If you have reached this page, congratulations. You are on the right track to run effective digital ads for your website or business.
Most Small Businesses struggle to understand the differences between Google Ads and Meta Ads (Facebook/Instagram). Understanding those differences is essential to identify which one will perform best for your business.
In this article we will cover those differences, helping you figure out which one may be best for you.
It’s not about the platform, it’s about marketing.
Before we jump into each platform, it is important to understand that any digital marketing platform will not guarantee the success of your ads. The success of your ads are mostly based on where your key audience is located, or how to reach them.
Similarly to the offline world, if you run a local bakery for example, distributing promotional flyers near your shop may be a very effective way to increase your foot-traffic and sales. Although, if you distribute the same flyer, at a neighbourhood that is 10 km away from your shop, it’s very unlikely that anyone receiving that flyer will actually take their car and drive to your shop.
Of course, some may do that, but the percentage of people keen to make that drive, is drastically reduced when compared to distributing near your shop.
In a very short explanation, this is what marketing is about: increasing the odds in your favour to maximise the ROI (return on investment) of your flyers.
About the Digital Ads
Similarly to the example above, digital ads can be effective to you if know where your target audience is located, and how likely it is for them to reach to you (or make a purchase) when they see your ad.
Digital ads may come in may different ways and shapes, but it’s important that you understand two main types: Search ads and Display Ads.
Search Ads (Passive Approach)
Search Ads are those ads that we see when we search online for something. Usually using Google Search, Bing Search, DuckDuckGo Search, Apple Search, among others. Search ads can also be found when you search on a map and see a ‘promoted location’.
Search ads have a passive approach. This means the user will be actively searching for your product, service or brand and they want to find the product they are looking for.
For example, if a person searches online for ‘bakery near me’, and the bakery in the example above had search ads running, they would probably show up among the first results in the search page. And since that customer is actively looking for a bakery, it is very likely they will find it and visit the bakery or shop online in the near future, because now they know where is that bakery near them.
On the other hand, if the person searches for ‘home made bread’, and the bakery ad shows up, it is unlikely they will visit the bakery or shop online. Afterall, they are looking for home made products, which is usually not something a bakery can provide.
Again, the objective is to increase the odds of the advertisement in your favour. Search ads ads are great for most businesses if used wisely. We will cover how they work further down this article.
Display Ads (Active Approach)
Display ads are fundamentally different from Search Ads. Display ads have an active approach. Similarly to distributing a promotional flyer, display ads will show up to people on websites, social media, apps, etc. Display ads must be still images, videos or GIFs in most cases.
This kind of ads can be very ‘invasive’, and sometimes annoying for the potential customers. Youtube ads are a great example of display ads that interrupt the user from watching a video unless they watch your the ad first.
Ads on Instagram, for example, are less ‘invasive’ because they are organically distributed within the feed. So the person who is browsing on Instagram, will see the ad and sometime not even realise it’s an ad.
Back to our bakery example, if they run a display ad on Facebook inviting people for a ‘special breakfast promotion, all you can eat for only $10 per person – Today only!’ and the ad is running at 11am on a neighbourhood far away, on that same day, it’s very unlikely that anyone will click to learn more, or even try to visit that bakery, after all, the ad is pretty much not relevant anymore and the advertiser is just wasting money at this point.
On the other hand, if they run this same ad, a couple days before the event and for an audience in the nearby neighbourhoods, the chances of that same ad had performed well, would have grown exponentially.
The key point when running display ads is to make sure they are relevant for the audience you are targeting. Display ads are focused on ‘spreading the word’, they are effective to show your products, services or promotions for people who are not necessarily searching for it on that moment, but may be interested in what you have to offer.
If you have an innovative product, that people don’t know anything about, Display ads are more likely to perform better than Search Ads, since people won’t be actively searching for that product.
Google Ads vs Meta Ads
Now it’s time to break down a bit further on these two specific platforms and learn how we can benefit for both of them. Remember, this is not a tutorial on how to use these tools, our intention is to clarify how these tools work and why they may be a good option for your business – or not.
There are a few different types of Google Ads an advertiser can run: Search Ads, Display Ads, Video Ads and Performance Max (local) ads. Let’s see how each of them work.
Google Search Ads
As we mentioned before, search ads will show-up whenever a person searches for something on Google. These ads run based on predefined ‘Keywords’. This means the advertiser (you) should choose for which keywords or search terms, you want your ad to show-up.
So if the advertiser defines the intended keyword is ‘bread’, then whenever a person searches on Google ‘bread’ or related terms such as ‘home made bread’, ‘how to make bread’ or ‘best bread in Auckland’ their ad would come up.
Note that bread is a pretty broad keyword, and not all searches related to ‘bread’ would be good for their ad to show up. ‘How to make bread’ is an example of search term that would not be beneficial for the bakery to show their ads – after all, people searching for ‘how to make bread’ are not likely to buy bread from a bakery at this moment.
Knowing the best keywords for your business is the key to run successful search ads. A lot of it will be trial and error, but you can discover relevant keywords for your business using the Google Keyword Planner.
Because search ads and defining keywords can become quite complicated depending on the business you are running, if you have the budget, hiring a Google Ads partner to manage your Google campaigns can really save you a lot of money and time.
Google Display/Video Ads
Google display ads do not run on Google. Instead they run on sites and blogs who have partnered up with Google to display their ads. So for example, if someone writes a blog about bread or cooking, they can make their sites available to display Google Ads for their audience.
When the advertiser (you) run display ads and ‘tells’ Google that you want your ad to show for an audience interested in ‘bread’ or ‘cooking’, Google will show your ad on that blog. That way, when someone is reading an article on that blog, they may see your ad right there and get interested to click.
Google has the world’s largest display network under their hat. This means you have a huge quantity of websites available, for pretty much any niche you want.
Studies show that on average, people visit over one hundred websites per day. This includes your potential customers. So this means using display ads can be beneficial for your business, considering you choose carefully which audience you are targeting and what kinds of websites these people visit.
You can also hand pick some website, such as the New Zealand Herald or Trademe to show your ads, if you think people viewing these websites are part of your intended audience.
The key for well performing display ads is to know your audience, their habits, their demographics and also to have a great advert, with a nice image and a nice ‘call-to-action’ inviting people to click to learn more about your offer.
Performance Max Campaign (Local)
One of the newest types of campaigns offered by Google is the Performance Max.
We are not going to explain in depth all the possibilities of the performance max campaign, since they basically can distribute your ad across different channels (search, display, video, etc).
What we want to highlight and that may be interesting for your business, is the option to run this campaign to boost your local presence.
If you have a Google Business Listing (Formerly Google MyBusiness), with this campaign, you are able to show your location straight on Google Maps as a promoted location, boosting your visibility on the map.
It’s a well-known fact that most people nowadays search on Google through their smartphones. This means whenever they search for a ‘bakery near me’, with a performance max campaign enabled for local search, your bakery can show-up on the map results, where people can simply request directions, give a direct call or visit your website.
This is a great option for local businesses with a physical shop where people can walk-in to buy your products or services.
Meta Ads – Facebook / Instagram
Meta ads (formerly Facebook ads or Instagram Ads) are display ads that are distributed to social media users of these two platforms.
This means there are no search ads, and everything is purely based on audience. You prepare a video, or image, add captions and choose what happens when the user clicks on your advert (visit your website, or your profile page, or send you a message, etc).
For being display ads, they follow the same rules: they should have a nice imagery/video, an appealing copy and be very accurate to your intended audience, otherwise people will not get interested and your ad is likely to fail.
The power of Meta Ads is due to it’s nature. When people are reading a blog about bread, and see an ad about a bakery, they may not click on it. That is not because they didn’t like your ad, but because they are actually doing something else at the moment – reading the page – therefore they may not stop to click on your offer.
With Meta Ads, on the other hand, people are just browsing on Social Media. This is usually ‘not important’ for them, so if they see an ad that may be an opportunity for something they are interested, they don’t mind clicking on it to check it out and then coming back to social media later to finish browsing their feeds.
Meta ads are perfect for special offers, something that is very appealing to an audience or if you have a product that is usually purchased by impulse.
Still on the bakery, for example, if they make a new kind of bread, that is something very innovative and appealing for people to give it a try, they can take a mouth-watering picture of that bread and promote it on Facebook / Instagram.
People are always keen to know more about new products or services they can enjoy and Facebook/Instagram ads can be a great way to show them what a wonderful product you have.
But keep in mind, whenever running Meta Ads, be very careful on choosing the right audience. Millions of people use social media everyday, so if you choose the wrong audience and let your ad run to the wrong people, your budget is likely to get drained extremely fast and you will have very poor results.
Which one should you choose?
There is no right or wrong to this question. It all depends on your business, products and services you provide. It is important that you understand each platform, and understand that if it doesn’t work for you now, it doesn’t necessarily means it will never work, or that the platform is bad.
If we could give you one tip is to focus on getting the initial setup of any ads right. The audience is the most important factor for most ads, and being extra careful on the setup part in essential for the success of your campaign, no matter if it’s on Google or Facebook.
Other than that, remember to keep an eye on the results, learn how to read them and what they mean. If you notice a negative trend in some aspect, you can always fix it until you get a positive ROI.