Google Ads vs Facebook Ads for eCommerce: How and When to Use Each Advertising Platform

With a limited advertising budget, what PPC channels should you invest in?

The preferred “choices” eCommerce merchants articulate to us is generally between Facebook (and Instagram) Ads vs Google Shopping (and Paid Search) Ads.

The framing of this question is a bit flawed because most eCommerce businesses can benefit from using both.

The real choice is which channel to scale more than the other — and that depends on the details of your business.

In this post, we’ll guide you on:

  • A cross platform strategy for using Google Ads and Facebook Ads
  • What products tend to work best on each channel
  • The budgeting method we recommend to find your most profitable campaigns

Note: We would love to help your eCommerce business maximize profitability from Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and Google Ads. Get in touch.

Strategy: Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads vs Google Shopping and Paid Search Ads

How should you use these platforms together in your eCommerce marketing strategy?

Facebook Ads

You can (and should) target direct conversions from Facebook and Instagram ads. That said, an ideal primary goal for these platforms is brand awareness.

If you’re a new company, or if you’re selling unique products, there might not be any relevant keywords and search volume that you can target in your Google PPC ads yet.

People will commonly go to search for your brand in Google once they’ve seen an ad from it on social media.

Because of that tendency, you can use Facebook and Instagram Ads to drive more demand for your brand in search engines.

Social ads create brand awareness; People search Google for brand and products; Google search and Shopping Ads capture searches relevant to your brand; Remarketing with Social Ads and Display Ads.

If you’re just getting started, the primary campaigns to invest in are:

  • Awareness: Fresh audiences targeted by the interests and demographics of your best customers.
  • Lookalike: Facebook can automatically create a “lookalike audience” of people based on your website visitors, Facebook fans, email subscribers, or a custom list of contacts that you upload.
  • Engagement: Remarketing to audiences who have already engaged with your brand as customers, on social media, your website, and/or your email newsletter.

With these campaigns, you can retarget the people with a proven interest in your products to help drive them toward a conversion. At the same time, you can drive more brand awareness by targeting new people who are similar to your customers.

Overall, this approach helps your campaigns reach more qualified prospects, which wastes less of your budget on people who aren’t as likely to be interested.

Google Ads

Google Ads are ideal for capturing the people who are actively searching for your brand and the products that you sell.

When your goal is to add more direct conversions, you can target your Google Search Ads and Shopping ads toward direct and measurable purchase intent. To do that:

  • Bid high on keywords directly related to your own brand and products.
  • Invest in remarketing campaigns to capture people in each stage of the buying journey.

More on these two points:

Bid High on Branded Search and Shopping Campaigns

Your Google Search Ads should have campaigns that aggressively capture branded searches, whether you are established or new. The primary reasons are:

  • These campaigns target the relevant keyword searches for your brand and products. Owning your brand on Google’s PPC platform helps to direct these engaged prospects to your online store.
  • The “free market” nature of Google Ads means competitors can bid for your brand name in an attempt to intercept the people searching for you. Owning your own keywords in Google Ads prevents this from happening.

For example: Bouqs’ Search Ad beats the competing Urban Stems ad below it when you do a Google search for “Bouqs.”

Google search for "Bouqs" (flowers)

Own your own branded searches (like Bouqs does) by setting up Google Search and Shopping campaigns for them.

Be like Bouqs. Don’t let your competitors steal your prospects.

Remarketing Campaigns

To tie Facebook and Google’s platforms together, you can:

  1. Remarket to people on Facebook who engaged with your Google Ad campaigns through a Facebook pixel (see our guide to using Facebook Business Manager).
  2. Remarket to people across the web through Google Display Ads.
  3. Build an audience in Google Analytics with your Facebook Ad UTM parameters, import it into Google Ads, then overlay it on your branded campaigns.

These remarketing campaigns can be very cost-effective because they are targeted toward more engaged prospects.

For example: We helped a client with their Facebook Ads for furniture by using remarketing campaigns to increase conversions and improve their return on ad spend (ROAS).

To do so, we segmented audiences based on their current stage in the buying journey. We then tailored Facebook Ad messaging for each audience segment to make sure the ad they saw was relevant to them.

As these audience segments were retargeted with the right ads at the right time, this strategy nurtured them along the path toward conversion, leading to a quick uptick in ROAS.

Products: Which to Advertise on Facebook and Instagram vs Google

The best products to advertise on social media are often visual products, as seen below.

Instagram Ad for Causebox

For example, apparel and beauty products are usually better to advertise on these channels than heavy equipment or professional services.

"Goop" Sponsored Ad on Facebook

Instagram and Facebook ads are better for selling visual products like apparel and beauty.

Google Ads can certainly be great for advertising these product types as well. That said, Google Ads typically excel over social media ads in terms of direct conversions for products that are:

  • More expensive
  • Less visually appealing in nature
  • Higher consideration, with a longer path to purchase

For example, appliances, home improvement, and travel are just some of the categories that benefit from a focus on Google Ads. People tend to go to Google when they are actively shopping for these types of products.

Google search for "solar water heater"

Google Shopping and Search ads are better for less visual, clunkier or more expensive products that people are searching for.

Budgeting: How to Maximize Your Opportunities on Facebook and Google’s Ad Platforms

Your advertising budget naturally has a big impact on how you prioritize these platforms.

For smaller, nimbler stores, we usually recommend prioritizing Google Shopping and Search Ads to capture more immediate opportunities for a return.

For certain industries and business types, Facebook Ads can have a lower conversion rate and thus a higher cost. The strategy we’ve discussed so far about driving more brand awareness applies.

For example: Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns featuring your brand and products increases brand awareness. People within your target audience will start to search Google for your business as your brand awareness ads continue to run. Your Search Ads and Shopping Ads can help funnel this audience back to your website.

This strategy isn’t just for small brands. Tim Brown, the CEO of Allbirds admitted that most of their sales are driven by word of mouth. Allbirds’ extensive Instagram and Facebook advertisements, press coverage, and previous customers all contribute to new interest and demand for their products.

As Allbirds social media, PR, and word of mouth spreads, they make sure to bid on their brand and product-related terms to capture any organic searches for their product in Google:

Google search for "allbirds"Google search for "wool runners"

Allbirds captures searches for their brand and product names like “wool runners” with Search and Shopping Ads.

For larger stores with the capital to invest, we recommend a more aggressive approach to budgeting over numerous low budget tests or relying on word of mouth.

We understand why many managers are inclined toward multiple small, low-budget tests in an attempt to find a minimum viable budget. But starting with a bigger budget to find what works, then paring back what doesn’t can be a much more effective strategy.

Given the increase in ad costs and competition on these platforms, the reality is that you need to “pay to play” in order to discover your most profitable campaigns. This statement is based on our years of experience in running eCommerce PPC campaigns with budgets in the 7 and 8-figures.

A big campaign budget allows you to conclusively test what advertising model or campaign types work best. Then, you can scale up the proven campaigns.

What does a “big” digital ad campaign budget look like?

A four-figure budget might seem like enough to test the waters on both platforms. In most cases, it barely scratches the surface of what’s possible with your campaigns.

For large retailers, in particular, a five-figure budget (or more) is needed to prove the effectiveness of one channel or a certain campaign type on that channel.

When hiring out their eCommerce PPC campaigns to our agency, we advise clients to allocate at least a five-figure budget to fully test the campaigns we recommend. Otherwise, they might not be fully able to take advantage of our work because the campaigns haven’t spent enough to reveal the winners.

The bottom line: There is room to improve results if you scale up your spending to allow yourself to find what returns a profit.

Summary: Major Considerations When Budgeting for Google Ads vs Facebook Ads

Along with the individual factors of your business and industry, your brand and your goals will affect how you split the budget.

Your Brand:

Does your brand lend itself to the Instagram and Facebook “vibe”?

While you can target your perfect customer on these platforms, think about the context.

Someone who wants to buy a pool or move across the country will probably go on Google to look for businesses that offer what they are looking for. In that case, you might not get a return by leaning toward FB.

On the other hand, Facebook and Instagram ads are perfect if you sell items that are visually appealing like clothes or other inexpensive consumer goods — such as low-involvement purchases or novelty items.

How much consumer knowledge is there about your business?

If you sell items that no one is searching for in Google, you can lean on FB to drive search demand for your brand and products.

That said, try to keep in mind what a prospect may search for in the days after seeing your ad, once they can’t remember what your brand was. You don’t want to feed these people to your competition as they search for products that aren’t specific to your brand.

For example, a Search Ad for “blue beach towel” is going to be hard for you to bid on. But “[your brand] blue beach towel” is, of course, a lot cheaper to bid on. Or, “Bali blue ocean waves beach towel” if that’s the name of your product.

Your Goals

Are you lacking brand awareness and need to build it up?

Facebook ads can help create more exposure and drive more demand in search engines (remember the Allbirds example above).

Want to expand into high volume areas of search and go broad with a keyword-based strategy?

Look at these Google Ads strategies for eCommerce. In particular, this one:

Tier 1: High Priority, Low Bid, Catch All; Tier 2: Medium Priority, Medium Bid, Higher ROAS; Tier 3: Low Priority, Highest Bid.

Your brand and product related keywords go in Tier 3 with higher bids. While increasingly broader keywords go in the upper tiers with lower bids.

This allows you to bid higher for customers likely to convert in Tier 3, while building brand awareness in Tier 1, and building more brand awareness while capturing profitable conversions in Tier 2.

Want to reduce campaign costs?

As we’ve mentioned, use Facebook to create an audience of engaged visitors to remarket to.  Then, convert through your retargeting campaigns on social media and with Google Display Ads.

Want to grow aggressively with your budget and find what works quickly?

Invest in a variety of campaigns on these platforms using an ample budget:

  • Facebook Ads
  • Instagram Ads
  • Broad keyword Search and Shopping ads

Note: ROAS will go down with this more aggressive approach, but revenue may go up and is the better metric to focus on with this strategy.

For example, one of our clients with a 7-figure Google ad budget allocates 75% of their spend on brand awareness tactics like Search Ads, Video, and Display Ads. Rather than focusing on ROAS, they are focused on extending their reach.

This works for their business because their ad budget allows them to “be known” as a major player in their industry. This helps their broad-based keyword campaigns targeted at general product searches to win against their competition.

Conclusion

Now you know how these two ad platforms are a complementary pairing in the marketing ecosystem of your eCommerce business.

When testing advertising channels, don’t forget: it’s better to go “all in” with a big budget. These days, you simply have to “pay to play” with most of the competition until you figure out what advertisements have the best ROAS for your specific eCommerce business.

Note: Are you interested in getting our help to integrate a cross platform PPC strategy? Get in touch.