31 Mar Facebook v Google: Dawn of Advertising
The world of digital marketing is always changing. New technologies emerge, consumers behave differently, and advertisers learn new techniques. With all that in mind, I’ve decided to update this blog with the newest insights I can provide.
(Updated March 2017)
With the recent home release of the extremely disappointing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I was thinking of other powerhouses that would be entertaining to see go head-to-head. Two of the biggest companies in advertising right now are Google, through AdWords, and Facebook. Seeing them compete to prove which one of them is the best advertising tool would be pretty interesting, wouldn’t it?
Google is the Superman of this scenario. It’s a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut, but if you look closely enough it actually has some ridiculous weaknesses. Facebook, meanwhile, is the Batman here. At first glance, there’s no way you would think it could take down a powerhouse like Google, but it has some neat tricks up its sleeve that might just give it the edge it needs.
In this article I’ll be determining which company excels in 7 different circumstances. Also, if that first part was a bit too nerdy for you, hold on, because it’s about to get a whole lot worse.
1) Potential Reach
An advertiser’s reach can be seen as their raw power. The larger their audience, the more potential customers can see their ads. Reach is a pure numbers game, who has the larger audience?
Google Display Network ads can appear on any website that allows ad placements. Allowing ad placements is a great source of revenue for popular sites, so the number of sites that allow it is staggering. Basically, if you’re on the internet, you’re most likely going to see a Google Display ad.
With that in mind, I’m going throw some numbers and math out there.
There are currently 3.5 billion worldwide Internet users, which is 40% of the world population. Google has 2 million sites on its Display Network that reach 90% of internet users. Therefore, the Google Display Network has a reach of 3.15 billion people. That’s not even including the Search Network, which has 3.5 billion Google searches a day. So how does that compare with Facebook?
Facebook currently has 1.59 billion active users worldwide. That’s a substantial amount of users, but it still doesn’t even come close to Google.
Google really embodies the raw power of Superman here. It’s a powerhouse in the potential reach department, absolutely blowing Facebook out of the water. If advertising was purely about how many people see your ad, Google would have won this right out the gate. But that’s not the only consideration, and Facebook still has a chance to show its worth.
2) Data Collection
Being able to learn from each of the advertisements you run is one of the best aspects of digital marketing. The amount of data you collect will help you learn more about your consumers, which in turn will help you craft ads that target the demographics that are more likely to make a conversion.
Though it may surprise people, Google doesn’t acquire as much information about its users as you’d think. Yes, it provides a wealth of data about the performance of each ad, such as the amount of interaction, the cost of each click, how many people see the ad, and the percentage of people that make a conversion. However, as far as demographic information goes, it only provides Age, Gender, and Marital Status. Even then, Google can only acquire that information if the users allows it to. From what I’ve seen, only 75% of users allow that information to be seen. This means that, as an advertiser, I know almost nothing about 25% of my market.
Facebook provides almost the exact same information in regards to both demographics and individual ad performance. The main difference being that, since it’s Facebook, everyone’s demographic information is available. There’s no blind spot in the data, so when I look at who interacted with one of my ads, I know exactly the kind of market that responded to it best.
Just like how Batman learns and grows from every encounter, Facebook too is the best at improving over time. Every ad should be teaching you something about your market and pushing you to improve. Having all of the required information to properly refine your marketing is what gives Facebook the edge here.
It doesn’t matter how much information about your market you have if you can’t target your ads to the right people. There’s no point in wasting time and money on showing ads to someone who would never be interested in your service.
The Google Display Network and Search Network are very different in the way that they target their ads, so we’ll have to look at them separately.
The Display Network allows you to show your ads to people who show certain interests. The problem is that the interest categories are rather vague, such as “Motorcycle Enthusiasts” or “Business Professionals”. If you wanted to promote, say, a motorcycle repair company, than you’d obviously want to target those motorcycle enthusiasts. However, many of your ads would be wasted on people that repair their own bikes, as they would be lumped in with the rest.
You can also choose to show your ads on certain websites based on the topic that you choose. Again you run into the same problem as the interest marketing; the topic categories are just too vague. It’s nice to have the option to show your ads to a general audience, but I’d also like to be able to narrow my targeting for very focused ads.
The Search Network allows you to show your ad when people are using Google search. You can choose which keywords or phrases you’d like your ad to show up for. This allows you to show your ad when people are actively searching for your product or service. Choosing the correct keywords can be tricky. You must be able to put yourself in your consumer’s shoes so you understand how they think.
While Facebook has nothing comparable to the Google Search Network, they do far surpass the capability of the Google Display Network. The targeting can still be vague if you’d like it to be, but now you also have the option to be far more specific. If you’d like to sell a long distance running shoe, you can target adds to “Marathon Runners”. You could also show the ad to people who are interested in “Long Distance Running”. Unlike Google, Facebook also lets you choose the age group, and the gender of the people seeing your ad. So rather than tailor your ad to appeal to just your target market, you can now design your ad whatever way you want and choose the targeting yourself.
Facebook’s more advanced targeting is leagues better than the Google Display Network. However, not having an answer to the Search Network means Facebook is losing out on consumers who are actively searching for your product.
As someone who does advertising for many small businesses, I need my monthly reports to be simple, convey the right information, and be easy to create. No one wants to spend an hour fiddling with graphs or excel sheets to get the report to look just right.
Google AdWords has a reporting tool that’s exceptionally simple to use. All you need to do is choose the report style, such as graph or table, and the reporting time frame. After that it gives you a sidebar of all the different parameters. All you need to do is drag and drop them and it creates the report for you. It’s very user friendly, and the amount of variables and options makes it so you can give pretty much any information your client wants.
Update: After spending a few months with the AdWords reporting tool, I found a glaring flaw in its design; it’s incredibly confusing to report on more than 1 campaign at a time. Most companies run a minimum of 2-3 campaigns at any one time. Trying to create a report that compares the performance of the campaigns creates an absolute mess of a graph.
Thankfully, Google is currently in the open Beta stage of their Data Studio application. This allows users to create custom or template reports that look incredible. Google Data Studio can pull data from Analytics, AdWords, Youtube, and more, so it’s kind of a one-stop shop for almost all of my reports. The interface is simple, and it lets me show the exact information my clients are looking for. I doubt I’ll ever be using the AdWords built in reporting tool again.
For ads run on Facebook, advertisers must use their Power Editor application. It’s slow to load, and is not user friendly at all. It also creates separate files for different graphs, like demographics or ad placements, even though they are small enough to both fit on one page. Reporting on the overall success of your social media is even worse. The report on Facebook itself is fine, but trying to export it is a nightmare. One option is to use the built in export, which gives you an Excel sheet crammed with way too much data that you have scour through to fine what you need. The other option is to download Hootsuite and use its reporting function. This gives you a small report that’s limited to the last 35 days, unless you buy the upgraded version.
It may seem like a minor thing, but being able to compile all of the acquired data into simple and informative reports is incredibly important. Though the built in reporting tool for AdWords has its problems, the new Google Data Studio more than makes up for it.
Affiliated companies are the the sidekicks of the advertising world. They may not have the same reach as the bigger companies, but they do help a bit.
If there’s any platform that could be considered a sidekick of Google, it would have to be Google+. But figuring out how many users Google+ has is actually kind of tricky. Anyone with a g-mail technically already has a Google+ account. That means there are roughly 2.5 Billion Google+ users, but the amount of people who actively use it is far, far less. Some data suggests that only about 4 to 6 million users actually engage or interact with Google+ at all.
Meanwhile, Facebook’s sidekick would have to be Instagram. The image focused social media platform is owned by Facebook, so any ads created for Facebook can be instantly applied to Instagram as well. Instagram currently has around 500 million users, and the majority of them are active.
Facebook could be considered to have more than just Instagram as a sidekick. Other social media platforms like Twitter or Snapchat also benefit Facebook in their own way. Batman has his own little “Bat Family”, so why can’t Facebook? Meanwhile, just like Superman, Google is so powerful it doesn’t need any help. But that’s its undoing, because if you focus all your advertising in one area you’re guaranteed to miss some of your market.
6) Ease of Use
Much like reporting, advertisers and small business owners can’t be wasting their time trying to sort through bad user interfaces. Having something that’s easy to use and doesn’t require constant attention will save time and money down the road.
This is where AdWords is severely lacking. Once you get to know it, AdWords is an amazing tool, but there is an extremely steep learning curve to it. There is a whole program dedicated to training advertisers to use it and follow the best practices, but it takes a lot of time. Business owners simply don’t have that much time, so they’re almost completely excluded from being able to properly use AdWords. There’s also no way to set a monthly or a lifetime budget for an ad. You can only set a daily budget, so if you don’t use up your budget each day you’ll have to constantly recalculate your daily budget.
Facebook excels at ease of use. There are plenty of helpful videos you can find if you ever have a problem as well. Whenever you run an ad, all you have to do is set the target demographic, budget, and length of the ad and Facebook takes care of the rest. You choose the objective of your ad before you start creating it, and Facebook helps you craft something that will help you achieve your goal.
Ease of use is Google’s kryptonite. It’s what keeps the majority of small business owners away, and makes it hard for advertisers to learn. Having to spend weeks training on AdWords just to and earn a certificate that says you actually understand how it works is a sign that your program is hard to use. Facebook is very approachable to anyone that wants to do their own advertising for their business.
7) Customer Service
Update: After experiencing the occasional hiccup with both programs, I’ve discovered how important it is to be able to access support when you need it.
Every superhero needs a support system, someone they can turn to when things get difficult or confusing. The same is true of advertising. Whether you’re running into a glitch in the system, or you’re just looking for advice, it’s nice to have some sort of customer service to turn to.
As I said before, Google has an entire program dedicated to teaching people how to use AdWords. This isn’t limited to just slideshows and reading material though. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll constantly be receiving e-mails inviting you to attend webinars, check out new programs, read new material, and more. There’s even dedicated personnel who will offer advice and assist with your specific account. There’s also a community forum for AdWords users to share ideas and advice with each other.
Technical support is also fast and fairly simple to get in contact with. If you have an AdWords account, you can start a live chat with customer support, and in my experience they’ve always resolved the issues I had.
Though there is plenty of educational material on how to advertise on Facebook, most of it was created by users, not by Facebook staff. When there are updates to how the advertising works, there’s no sort of announcement or update log, at least none that I could find. It’s up to users to figure out what changed and share it with each other.
Getting into contact with live customer support is also a hassle. I bookmarked the page that has the option because of how much digging it took to find it. So far I’ve only needed to use customer support once, however, the problem was quite serious, and was a result of a glitch in the program. The problem was resolved quickly, but I was never informed of why it happened, so who knows if it could happen again.
Whenever Superman is in need of some advice or support, he’s always got his human parents to turn to. Failing that, he’s also got an ice/crystal palace that has all of the answer to any question he has (I never really understood the Fortress of Solitude). In the same way, Google always has some way to answer your questions, whether it be through the community, their customer support, or educational material. I know I’d take a palace over a butler any day.
Final Result: Draw
Yes, much like BvS, this ends with no real resolution. But that’s OK, because Facebook and Google aren’t best when they’re directly competing with one another; they’re better suited to working together. Using their strengths to cover each other’s weaknesses is the best way to use them. Using Facebook to market yourself can boost sales, which in turn lets you hire an expert to run your AdWords. Learning how to use both programs to make yourself succeed is the best way to do business.
I know Facebook and Google weren’t a perfectly analogy for Batman and Superman, but hey, I tried. At least Facebook’s mom doesn’t have the same name as Google’s, that would be dumb.