Google Ads vs. Social Media Ads: Which Is Better for My Business Marketing Strategy?

Though marketing has changed from primarily print to largely digital, paid advertisements are still a large part of how businesses get the word out about their products and services. This fundamental building block of advertising will likely remain constant, even as the landscape of marketing changes and evolves. 

For many business owners and marketing managers, paid advertising is extremely calculated. With limited advertising budgets, brands must be strategic about how and where they spend their money. However, this can be difficult when many websites claim to offer similar results for their marketing fees. It can be confusing to parse the similar advertising descriptions to find what you really need and what you can get out of paid advertising. What the choice often comes down to is Google or social media ads, and it can be confusing to decide which is best for you.

Fortunately, there are many concrete ways that Google ads and social media differ from one another. Identifying these differences may allow you to take advantage of one or the other. For most companies, it’s not just about investing in advertising, it’s about investing in advertising in the right places. 

Paid Ads: the Advantages

Before we begin to look at the differences between Google ads and social media ones, it’s important to understand why you will likely need to turn to paid advertising at some time or another. Even the most established and famous brands use paid advertising as part of their marketing strategies.

Paid advertising is kind of like salt. You definitely want a little bit, but too much makes for a poor end result. Using it at the right time and in the right quantity is the key to truly delectable outcomes. Many new brands use paid advertising when they first begin. This helps to create an influx of traffic before organic traffic gains momentum. Many brands also use paid advertising when their brand needs a boost. Paid ads for new product launches, rebranding, seasonal sales, and similar events can help to maximize the impact of these events. They can also jumpstart organic growth during slow periods. 

Ultimately, a little bit of paid advertising creates natural momentum for organic web traffic. However, if you only do paid advertising, people will stop paying attention and you will have less of an impact. There is a fine balance. 

Google Ads

Many Google ads come in the form of PPC, or pay per click advertisements. In these scenarios, companies bid to have their page appear at the top of the results for certain words. If a user searches for that word and clicks on the ad, the company pays Google the predetermined amount for the click. If no one clicks on the ad link, then the company doesn’t get traffic but they also don’t have to pay. 

These ads are great for intercepting customers who are already looking for a company like yours. For example, if you run a yoga studio, Google ads will help you to capitalize on the people who are already searching for yoga studios. This gives you an advantage over the competition, as you appear at the top of the search results for people who are already looking for what you have. 

Social Media Ads

Social media ads are quite different. Rather than targeting searches, these platforms allow you to choose the demographic of your audience. On many social media websites, you can advertise by age, gender, interests, proximity, and more. This allows you to hone in on a certain group of people that you want to engage with, which can be incredibly helpful in many situations. 

Social media ads can be much more like traditional ads in the sense that you can target a demographic but can’t necessarily ensure that they’re looking for what you have. Rather, social media ads try to capitalize on the power of suggestion; if you show a social media user the product that you have, they will hopefully be attracted to the concept and buy what you’re selling. 

Different Types of Demand

The key difference between social media ads and Google ads is whether your audience is already sold on your product. You will need to think about your products and services, and determine if you are something that people seek out or something that works best through the power of suggestion.

Take a law firm, for example. If a law firm uses Google ads, they are advertising to people who are already looking for an attorney. However, if they were to advertise on social media, they may not have much luck. Even if ads for the firm continually pop up on a user’s Facebook, they don’t need a lawyer if they don’t need a lawyer. No amount of banner ads will be able to change that and make them convert. 

On the other hand, a clothing boutique may thrive with social media ads over Google ads. With social media ads, the boutique can appear on an individual’s home page and show them what attractive and trendy clothing the boutique offers. Even if the user wasn’t necessarily in the market for new clothes, they may still buy something because they liked what they saw. The boutique is not selling a need per se, but using social media and the power of suggestion to get users to convert. 

Ad Formatting 

Google has a unique system when it comes to diverse ad formatting. Though your Google advertisements will remain text-based, you can alter many different aspects of the formatting to best display your message and portray proper information. This gives you some wiggle room to tailor your ad to your specific brand.

Social media, however, is a visual world. With the exception of Twitter, most social media platforms catch users’ attention with visuals like photos, videos, gifs, and boomerangs. If you are looking to format your information in a non-text manner, you should turn to social media platforms for your ads rather than Google. However, if you want to relay a lot of information, Google’s text-based ads may be a better way to achieve your objective.

Click Through Rate

Though it’s difficult to say exactly how successful any given advertising campaign will be, you can assess the click through rate of the ads you put forth. A click through rate is the amount of users who see your ad and click on the link to learn more. Google has the advantage in this department, with a 2% click through rate as opposed to Facebook’s 1.11%. However, it’s important to remember that people who click on Google ads are already looking for the service that the company is advertising. Having a higher click through rate makes sense in this regard. 


Despite a higher click through rate with Google, social media ads hold the advantage when it comes to conversion rates. Conversion rates are distinct from click through rates in a major way. While click through rates simply sum up the percentage of viewers who click a link, conversion rates show how many viewers end up doing what the company wants them to do. In many cases, the company’s objective is to get viewers to buy a product or service. However, conversions can be defined as the amount of people who sign up for an email list, request an estimate, or any other goal the company has in mind.

Conversion rates for social media platforms are around 9% where Google conversions sit around 4%. As it turns out, if you catch someone’s attention on social media, they’re much more likely to follow through with the process rather than browsing and leaving again as they might do on Google.


Many marketers do have to worry about ROI (Return On Investment) in order to get the ongoing funding that they need from their company. Proving ROI can be difficult, especially if your conversion objective is to gain more social media followers or increase your email signup numbers. However, there are ways to track ROI both with Google and social media ads. 

Social media has an incredible capacity for high ROI because it is so targeted to certain demographics. Not only can you tailor your ads, you can choose the audience. This increases efficacy and can increase conversion rates, thus improving ROI. On top of this, social media budgets can be extremely low and still be effective. Many platforms let you reach a significant number of people for only $5 or $10. You can spread the ad over a few days or run it for a single day, whatever you choose to do. Because the process is so customizable, you can maximize your budget and increase the amount of output to your input. 

It’s worth reiterating that Google also has a high capacity for ROI because most searchers are already in the market for the product or service. However, you cannot be as targeted and your budget may have to be larger.

Turn to Sites by Sara

If you want to get into paid ads but don’t know where to begin, our team at Sites by Sara is here to help. We offer industry-leading insight into social media and Google ads, and we can help you to develop an online marketing strategy that works for your business.

For more information, please contact Sites by Sara online today. 


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