can target your audience based on their zip code's average household earnings.
Behaviors: This is, by far, the most extensive targeting option. For example, if you sell men's grooming products, you can target people who have previously interacted with and purchased products in the same category. This applies to hundreds of other behavior categories.
Engagement: Get some great ROAS, and Conversion % wins by targeting people who have visited your product pages and your cart page. Use Facebook's pixel to record your users' engagement.
Life events: In the wedding business? You can target couples who are planning a wedding, whether or not they've told Facebook. The same way they can predict breakups, they can also predict weddings with a high certainty level.
Facebook still boasts top of the charts engagement
Despite the rise of competitors like Snapchat and TikTok, Facebook (and their other properties) have done an outstanding job of protecting their audiences, while having by far the most mature ad product.
As we mentioned, with 2.6 billion monthly active users, Facebook is more than twice their competitors' size, combined. Users also spend more time on Facebook across the board than on any other platform.
They engage more, click more, scroll more, and comment more, which translates to a very healthy inventory amount. Google's inventory is limited by people's tendencies to search for a specific term, and they have no control over that. However, Facebook can keep you scrolling forever.
Advantages of Facebook Ads for eCommerce
Relatively low CPM
With Facebook being so adept at creating inventory, that means they can offer very competitive CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) while delivering very targeted advertising. Simply put, there is no better bang for your buck online if your goal is to get your logo in front of the right people. Google Display is not as targeted; LinkedIn Ads are exorbitantly expensive.
Facebook knows how to do it.
Easy to operate bidding system
As we mentioned earlier, Facebook owns the most mature social media advertising platform out there and they have done an outstanding job making it very easy for small businesses to start advertising with minimal marketing experience.
They offer simple targeting options that help you meet your goals, regardless of what they may be. If you choose Conversions as your goal for your advertising, Facebook will do an excellent job at delivering sales at an affordable CAC (customer acquisition cost) while meeting a target ROAS (return on ad spend).
In short, Facebook will put your ads in front of people (within your cohort) that are likely to purchase, delivering the best possible campaign results.
Disadvantages of Facebook Ads for eCommerce
Low relative intent
If someone searches for your specific product on Google, chances are they are ready to buy. In this scenario, Google search ads can come in handy. When using Facebook ads, you target people, not queries. Therefore, your average target will be further from the point of purchase than in other channels.
For the most part, this is offset by cheaper costs per click and CPMs, but it is something you must have in mind when designing your ads. Facebook is a lot more about discovery--finding something cool that matches who you are and what you do.
Because of this, you may want to create campaigns that foster awareness of your product that allow your consumers to familiarize themselves with it, and that enables you to retarget engagement with straight-to-purchase ads.
All ads on Facebook are image-based. That means that if you don't have a graphic designer near you, you may have to do a lot of the designing work yourself.
Facebook is also quite specific about the type of images that are accepted. For example, they have particular dimension requirements and only allow up to 20% of the image's surface to be covered by text (including your logo). Additionally, success in Facebook is mainly dependent on the creative quality, so you will want to spend extra time making sure your creative is as good as it can be.
Thankfully, this is now easier than ever. Marketers have tools like Canva, Figma, and many other online platforms to design their ads from scratch in an effortless manner. Businesses can also go to Fiverr and hire someone to build their ads for relatively cheap.
Google Ads: A look into Ads for Search, Display, Gmail, Shopping, YouTube, and More
It may not surprise you that Google is the #1 search engine, and virtually the only widely used search engine in the western world. Even then, their size is astonishing, owning over a third of the online advertising market (almost double that of Facebook) and over 75% of the search advertising market (over six times Amazon's).
Google Ads include Search ads (the ones in your Search Engine Results Page), Display (banner ads you see in websites), Gmail ads, Shopping ads, Youtube ads, etc.
Shopping ads have been recently made 'free', meaning that Google will crawl online stores looking for relevant product results for users' searches. That will create a push to do 'eCommerce SEO' or something similar, the same way updates around 2014 and 2015 created the Local SEO category.
Regardless of that, eCommerce marketers should familiarize themselves with Shopping ads, since the SERP is likely to be ad-dominated.
Youtube Ads are still an underutilized tool in eCommerce. There is no better way to get well-produced brand introductions and product highlights in the form of video in front of your customers. We have also seen them utilized to great success with creative in the form of product reviews, either by consumers or influencers.
Another significant advantage of Youtube ads is the delivery model. It allows users who are not engaged to skip out of the ad after 5 seconds and only charges you for the video's views beyond that.
Advantages of Google Ads for eCommerce
Google Ads shine closest to the point of purchase. That means that people who look up your product category, say men's black dress shoes, are very likely to be looking to purchase your product, and are not very likely just to be browsing around, versus Facebook, for example.
This type of targeting makes it very easy to:
- Get very specific about the product searches you want to target (men's black dress shoes vs. dress shoes, for example)
- Cut through the noise and only target people ready to buy
- Achieve great conversion rates on your campaigns
If you are an up-and-coming player in an established industry, Google allows you to target your competitors' customers at the point of purchase.
Suppose you have your own D2C sunglasses brand. In that case, you will want people searching not only for sunglasses but also people searching for sunglasses brands such as Rayban, Carrera, and others, as well as designer brand sunglasses by using broad match modifiers (Prada +sunglasses, Gucci +sunglasses).
Many competitors will protect their brand by advertising for their brand name. That only means your CPC may be higher than in other keywords, and that you will struggle ever to achieve position one, but that should not deter you. The quality of the traffic far outweighs any disadvantages.
Lower creative requirements
While we said that success on Facebook Ads largely depends on the creative quality, most Google ads don't have that requirement.
Google Search ads and some Display ads are purely text, so there is no design required there. Shopping ads use the same product images you use in your store, so limited added effort is needed.
Youtube ads can be the most resource-intensive ad type. Still, most good brands are adept at creating video nowadays, whether that is a professionally produced 30-second ad or a customer testimonial recorded with a phone camera.
Disadvantages of Google Ads for eCommerce
Google has limited ways of creating additional inventory; therefore, your ability to scale may be hampered by the lack of searches. This is incredibly difficult for niche products that may be used only by a small number of people in your target market, or for a brand new category, which consumers may not be yet aware of.
Some ways to get around this are to target whichever category you are trying to replace. For example, at Wayflyer, we are trying to replace inefficient and antiquated funding methods for eCommerce, such as bank loans, so we will target people searching for those) or targeting queries for products whose buyers are likely also to need your product.
High CPCs in crowded verticals
As a result of all the advantages Google Ads provides, the platform's most considerable disadvantage is how expensive clicks and conversions can be in crowded spaces.
If you are in a space dominated by big players (fashion, for instance), it may not even make sense to advertise on Google, unless you can get very creative (and specific) with your targeting.
As always, our recommendation is to start specific, track your ROAS closely and move your budget elsewhere if the channel does not deliver the results you need.
Using Google Ads and Facebook Ads together
For best results, there are a couple of ways you can use Google and Facebook Ads together.
Retarget Google Ad landing page visitors with product-specific ads on Facebook
The average landing page converts at only 11%, meaning 89% of customers leave your page without purchasing. Using pixel retargeting on that cohort, you can re-engage them at a better time on Facebook for little cost.
For even better results, link the Facebook creative to the original Google Ads query. For example, if their query included 'black shoes', make sure to add that keyword to the landing page URL (utm_campaign or utm_term are both excellent places for that). On the Facebook side, you can then retarget users that have visited pages that include 'black shoes' where the source is 'google', 'PPC', or any other tag you use to define your PPC efforts.
Lookalike audiences from Google Ads
Looking for a way to expand your Google Ads efforts, but the inventory is not there? Facebook can help. Identify your previous conversions from Google Ads PPC and create a custom retargeting audience on the Facebook side.
Once that's done, create a lookalike audience of that, and you will get a new audience of people with shared interests and behaviors as those that looked up your product and Google and converted.
When to use one over the other
All eCommerce brands should test and use both platforms, albeit in slightly different ways.
Although both can occupy the whole funnel, from first touch to purchase, in most practical cases, Facebook dominates early in the funnel, while Google is best used late in the funnel.
Product category also matters when picking one over the other. Facebook works best for products that require discovery or are novel applications or solutions. Google does much better for established products with well-defined categories and incumbent players.
No one size fits all, so where you draw the line in terms of spending more time and budget in one over the other depends on your product category, customer profile, vertical maturity, brand recognition, and other factors that may be outside of your realm of control. Our advice is you test both and let sales drive your future decisions.