My business has specialized in managing Google Ads and Meta Ads for the last 12 years. Knowing the ad systems well, keeping up with the changes, and continuous trial and error are a challenge. One area of fascination for me always is the comparison between Google Ads and Meta Ads. There are a great many similarities and a great many differences. This article describes those similarities and differences in the most important areas. I hope you find it helpful.

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Sharing account access (methods and structure)

Similarities:

As a business owner, you might need to share access to business-related tools in Meta and Google with your partners, employees, or a marketing agency. Both Google and Meta offer good structures for accomplishing this. In fact, I didn’t realize how similar they are until recently, even though I’ve been using them for many years.

Both Google and Meta offer two types of access to ad accounts: User access (for a person) and “manager” access (which is for special, multi-account software tools). User access is intended more for owners, partners, and employees. Manager access is intended more for marketing agencies and service providers.

Differences:

With Google, there is a type of Google Ads account called a manager account which can have sub-accounts in a nested hierarchy. Commonly used by marketing agencies, access to ad accounts happens by linking a manager account to a normal Google Ads accounts. By using the 10-digit account ID number of the account to be linked to, a manager account can send an invitation to link to the other account. A user of the other account must then accept the link invitation for access to be established. A manager’s account can also be of use to a company that has more than one Google Ads account for their business. (According to Google’s policies, a single Google Ads account cannot be for more than one business. But a single business can have multiple Google Ads accounts.) A hierarchy of manager accounts can also be created so that one manager’s account can be the parent of other manager accounts.

With Meta, there is a rarely understood entity that individuals can create called a “business” – also sometimes called a “business account” or “business manager.” It’s basically just a container for business-related assets on Meta that’s used for organization and controlling access. It can be created by logging into your personal Facebook account, and then going to www.Business.Facebook.com. Once created, business-related assets, such as Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, ad accounts, and more, can be created or imported into the container. Through the business container, access to various assets can be shared to “people” or “partners.” Sharing to people is equivalent to Google’s way of adding a “user.” Sharing to partners is equivalent to Google’s way of adding a “manager.” In the case of Meta, adding a partner means to give access to a business asset to another business container. Adding someone as “people” is intended more for partners and employees. Adding a “partner” is intended more for marketing agencies and service providers. Although business access can be shared with other businesses (as well as individuals), there is no hierarchy offered for businesses as there is with Google; i.e., a business account can’t be the parent of other business accounts.

Campaign structure

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads have a three-tiered, nested structure for campaigns. Organizing advertising settings into three levels is practical and flexible. The advertising needs of businesses vary greatly, so flexibility is important. Practicality is also important. Imagine that you want to create a new version of an ad that only changes one word. It would be impractical to need to create a whole new campaign. With the three-tiered structure, you can create a new ad under the campaign that has already been built. (That’s just one small example.)

If you include the account level settings, you could say it’s a four-tiered structure. The account-level settings are where things like time zone and currency options are chosen (and can’t be changed once the account is created).

Differences:

In Google Ads, the three levels are Campaign> Ad Group> Ad.

In Meta Ads, the three levels are Campaign> Ad Set> Ad.

Although this seems almost the same, there are big differences in where they put things. For example, in Google Ads, the optimization goal, location targeting, language targeting, and budget settings are in the campaign. In Meta Ads, the optimization goal, location targeting, language targeting, and budget settings are in the ad set by default (although there is a feature that allows moving the budget setting to the campaign level).

Tracking methods

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads provide tracking codes that can be placed on websites to track user actions resulting from ad clicks. Google’s code is called the Google Tag. Meta’s code is called the Meta Pixel. By applying this base code to all pages of a website, web page views are automatically tracked for all web traffic – not just traffic from ads. Basic traffic data can be seen in Google Analytics (for the Google Tag) and Meta Events Manager (for the Meta Pixel).

If the base code is installed, conversion tracking implementations can be configured based on specific page views, link clicks, video views, or other possible interactions. For example, if someone requests a quote through a website form, they might arrive at a confirmation/”thank you” page afterward. A view of that confirmation page can be counted as a conversion action since it indicates that someone requested a quote.

The two basic ways that a specific web page can be marked for conversions are URL rules and code snippets. With URL rules, you can specify the URL of the web page to count a conversion. With code snippets, special conversion code is placed on the relevant web page that sends a message to the ad systems that a conversion took place.

Differences:

The biggest difference with tracking methods between Google Ads and Meta Ads has to do with tools. Google Ads is equipped with the Google Tag and conversion tracking implementations but doesn’t show tracking data beyond that of paid Google Ads traffic. Google does, however, offer Google Analytics, which is the world’s most popular web analytics tool. Google Analytics is a robust tool that can provide large amounts of data for all website traffic – not just Google traffic. In fact, it’s helpful to see Meta Ads traffic data in Google Analytics. Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts can be linked so that data passes both ways: You can see Google Ads data in Google Analytics and Google Analytics data in Google Ads.

Meta used to have a more full-featured website analytics tool that rivaled Google Analytics called Facebook Analytics, but they discontinued it soon after Apple implemented new privacy features on IOS devices. Now, Meta Events Manager is what’s left for seeing traffic and conversion data, and it shows this data for all traffic – not just traffic from Meta. However, Meta Ads Manager only shows data resulting from Meta ad views.

Goals

Similarities:

For both Google and Meta, the terminology related to goals gets confusing. There is a mishmash of words that involve two completely different things, especially on the Google side. However, both Google and Meta offer choices for campaign objectives and separate choices for optimization goals.

Campaign objective — This is chosen at the beginning of the campaign setup process. While it could be confused for the optimization goal, it’s just a theme. Choices include leads, sales, traffic, awareness, and a few others. Your choice of objective will determine the choices you have for optimization goal and other settings in the campaign. Think of the campaign objective like a section of a restaurant menu – burgers, pastas, seafood etc.. It’s not a specific choice, it’s just a theme.

Optimization goal – This is the specific result you want the campaign (or ad set, in the case of Meta) to deliver. There are many possible options, but the choices depend on the campaign objective that was chosen. For leads, you might choose phone calls or website leads. For sales, you might choose purchases or add to carts (to name a couple of small examples).

An enormously important aspect of goals in both Google and Meta is categorization. By having a standard system of categorization, the ad systems can monitor the consumer behaviors of users. Goals are categorized for common consumer actions, such as making online purchases, filling out lead forms, clicking call buttons, adding items to cart on a website, submitting contact forms on websites, booking appointments online, and many more. By aligning advertiser optimization goals with consumer behavior data and machine learning capabilities, the Google and Meta ad systems have hidden superpowers for optimization.

Differences:

For one thing, Google offers the option to create a campaign without choosing an objective, while Meta does not. If you choose to create a campaign without choosing an objective in Google, you’ll move on to choosing a campaign type – such as search, display, shopping, video, or others.

Here’s where Google really mishmashes the words. Since it’s already confusing, it would be better if Google kept the words objective to be the theme and goal to be the optimization. But here’s how the option reads: “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance. Choose a campaign type first, without a recommendation based on your objective.”

For once, Meta is less confusing on something – goal and objective terminology. The campaign “objective” is the theme; The “performance goal” is the optimization.

Here are two other differences:

  • In Google Ads, the objective and optimization goal are at the campaign level. In Meta, the objective and optimization goal (“performance goal”) are at the ad set level.
  • In Google Ads, several goals can be chosen for a campaign. For example, you can choose to optimize for phone calls, purchases, and appointment booking. In Meta, you can only choose one optimization goal (“performance goal”).
Bidding

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads work with auction-based systems. This is probably the most ingenious aspect of online advertising today. Seriously, it was a brilliant idea. Here are three of the great benefits of being auction-based:

  • It creates a level playing field for all advertisers.
  • It allows the host company to profit based on supply and demand ratios.
  • Ad placement and ranking can be run by computers, not people. (No need for sales reps!)

Before an ad impression occurs, an auction takes place to decide which ad will appear. With both Google Ads and Meta Ads, there are several automated bidding options to choose from. With automated bidding, the ad systems do the bidding based on the optimization goal and bid strategy. Here are some examples of bid strategies working with optimization goals:

  • “Get me as many website leads as possible for my budget.”
  • “Get me booked appointments at an ad cost of $32 per appointment.”
  • “Get me phone calls for an ad cost of $11.50 each.”
  • “Get me product purchases on my website, but focus on higher priced products.”

In the first example, the bid strategy of maximizing conversions is in use. That directs the system to simply get the most it can for the given budget. In the second example, the cost-per-result bid strategy is in use. That directs the system to try to get results at a suggested price. This is preferable to me sometimes because I care how much I’m paying for each. I don’t want the system to blow through my budget for very few results. The third example is another cost-per-result bidding strategy. The fourth bid strategy is based on value. It tells the system not just to consider the number of results and the cost of results, but the advertiser profit gained from the results, commonly called “return on ad spend” (ROAS).

The above-mentioned automated bidding strategies are volume-based (“get me the most for my budget”), cost-per-result-based (“try to get me results around a specific price per”), and value-based (“try to get me results that have higher profit margin”).

Differences:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads offer options for manual bidding (supposedly), so the advertiser can choose their bid on auction-by-auction basis. The clearest example of manual bidding is for keywords in search engine ads. You can set an individual bid for every keyword being targeted. For example, a plumber could bid $10 for “plumber” but $20 for “plumber near me.” You can also apply a default bid to an ad group in Google Ads that applies to all targeting in that ad group for how much you’re willing to pay per click.

Also, in Google Ads, you can use a feature called “bid adjustments” to adjust your bids up or down based on criteria. For example, suppose you’re targeting eight cities, but one is less valuable because it takes longer to go there. You could set a bid adjustment of minus twenty percent, meaning that you’re willing to bid for a click but only twenty percent less than your normal bid. You can set bid adjustments based on locations, device types, time of day, demographic info, and more.

In Meta Ads, there is a manual bid option called “cost cap,” but it is practically unusable unless perhaps you are a mathematician. Manual bidding makes more sense with Google because you are usually charged for a click or other type of interaction, such as a video view. With Meta, you are charged for an impression. Bidding for how much you’re willing to pay for a single impression is very difficult. It makes much more sense to choose an automated bidding strategy that lets the system focus on the performance goal you specified. Meta’s default bidding strategy is called oCPM (optimized-cost-per-thousand-impressions). This means that the system will charge for impressions but serve them in a way that optimizes for the specified optimization/ performance goal.

Quality checks

Although both Google Ads and Meta Ads are auction-based systems, the bids are not the only determinant of ad placement. They both have built-in quality check systems that affect the outcome of the auction. The quality checking of ads dates to when Larry Page (Google cofounder) searched Google and noticed that the ads he was seeing were irrelevant to his search. He then famously took a photo of the ads and wrote, “These ads suck” on a note next to the picture.

The problem with ads that aren’t highly relevant to someone’s search is that they don’t serve anybody. They don’t serve the viewer of the ad; they don’t serve the advertiser; and Google will not get paid if no one clicks on the ad. Ads in search make a great example of why quality checks are important, but ad quality on other channels is also important to the business model of both Google and Meta. Faring well with the quality check systems leads to lower ad costs and better placements.

Differences:

Google’s quality check system has long been known as “quality score,” which is a ranking system from one to ten – ten being the highest score. A quality score is applied separately to every targeted keyword and can be seen in the data table in the keywords panel. Quality Score is calculated based on the combined performance of three components:

  • Expected clickthrough rate (CTR): The likelihood that your ad will be clicked when shown.
  • Ad relevance: How closely your ad matches the intent behind a user’s search.
  • Landing page experience: How relevant and useful your landing page is to people who click your ad.

Each component is displayed with a status of “Above average,” “Average,” or “Below average.” This evaluation is based on a comparison with other advertisers whose ads showed for the exact same keyword over the last 90 days.

Meta’s quality check system doesn’t have an official name, but Meta offers insights on how quality checks are executed, which include:

  • Feedback from people viewing or hiding the ad
  • Assessments of low-quality attributes in the ad or landing page, such as sensationalized language, engagement bait, and withholding information

They also offer a feature called “ad relevance diagnostics” for monitoring different aspects of ad quality in a way that suggests how improvements can be made. You can see ad relevance diagnostics by going to the ads tab in Meta Ads Manager and choosing the Performance column set. You’ll see columns for quality ranking, engagement rate ranking, and conversion rate ranking. Each column will display a status of “Above average,” “Average,” or “Below average.”

Objectives

Similarities:

With both Google and Meta, the campaign creation process begins with a menu of campaign objectives. Rather than specific outcomes, these objective options are like themes applied to the campaign. They determine the type of campaign that will be created, including which other options and features will be available. For example, if you choose Sales as the objective, you’ll have the option to incorporate a product catalog in the campaign – If you choose leads, the catalog option won’t be available because it’s irrelevant.

Think of the objective like a section of a restaurant menu: It’s not a specific item, but a section like “seafood,” “pastas,” or “burgers.” It narrows things down.

Differences:

The options for objective are similar in both Google Ads and Meta Ads, but not the same.

Google Ads objectives:

  • Sales
  • Leads
  • Website traffic
  • App promotion
  • Reach, awareness, and consideration
  • Local store visits and promotions
  • Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance

Meta Ads objectives:

  • Awareness
  • Traffic
  • Engagement
  • Leads
  • App promotion
  • Sales

The biggest difference is that with Google Ads, you have the option to create a campaign without a goal’s guidance. When this option is chosen, you’ll move on to choosing a campaign type, such as search, display, video, app, Performance Max, shopping, or Demand Gen.

Once again, the objective is just a theme that determines the features and settings that will be available for the campaign. It’s not a specific outcome.

Optimization

Similarities:

The specific outcome you choose when setting up your Google or Meta ads is commonly referred to as the optimization setting. This is where you tell the system precisely what you want the ads to bring in. It could be phone calls, website sales, video views of a minimum length of time, website leads, views of a landing page, donations, or other results. The most important thing to understand about optimization is the hidden power behind it. Both Google and Meta can track our interests and behaviors with our online activities. For example, they may know that someone is a diehard Bruce Springsteen fan or that another person likes to make e-commerce purchases every Tuesday. The Google and Meta ad systems consider this type of data for ad optimization to get better results.

Differences:

The difference between Google’s and Meta’s approach to optimization is difficult to explain, but here goes. It might be easier to understand if I explain a little history of how they evolved.

Meta Ads (formerly called Facebook Ads) has always worked with a single objective being chosen for the campaign and a single optimization option chosen for each ad set. This is still the case, but fairly recently, they renamed the optimization setting to the performance goal.

Google Ads (formerly called Google AdWords) has always had a system of conversion tracking, where particular user actions could be counted as conversions. Then, automated bidding strategies could be employed to optimize for a desired conversion (or several different conversions). Although this was a fine system, it lacked some of the focused power contained in the Meta Ads system because Meta Ads had defined optimization categories (like sales, leads, donations, calls, etc.). Having defined categories allows for the system to learn and optimize in a more focused way and on a broader scale. So, in recent years, Google implemented a clever approach to offer the best of both worlds. They kept their straightforward conversion tracking system, but they adopted a standard system of categories for conversions to be associated with. Now in Google Ads, you can define a conversion action as you could before, but you must choose a category to associate it with. Google calls these categories “goals.”

Hopefully, those descriptions give context to help you understand the differences. Cutting right to the chase, though, here is a summary of the differences:

In Meta Ads, the optimization setting is called the “performance goal,” and it gets chosen at the ad set level. Only one performance goal can be chosen per ad set.

In Google Ads, one or more “goals” are chosen at the campaign level. And each goal contains one or more conversion actions.

So, the biggest difference is now singularity (a single performance goal per ad set in Meta Ads) and plurality (one or more goals per campaign in Google Ads, each of which can contain one or more defined conversion actions).

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Ad placements

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads offer a variety of ad placement types, including in discovery feeds that people scroll through and video ads that appear before, during, and after other videos. Ads within short-form video feeds (ala TikTok) have taken hold with both Google and Meta as well — Google has YouTube “Shorts”; Meta has “Reels” on Facebook and Instagram.

Differences:

Except for the above-mentioned similarities, ad placement channel options are very different between Google and Meta. For one thing, Google is the most popular search engine in the world. Ads can appear in search results that are related to the words used in the search. This type of advertising is unlike any other because the user is basically self-targeting the ads by the words they use. Some searches are indicative of commercial intent, meaning that the person is looking to do business. For example, the search “plumber near me” is likely from someone ready to hire a plumber. People search Facebook, too, and ads can appear in the search results, but Facebook generally only offers search results from its own ecosystem. Facebook is normally not used in the same way as Google for searches.

While Google dominates the world of search, Meta dominates the scrollable feed-based ad type, commonly known as “discovery” ads. Most people using Facebook and Instagram are scrolling through a feed of posts from their friends (or whoever they decide to follow) with ads interspersed in the feed. In recent years, Google has also found a way to offer discovery-type ad placements. They created discovery feeds appearing in the Google Search app and YouTube. While these feeds reach large audiences, they don’t achieve the engagement levels that Facebook and Instagram feeds do.

Both Google and Meta offer an assortment of other ad placement types as well.

Google Ads can appear in: Google Maps, Gmail, and on the Google Display Network (a massive network of partner websites and apps that show Google ads next to content).

Meta Ads can appear in: Messenger, Facebook Marketplace, and on Audience Network (a network of partner apps that show Meta ads in feeds and next to content).

Placement control

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads offer options for controlling which channels and placements the ads will appear in. There are automated options that allow the system to choose based on the optimization/ goal setting, and manual options allow the advertiser to include or exclude particular channels, placements, or device types.

Differences:

Although both offer a range of automated and manual options, placement control is quite a different ballgame between Google and Meta.

With Meta, placement control is simpler because its advertising offerings are almost all of the discovery type. You can choose between automated and manual placements. If you choose manual, you decide to include or exclude the major channels and individual placement types within those channels. For example, you could choose to include the Facebook news feed placement but exclude the Marketplace one. Or you could include the Instagram feed and Stories placement but exclude Reels.

With Google, placement control is much more complicated because it offers a range of advertising options that are very different, such search, display, shopping, video, discovery, and more. For most of these options, advertisers can choose automated placement control based on “people” or “content.” With people, you are telling the system to show your ads to a particular group of people, such as people who’ve visited my website in the last 8 days, or women between the ages of 45 – 54 who are interested in gardening. With content, you are telling the system to show your ads next to content related to specific subject matter. Examples of content would be: Websites, articles, and apps related to stage combat, or YouTube videos about the Titanic.

In Google search, advertisers can choose whether or not to include the search partners for ad placements. These are other search engines (like Ask.com) that partner with Google for search ads.

With Google display and YouTube, advertisers can choose manual placements instead of automated, which means they can choose the specific places for their ads to appear. This could include specific websites or apps in the Google Display Network or specific YouTube videos.

Audiences/ Remarketing

Similarities:

Remarketing is an extremely important and valuable method of online advertising, and both Google Ads and Meta Ads offer a variety of ways to employ it. The first step to remarketing is to have mechanisms in place to build audiences based on interactions with the business. Ad campaigns can then be created to target those audiences.

Both Google and Meta allow audiences to be created based on website (or particular web page) visits, uploaded customer lists (such as email addresses), mobile app usage, or video views – but there are practically unlimited possibilities. Audiences are also based on specified windows of time, so possible audiences could be:

  • People who’ve watched at least thirty seconds of your YouTube ad within the last week.
  • People who’ve visited at least three pages of your website in the last three months.
  • People who’ve added a product to the cart on your website in the last three days.

Remarketing campaigns are generally very inexpensive compared to other types of advertising. In fact, it’s so cheap, you must consider how much is too much. It can feel creepy to a consumer to have a business’s ad follow them around too much. For this reason, a feature called frequency capping can be used. This allows you to limit how often the same individual will see your remarketing ads in the same day, week, or month.

Differences:

Ad Placement: With Google, remarketing ads show on the Google Display Network, which includes YouTube. However, there is also a way to use remarketing in the context of searches. For example, you can do keyword targeting for search ads but only for people who’ve been to your website. With Meta, remarketing ads can show on Facebook, Instagram, and Audience Network.

Audience Building: Meta offers a few more audience-building mechanisms than Google because of their broader range of discovery ad features and types. Audiences for remarketing are called “custom audiences” in Meta Ads. They can be based on interactions with Facebook pages, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, lead form openings, lead form submissions, Meta events, product catalogs, and more.

Another apparent difference has to do with audience size requirements. Google states there must be at least 100 active members in a remarketing audience for ads to serve on the Google Display Network, on YouTube, in Searches, and at least 1,000 active members in a customer list for ads to be able to serve. Meta documentation doesn’t disclose that specific audience size requirements, but it’s possible that they do have them.

Special categories

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads impose stricter limitations for advertising involving housing, employment, credit, and politics. These limitations are related to laws against discrimination and/ or the requirement of transparency. The form they take depends on the category of advertising. Housing-related ads, for example, can’t be targeted to only wealthy zip codes; Larger geographic areas must be targeted that don’t discriminate based on wealth, race, or other factors. For political ads, special verifications are required.

Differences:

The main difference between Google Ads and Meta Ads special categories is that with Meta Ads, you need to declare the special category yourself in the campaign setup process. Not doing so can lead to a problem, such as an ad account suspension. With Google Ads, it’s a passive process. You simply create the campaign as you normally would; and if the system detects that it’s related to a special category, limitations will be imposed. You may see a warning next to the ad in the data table that says something like “eligibility limited” because of the special category

Ad distribution partner networks

Similarities:

Both Google and Meta have partnership programs that allow ads to show on partner properties (such as websites, mobile apps, and gaming systems) in exchange for revenue-sharing. These programs extend the reach of the ads beyond their already enormous audience-reach platforms. They also increase Google’s and Meta’s profit tremendously while being lucrative for the property-owning publishers as well.

For advertisers, having a larger reach for ads through partner networks can sound great. But it might not be. The quality of ad impressions and clicks is often lacking, as well as the authenticity. These partner networks are known for low-quality engagement, such as accidental clicks and non-human interactions (bots). Click fraud is the term used to describe inauthentic interactions. Since there is so much money to be made through these ad networks for the publishers, some greedy companies and individuals employ artificial means of interaction to bump up their revenue – with the advertisers footing the bill. Both Google and Meta claim to have robust resources in place to detect and prevent click fraud, but it can’t be stopped completely. If click fraud activity is detected, both Google and Meta process refunds to the advertiser for ad costs, which can be seen in ad account statements.

Differences:

With Google, there are two partner networks that should be mentioned. One is the search partners. These are search engines owned by other companies that partner with Google to show ads. An example of a search partner is Ask.com. For display advertising, Google has a massive network of partners called the Google Display Network (GDN). The GDN is the largest audience-reach ad platform on Earth. It includes websites, mobile apps, and gaming systems. It includes some of the largest publishers in the world, such as Yahoo.com, CNN.com, TheNewYorkTimes.com, and recently added Elon Musk’s X (formerly Twitter). With the GDN, ads appear in many shapes and sizes around content. For example, you might be reading a news article and notice an ad for a seven-day Caribbean cruise on the page. That is most likely coming from the GDN. The GDN has traditionally been a PPC (pay-per-click) advertising platform, but has long offered the option for CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) as an alternative. However, Google recently made the announcement that in 2024, the GDN will change to be all (or mostly) a CPM platform.

Meta’s partner network is called Audience Network and reportedly includes around 80,000 mobile apps. The ads mostly appear in native formats, meaning they blend naturally with the formats and feeds of the apps. The usual method of charging advertisers for Meta advertising is by impression, which is true for Audience Network placements as well.

Video advertising

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads offer the opportunity for video advertising that’s both cost-effective and far-reaching. They each offer a variety of ad formats that include longer-form, short-form, landscape, and vertical display types. In one placement type, ads are shown before, during, and after views of other videos. In another, short-form videos can swiped through continuously in TikTok style. (TikTok style has become so wildly popular that Google and Meta jumped on board with their own similar offerings.)

Video ads can be targeted based on locations, demographics, interests, behaviors, or remarketing audiences with both Google and Meta. Also, both offer ways to optimize targeting and build remarketing audiences based on user engagement with video ads.

Differences:

A major difference between Google Ads and Meta Ads for videos is that any ad on Meta can be a video ad. Meta ads always have a visual component, such as an image or video. This is not the case with Google, where some ads are text-only.

For video ad distribution channels, Google offers YouTube and the Google Display Network. Both have enormous reach and practically unlimited inventory for ad placements. YouTube offers the traditional landscape video format but also now has Shorts, which is the vertical format meant to be swipeable on mobile devices. The Google Display Network is a massive network of partner websites, mobile apps, and gaming systems where Google ads appear. Not all of the placements on the GDN are video ad compatible, but many of them are. Meta offers video ad distribution through Facebook, Instagram, and Audience Network. Facebook video ad placements include the news feed, the new videos page (formerly called “Watch”), and Reels (the vertical, TikTok style format). Instagram video ad placements include the Instagram feed and Instagram Reels. Much like the Google Display Network, Meta’s Audience Network is a large network of partner properties (like apps and websites) that show Meta Ads.

When it comes to paying for video ads, Both Google and Meta offer several options. Depending on the campaign type, Google offers a CPV (cost-per view) option, where advertisers are charged if a video ad is watched for at least thirty seconds (or the entire video, if less than thirty seconds); and CPM (cost per one thousand impressions). Meta normally charges for ads by impression (appearances of the ad). However, in some campaign types there is an option to get charged per Thruplay (video views of fifteen seconds or more – OR the entire video, if it’s less than fifteen seconds).

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Subject: Google vs. Meta for Marketing

Targeting

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads offer ad targeting based on locations, demographics, interests, behaviors, and past engagements (remarketing). To add flexibility, both offer the option for targeting exclusion as well as inclusion. For example, you could target the entire state of Kansas but exclude the biggest cities. Or you could exclude a remarketing audience of your current customers if an ad is meant only to attract new customers.

Both also have expanded deeply into automated targeting, which means you can let the systems themselves decide who to show the ads to. They use their massive troves of data, machine learning capabilities, and a trial-and-error process to find out where the most “results” are to be found. (The advertiser specifies the conversion goal they want, and the results column in the data table displays how many have been achieved.) With both Google and Meta, these automated targeting engines can be helped along with suggestions, i.e., you can offer input such as remarketing audiences or interests to point the systems in the right direction.

Differences:

Since Google shows ads in their search engine results, this offers a unique type of targeting: keyword. With keyword targeting, the search engine user essentially self-targets ads based on the words they search. A search for “girls green bike for sale” or “locksmith near me” will trigger ads relevant to those searches. Although Meta does show ads in search results on Facebook, it doesn’t work the same way as Google for either the person searching or the ad system. Its search results are mostly based on content in its own ecosystem, and users generally understand that. Google dominates the world of search for information, products and services, and keyword targeting is a key feature of it.

Another type of targeting that Google is much more capable of offering than Meta is called contextual targeting. This means targeting ads to appear around content based on subject matter. For example, a company that sells fishing gear could target their ads to show on the Google Display Network or YouTube around content about fishing, camping, or outdoor recreation. Since content in Facebook and Instagram feeds is generally user-created (such as people’s photos, etc.), contextual targeting doesn’t make sense. For example, it makes sense to see an ad about fishing gear on a blog page or video about fishing. But does it make sense to serve an ad about fishing gear next to a picture of your friend who posted a picture from her fishing trip? Not really. In the future, contextual targeting may become more prominent because it allows for more privacy. It doesn’t require interest or behavior tracking of users because it targets content, not people.

Tools

Similarities:

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads have mobile apps available for IOS and Android that allow advertisers to do basic campaign management from their phones. I find these apps to be surprisingly well-designed, user-friendly, and helpful.

Both Google Ads and Meta Ads also offer full-featured reporting tools that are separate from the main reporting tables but built into the platform. These tools allow many types of customizations to control what data is being shown and how it is visually presented. Options include tables, time charts, bar graphs, pie charts, and more. They also have different sharing options, making them very useful when working with partners, clients, or a marketing team.

Differences:

Google Ads offers an offline tool for campaign creation and ad management called the Google Ads Editor. It’s is an enormously useful program, although there’s a bit of a learning curve. The user-interface is completely different from Google Ads on the web, but it’s intended to make certain management tasks much faster and easier. For one thing, it’s super-fast because there is no latency as there is on the web. Since it runs on-device, there is no waiting for pages to load. As you begin to work, you need to download the latest version of an account, which takes half a minute or so – depending on how much there is to download. But after that, there’s no delay until you finish making changes and upload them into Google Ads. The tool is especially great for scaling an account because copying and pasting can be easily done. Years ago, Facebook Ads offered a similar tool called the Power Editor, which ran on the Chrome browser and was meant to make account scaling easier. But they discontinued it quite a while back.

Google Ads also offers an integration with Google Analytics, which is the world’s most popular tracking and analytics platform. When a link is established, there’s a two-way exchange of data. Google Analytics features and data can be used in Google Ads, and Google Ads data can be seen and integrated into Google Analytics reports. Remarketing audiences can be built in Google Analytics to be used in Google Ads. Also, conversions tracked in Google Analytics can be imported into Google Ads. The home of Meta Ads tracking for website and mobile app events is called Meta Events Manager. It is useful for defining and tracking important engagement and conversion events, but it is not a full-featured analytics program like Google Analytics. Facebook once offered Facebook Analytics as a robust analytics tool, but they shuttered it a few years ago after Apple implemented new privacy technology on IOS devices.

Google Ads also offers some tools for helping advertisers plan and create campaigns, such as the Keyword tool, the Performance Planner tool, and the Reach Planner tool.

Meta Ads offers a useful tool for ad creation and collaboration called Creative Hub. With Creative Hub, teams can work together to develop ad creatives outside the Ads Manager interface. When an ad is approved to go live, a toggle can be switched to make the ad accessible in Ads Manager.

Login

Similarities:

You can use multiple services of both Google and Meta with a single login (username and password).

Differences:

The login situation is much simpler with Google. You can have multiple logins. The main login component is the email (or Gmail) address. Any login you have allows you to use any of Google’s free services, such as Google Ads, Google Analytics, Google Calendar, Google Maps, YouTube, and many more.

With Meta, it’s confusing. You use your Facebook account login to use Meta business tools, like Ads Manager, Events Manager, Business Suite, etc. Each human can only have a single Facebook login (per the Facebook community rules). People often think they need a separate login for business-related items on Facebook, but not only is that incorrect, it’s against the rules. No matter how many businesses a person might have, they are still only permitted to have a single login because they are only a single person. All business-related features can be created and managed through their personal login. Aside from using the same login, there is a built-in separation between business items (like Facebook pages) and personal stuff (like friends).

As for using multiple services with a single login on Meta, that is also confusing. With your Facebook login, you can use Facebook and Messenger. Other Meta-owned services, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Meta Horizon, have separate logins. But because of the integrations and interconnectedness of these services, Meta provides an interface called Accounts Center where you can choose to unite the logins, personal details, and other preferences.