Google and Facebook are two of the most powerful digital advertising platforms available to businesses. Both reach huge population segments and operate on a ‘pay per click’ basis, where advertisers only pay when the user clicks on their advertisement. If the user doesn’t click, the advertiser doesn’t pay.
I manage the Google and Facebook Advertising accounts for several customers, and I have seen both platforms succeed and fail. Here’s my take on what works and what doesn’t, based on the data I’ve seen from my customers’ campaigns.
Buyers and Browsers
Which is better, Facebook or Google? I’m asked this question almost weekly.
My response, in a nutshell, is ‘it depends.’
Facebook is exceptionally good at finding browsers—those who are considering different ways to resolve a problem or obtain a desired outcome.
Google is exceptionally good at finding buyers—those who have decided they want to apply a specific solution to resolve a problem or obtain a desired outcome. The buyers have determined how much money and time they will apply to achieve their outcome.
Just so we are clear in my definition; there are two states of mind; those who:
- Are considering different solutions; and,
- Have decided on a specific solution and budget.
Attracting a browser to your website is a good thing. They may subscribe to your mailing list, bookmark your page, or otherwise engage with your site. Email marketing is very powerful and is a very high-converting traffic source. The caveat is that the business must be committed to continuous email content generation that nurtures the email list toward purchase.
Attracting buyers is also good because they may choose to give you their money. Buyers tend to search with specific intentions. For example, they may search for an apartment in Westboro (neighbourhood), rather than an apartment in the City of Ottawa, which contains the Westboro neighbourhood.
Best of Both Worlds: Use Both Google and Facebook Advertising
In a perfect world, businesses would have the resources to advertise on both Facebook and Google. Facebook would pull the masses and generate email signups, while Google would bring the buyers to your door.
For a few of my customers, advertising on both platforms was possible, which allowed me to determine how well these platforms worked together. Here’s one example one of my customers experienced:
Facebook Vs. Google Mini Case Study
Hintonburg Connection is a new premium high rise apartment building in Ottawa’s Hintonburg neighbourhood. The building is professionally managed by Colonnade BridgePort.
While the building was under construction, the advertising objective was to build an email subscription list to target potential residents when the building opened. A secondary objective aimed to get subscribers to make a phone call or submit an email to a member of the leasing team immediately.
For the email subscription goal to be considered complete, a subscriber had to provide their name and email address.
For the contact request, there was considerably more commitment required on the part of the subscriber. The Subscriber needed to fill out a form with their name, phone number, email and desired suite type. Plus, there was the expectation the person would spend time on the phone speaking with the leasing agent.
Facebook ads were tracked in Google Analytics using UTM codes. Google Ads were tracked in Google Analytics with Auto Tagging turned on.
We advertised on both Facebook and Google. Spending slightly more on Google search advertising, and the geographic targeting was the same for each.
Facebook excelled at getting the email signups. Google excelled at getting the contact requests—remember it’s harder to get contact requests than email signups.
In October 2019, Hintonburg Connection opened and began accepting live viewings with a leasing agent. The email list signup was disabled, and the primary advertising objective was to get people to book an appointment with a leasing representative to view the model suite.
We kept the spend and geo targeting the same for both Facebook and Google Search advertising. The results were stunning:
Google’s performance at generating sales leads was significantly stronger. The cost per sales lead was 35% lower than Facebook.
Other observations of Facebook versus Google
- Facebook brought a higher volume of website visitors that Google.
- Facebook brought more new users to the website than Google.
- Facebook had a higher bounce rate (percentage of people who viewed landing page and left the site) than Google.
Application of the Experience
When it was time for Colonnade’s next apartment building opening, 1960 Scott Street, we applied our experience. During the pre opening phase of gathering email subscribers we spent more heavily on Facebook. And then as we switched to actively leasing units, we applied more spend to Google Search Ads.
Dental Office Stopped Facebook Advertising
A small dental office I work with was doing both Google search ads and Facebook ads. After six months, they stopped the Facebook ads because their cost per lead was too high (form completion was $108, versus Google Search at $59).
They too experienced high traffic volumes and bounce rates.
Getting the Word Out Quickly on Facebook
Another customer used Facebook to announce a new product. Their goal was to reach as many people as quickly as possible about the new product. Facebook reached far more people much faster than Google.
Facebook Advertising worked better on softer commitments like email signups
My experience advertising with Google search and Facebook has shown me that Facebook is particularly good at reaching a lot of people quickly. It’s good at driving traffic to your website and getting people to make small commitments, like subscribing to an email list.
In short: Facebook advertising generates a lot of traffic and small commitments, but results in very few leads or sales.
Why Facebook excels at smaller user commitments
Typically, Facebook users leisurely scroll through their feeds to see what friends are doing, and to relax. They click on ads that intrigue them, but most are not in the mood to do a lot of thinking and analyzing, or especially to make large commitments, such as committing time to go to a leasing office or make a purchase.
If the Facebook user has an interest, they will complete a quick mailing list form, because that fits with their relaxed mood.
Google Search Advertising works better on the ‘Money Commitments’
It’s been my experience with customers advertising on both Facebook and Google that Google brings in the money. The user is typically ‘Googling a problem’ because they are looking for a solution. In this way, they are in the mood to listen, especially when a seller has the solution to their problem. And when they find the solution, they’re more willing to make that bigger commitment or purchase.
Is Google Search Advertising Better than Facebook Ads?
These two platforms are built for different objectives. In my opinion, Facebook excels at softer commitments like email signups and getting large volumes of people to your website quickly. Google search is made to get buyers to find you. It excels at getting people who are actively searching and ready to buy your product or service to your website.
The key for small- and medium-sized businesses with restrictive budgets is to make it clear what they want users to do after they land on their website.
Why decline so many Facebook advertising request
Unfortunately, many businesses lack the resources to advertise on both Facebook and Google. Their budgets force them to choose one over the other. In order for a Facebook advertising campaign to be successful, a business needs to have the email or content marketing in place or be willing to build it. That’s a significant commitment, which can be difficult on a small budget. In my experience, those who want Facebook advertising but don’t have an email infrastructure will struggle.
Google Ads settings can give your campaigns a lot of power and significantly improve performance—or they can completely derail your campaign and get very expensive very quick.
Some of these settings are ‘set and forget,’ so we tend not to think about them unless there’s a problem.
Here are a few examples I’ve seen where incorrect settings sucked daily budgets into oblivion:
- Spending $200 in an hour on clicks from Albania when the target geography was Ottawa, Canada.
- Exhausting your daily budget during the day, when your target market shops in evenings and nights.
- Not knowing if your advertising is getting any results at all.
- Showing your ads on the wrong network.
It’s easy to take these settings for granted; they’re not things we look at every day in our busy lives. We often assume they’re correct and working until we notice something wrong.
Occasionally, it’s a good idea to give your Google Ads settings a check, if for no other reason than to make sure they’re not sucking money out of your daily budget.
Locations where your ads are showing
You could have an incredibly compelling ad, but if it’s showing in the wrong location, it’s useless. One of my customers couldn’t understand why their daily budget was consistently exhausted before noon. It turned our their ads were running in Albania. They were spending about $50/day (for 50 days!) on ads that weren’t even reaching their target market!
The fix was simple: Go into ‘Campaign Settings’ and set location to the customer’s targeted geography—in this case, Ontario, Canada. Once this was done, their budget lasted all day, and they were getting lots more sales.
How to check your locations:
Go to the campaign you want to check.
On the right menu, click ‘Settings.’
Click locations. If there are corrections to be made, click the pencil and follow the prompts.
Days and Hours Your Ads Can Run
Running ads 24 hours a day can get expensive, especially if most of your clicks come in the evening and your budget is exhausted during the day.
One E-commerce customer was getting very few sales, until we changed the hours of their ads to evening and middle of the night—that’s when their target market liked to shop. Run your ads when your customers most likely to be looking for you.
How to set your Days and Hours
Select your Campaign.
On the side menu, click ‘Ad Schedule.’ The days of the week and the times your ads are showing will appear.
Select the pencil below that chart and then pick your days and times to your ads to appear.
Networks Where Your Ads are Showing
Google offers lots of networks: Search, display, video, Gmail, etc. Make sure you are on the network you want. I’ve seen many accounts showing ads on the display network because the account owners inadvertently clicked Search Network with Display Select. Make sure the network(s) of your choice are what you have turned on.
How to set up your networks
Select your campaign.
On the right menu, select ‘Settings.’
Google Ads Conversion Tracking
Make sure you have Conversion Tracking set up. Conversions are what you want people to do on your website: Buy something, complete a form, sign up for your email list, etc. If you don’t have conversion tracking properly implemented, it’s like driving without a rear view mirror. You simply don’t know if your advertising is working, or at least which half of your advertising is working.
Here’s an article to help you set up your conversion tracking.
It’s easy to take Google Ads settings for granted, but a quick check can save you a lot of money and significantly improve performance.
Google Ads Quality Score measures your relevance on a one to ten scale. Ignoring it can be a costly mistake. Andrew, one of my customers learned that the hard way.
More Money but No Relevance
The first time Andrew called me; he was frustrated with his Google Ads Account. There were few clicks, and no sales. Every time he did a search, he found his ad near the bottom of the Google listings.
Andrew claimed he had raised his click bid to from $2 to $5, but never got near the top of the listings. Then his real frustration came out. “I don’t know what’s wrong with Google, I’m offering $5 bucks a click and my competitor (a friend of Andrew’s) is only offering $3 a click.” Exacerbated, he added, “He’s always at the top of the page, and I’m at the bottom. I’m willing to pay more!”
By now I was knowingly nodding my head; Andrew had forgotten about Relevancy—one of the most important components of Google Ads.
The Real Value of Relevance
Relevance is the usefulness of your ad relative to the user’s search. Andrew’s ad was very general, while his competitor’s ad mentioned the product users were searching for and provided key differentiating features and a call to action.
When it comes to relevance, remember that Google only gets paid when your ad is clicked. So, if 100 people see your ad but no one clicks, Google won’t make a cent.
Simply put, the competitor’s ad was more relevant than Andrew’s ad, so Google believed it would get more clicks if it were higher in the listings. More relevant ads will often find themselves above higher paying competitive ads because more clicks mean more money for Google.
Google Ads Quality Score
To help guide us toward more relevant ads, Google provides us with a ‘Quality Score’ for each of our keywords. The Quality Score is Google’s opinion on how well your keyword matches what’s in your ad and what’s on your landing page. You’re given a one to ten rating, 1 meaning poor quality and 10 meaning very high quality.
Andrew had a Quality Score of two, poor. By working on his quality score components Andrew’s reached scores between 7 and 10, reduced his cost per click 20%, rose to higher ad listing positions, and received a lot more sales.
Quality Score has three components:
- Ad Relevance—How closely the keyword relates to your advertisement.
- Landing Page Experience—How useful your landing page is relative to the keyword.
- Expected CTR (Click Through Rate)—How likely users are to click on your ad when shown with the keyword.
All three components, especially ‘Expected CTR,’ use historical data. This means that as your clicks increase, your quality score will likely begin to improve too.
How to Keep Ads Relevant to Your Keywords
The best way to maintain relevance is to keep your keywords grouped by specific themes. If you have a group of keywords that have a common theme, put them together in an Ad Group. For example, a home renovation company might group keywords by type of renovation: basement, kitchen, bathroom, etc. All the basement related keywords go in basement, kitchen related keywords go in kitchen, etc.
All the ads for the basement ad group will contain the word ‘basement,’ kitchen ad group ads will contain the word ‘kitchen,’ etc.
By using the ad group name in the ad, the ad becomes relevant to user searches.
Each ad group sends the user to pages related to the keyword in the ad group. The basements ad group goes to a basement landing page, kitchens to a kitchens page, etc.
This is the trickiest Quality Score component because it relies heavily on how many clicks your ad is getting. It uses Click History.
Troubleshooting A Low Quality Score
If your quality score is below five, it’s a good idea to look deeper at relevance. Each Quality Score component consists of three ratings: Below Average, Average, and Above Average. A low quality score probably means one or two of these components is ‘Below Average.’
Here’s how to improve a below average rating in each component:
Ad Relevance: Make sure the keyword is in the first or second headline of the ad.
Landing Page Experience: See how well the promise made in the ad is fulfilled on the landing page.
Expected CTR: This is the toughest one because Google is pretty vague on what it means. It’s been my experience that if I can get the Landing Page Experience and Ad Relevance to Average or Above Average, the Expected CTR slowly follows.
If your keywords are grouped by theme, and you use the theme name in your ads, you will increase your ad relevance. Check your landing page for the keyword or variations of it. These simple tactics will help keep your ads relevant and higher in the listings.
Google Ads extensions help push your ads to the top of the listings. Here’s a guide to using them to get more clicks.
Getting your ad to appear at the top of a Google search can be very competitive. Making sure you get enough of your message in the ad to attract potential customers can be tricky. Using Google Ads Extensions can help on both fronts—at no extra cost.
Extensions provide enhanced ad content about your business, which in turn garners more clicks than ads without extensions.
What are Google Ads Extensions?
Extensions are additional information about your business that appear with your ads. Ads using extensions are usually larger because there is more content, and more content means more visibility.
Benefits of using extensions
All businesses advertising on the Google Search Network should be taking advantage of extensions because:
- There is no extra cost—Extension clicks are charged the same as ad clicks;
- They are easy to set up;
- They have an improved ad rank, which helps push your ad higher on the page listings; and
- They tend to get higher click-through rates—there are more click opportunities.
When Extensions Show
Google doesn’t guarantee extensions will show, but they show when:
- Your ad is showing at the top of the page;
- Your ad is considered relevant to the search term (a good Ad Rank); and
- The extension is predicted to improve performance.
Google provides many extension types that help get more people to your website.
- Get people to buy at your location / store:
- Affiliate location extension
- Call out
- Get people to contact you:
- Get people to go on your website and convert:
- Site link
- Call out
- Structured snippet
- App extensions can even encourage downloads
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular extension types.
The Big Four Extensions
These four extensions are among the easiest and most important, because they get people to either visit your website or contact your business directly.
If your business attracts any kind of walk-in traffic, you need a location extension. This helps people find you by showing:
- your address;
- a map to your location, or the distance a user is from your location; and
- a clickable call button
- your hours
To create you Location Extension, you need a verified Google My Business listing, which you should have anyway. Simply link your GMB listing with your Google Ads account, and your location and phone information is automatically pulled into your location extension.
Call extensions allow mobile users to tap the phone number in your ad and call your business. You’re talking to a potential customer just like that!
The best part of Call Extensions is that it won’t disrupt your sleep! You can set the hours they appear so the extension only works when you are available to take calls.
Site Link Extensions
These are additional links to specific pages on your website. Users can search your ad with precision and go directly to your ‘contact’ page, a product page, the ‘about’ page, or any other pages on your site you think are useful.
If you’re have a sale or offering something seasonal, you can even set the start and end dates for some extensions.
Call Out Extensions
These are text extensions that provide detailed information about your business, products and services. These are not clickable links, so you can only input text, such as 24-hour service, warranty information, etc.
Other extensions available for your Google Ads
Structure Snippet Extensions
These are specific pieces of information you provide about your business, such as product names and prices, brands, and much more.
These extensions provide links to mobile ads.
These extensions allow users to send a text message to your business. They are designed to be shown only to users on phones capable of sending and receiving text messages.
These extensions provide a direct link to your website. They can be used to:
- Surface your offerings: Price extensions showcase your business’ offerings in an interactive format users can scroll through.
- Make shortcuts to conversions: When people click or tap a specific item on your price menu, they go directly to it on your site.
- Increase your impact—with minimal work: You won’t need to make new text ads or edit your old ones.
These extensions are for special promotions, such as Mother’s Day, Back to School, etc. They include two lines of text for promotional details and take users directly to your special offers page.
All of the above mentioned extensions are manual, meaning they need to be configured by the advertiser. However, Google also offers a suite of automated extensions.
These are extensions Google creates for you. There is no set up required.
These are the automated extensions and when they will show:
- Automated Call Extensions: When you indicate your goal is to have people call your business
- Automated Message Extensions: When you indicate your goal is to have people message your business
- Dynamic Site Link Extensions: When you indicate your goal is to get people to your website.
- Seller Rating Extensions: This is a combination of information and reviews next to your AdWords ads, letting people know which advertisers are highly rated for quality service. Here’s how it works:
- Google gathers seller ratings from reputable sources that aggregate business reviews.
- A business has 150 unique reviews and a composite rating of 3.5 stars or higher.
- For most advertisers, you can check if you have a seller rating by following these steps:
- Go to https://www.google.com/shopping/seller?q=example.com.
- Replace “example.com” with your domain (without the www. prefix).
- Uses Google Customer Reviews, and rating services data.
Google Ads Extensions Are Worth The Effort
As you can see, there a many different Google Ads extensions available. They are worth setting up because they make your ads larger and increase the likelihood of getting people to click through to your website. For a little extra time and no extra cost, you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck.
Hands Giving & Receiving Money
Here’s a case study of a Not for Profit Organization benefiting from a Google Ads Grants account and Google Ads Commercial account.
Non Profit Organizations (NPOs) can receive up to $10,000 per month of in kind advertising through the Google Grants program. Used wisely, this generous program can help NPOs promote their cause and encourage donations. But in some cases, the limitations that come with the program stop you from reaching the full market.
This was the case for one of my NPO clients. This client was using the program to advocate their safety message and their online learning courses. While they had great success reaching new users through the Grants program, the online learning campaign was struggling just to stay on the first page of the Google listings.
The Sluggish Campaign on Google Grants
Online learning is a competitive market with many advertisers vying for ad spots on Google’s listing. So much competition sometimes pushes the Grants accounts to the bottom of the search pages, sometimes even off the page altogether. This is why, despite my client’s automated bidding and optimization efforts, their online learning campaign performed very poorly. That is, until six weeks before their fiscal year end, when they were able to use some extra funds to set up a new commercial Google Ads account.
Our belief was the Grants Program was not fully reaching our market, so we duplicated the online learning campaign in the Grants account to the new commercial account. To prevent the accounts from competing against each other, Ontario was removed from the Grants campaign.
We expected the commercial account to outperform the Grants account, theorizing that because Google gets paid through a commercial account, it would want that account to do well.
We were wrong. The Grants account outperformed the commercial account, as seen in the screenshot below:
Both accounts had the same bids, about $2 per click. Both account’s ads were typically showing at the bottom of the first page, and occasionally in one of the top three positions.
Removing the Grants account Constraints
After three weeks of ‘equivalent’ bidding, we removed the Google Grants bidding constraints and let the commercial account bid the same as other advertisers. The results were practically instantaneous. The bids increased from $2.00 per click to $3.05 per click. Within a couple of days, the commercial account was consistently showing in the first three positions, getting twice as many clicks and had a higher conversion rate. After only one week, we were experiencing much better performance than the Google Grants account, as seen in the screenshot below:
Why the dramatically different results? By removing the restrictions, we were able to bid to the market price—what other advertisers were prepared to pay. The bidding limits that come with the Grants program were holding back performance.
My client took this test data to the Board of Directors and obtained funding to have a commercial Google Ads account to promote the online learning, while the Grants Account continues to promote the cause. So far, both accounts are performing well.
There’s a famous line in the movie ‘All the President’s Men’ where Deep Throat (Hal Holbrook) tells the reporter (Robert Redford) ‘to follow the money’ to find the answer. I use this same line anytime a Google Ads tutoring customer asks me how to optimize their Google Ads account without getting overwhelmed by the data.
Of course, my customers aren’t trying to uncover a government conspiracy, but sifting through the mountains of data Google Ads gives you to try to figure what’s working and what isn’t can be daunting. By advising them to follow the money, I’m telling them to follow their costs, starting with the highest ones.
Follow the money: Costs and conversions
To identify your highest cost Google Ads’ campaigns, sort your campaigns by the cost column, then double click the top of the cost column to have Google Ads sort from highest to lowest cost.
Next, look at the number of conversions in each campaign. If you have high costs with few to no conversions, you have a problem worth investigating. To give more context, I’ll often look at the cost per conversion (total cost / number of conversions) column as well. If that dollar value is within an acceptable range, there might not be an issue at all.
When there are no conversions or the cost per conversion is too high
This is where you need to begin troubleshooting to determine the root cause of the high cost versus low/no conversions.
It’s time to go into the campaign’s ad groups. To do this, click into the ad groups and do the same thing we just did in the Google Ads’ campaigns. Sort ad groups from highest to lowest cost, and look at the number of conversions and cost per conversion.
Click on the high cost and low conversion (or unacceptably high cost per conversion) ad group and look at the keywords. Find the high cost, low (or no) conversion keywords. Try to determine why this keyword isn’t converting. Is it too general? Is it a single keyword instead o a group or phrase? Single keywords draw poor quality traffic. Check the search terms report to see what precise terms are triggering your ads to show. If you see terms you don’t want your ads showing for, move those to ‘negative keywords.’
While cost and conversions are a good start for Google Ads novices, there are other metrics mixes you can use to investigate optimization, including impressions and impression shares, clicks and CPC, and many more.
For beginners, Google Ads optimization is easier when we pair down the data to a couple of metrics and then follow those through. The problems start to show, especially when you follow the money.