When creating a campaign in either Google or Meta Ads, many decisions must be made. To a novice, these decisions can be overwhelming because the meaning of the different options is sometimes unclear. For example, what is the campaign objective vs. the campaign goal? Both Google and Meta use this terminology in their ad manager interfaces. With Google, a campaign type is also part of the equation. Understanding the meaning of these features is essential, and choosing the right ones for your advertising goals is crucial.

Campaign Objectives

The first decision you’ll make when creating a new campaign with Google or Meta is the campaign objective.

With Meta Ads, the options are:

Awareness, Traffic, Engagement, Leads, App promotion, and Sales.

With Google Ads, the options are:

Sales, Leads, Website traffic, App promotion, Awareness and consideration, and Local store visits and promotions.

Google also offers the choice to “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance in the objectives section. (This is VERY confusing terminology because it’s in the objectives section, and goals has a different place and different meaning. They really should stay consistent and use only the word objective for this option.)

So, what is an objective, and what is its purpose? Think of it like a theme. For the most part, choosing the objective narrows down the options that you’ll have later based on the theme. A good analogy would be a menu in a restaurant. A typical menu might have sections like burgers, salads, sandwiches, pastas, and seafood. Those aren’t specific items; they just get you in the ballpark of what you want. You’ll choose the specific item you want after you choose the objective. This is where many people get confused. They think that the objective indicates the specific result item, but it’s not – that’s the goal.

Goals

So, what is a goal? A good analogy for understanding goals is the game of “fetch” with a dog. You throw something, like a stick or a tennis ball, and the retrieves it for you. When you set the goal in Google or Meta ads, you’re telling the system the specific thing you want it to fetch. With Google Ads, the goal might be phone calls to your business, website sales, website leads, appointments scheduled, a view of a specific page on your website, or other options. Meta Ads offers a similar list of goal options but also includes Messenger conversations.

Traditionally, this game of “fetch” in advertising has been called optimization. As the advertiser, you would choose what specific result(s) you want the system to optimize for, i.e. bring in. But the word goalhas taken hold now for both Google and Meta, with Meta now using the term performance goal.

In Google Ads, the goal is chosen in the campaign settings. In Meta Ads, the performance goal is chosen in the ad set settings.

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The hidden power of goals

An aspect of goals that few people realize is how deeply their power connects to the core structure of the ad systems. This power is based on two primary factors:

  1. Data collection on interests and consumer behavior
  2. A standard list of event categories

For example, let’s say a seller of women’s shoes wants the ad systems to generate sales from their website. Both Google and Meta have data about women who browse and shop for shoes online. They can recognize standard events, like adding an item to shopping cart, initiating the purchase, and purchase confirmation. They might know that certain individuals like to make their purchases on Saturday mornings and others Tuesday evenings. Of course, the systems learn as they go from your own campaign activity and results. But the real kicker is that they don’t just employ data gained from your account – they employ all campaign data from all campaigns throughout history. That’s a lot of data, and it all goes to work for you when you set the campaign goal.

Goals vs. conversion actions

In Meta Ads, you can choose from a list of performance goals in the ad set settings. You can only choose one per ad set. It’s fairly simple and straightforward.

In Google Ads, goals are made up of one or more conversion actions. For example, you might set the goal of phone calls in the campaign settings. But that might include any call initiated from a call button on an ad, a call dialed manually from a number showing on a Google ad, or a call dialed from a website. In the conversions panel of Google Ads, you can create conversion actions and assign them to appropriate goal categories.

Interestingly, Meta’s goal optimization is singular, whereas Google’s can be plural. In Meta Ads, a single performance goal is chosen per ad set. In Google Ads, one or more goals can be chosen in the campaign settings – and those goals can be defined by one or several conversion actions each. Also, Google has a feature called “account goals,” which means that certain goals can be classified as account-level so they will apply to all campaigns unless otherwise specified in individual campaigns.

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Campaign types

Campaign types apply to Google Ads but not Meta Ads. After you choose the campaign objective in a new Google campaign, you’ll see a selection of campaign types, of which you’ll need to choose one. The options for campaign type will depend on the objective you choose. They might include:

Search – For ads that appear in search results.

Display – For ads that appear next to content over a massive network called the Google Display Network. This network includes millions of websites, mobile apps, and gaming systems. Huge publishing and media companies partner with Google for display ads, including Yahoo.com, CNN.com, Foxnews.com, X, and many more. The network also includes Google-owned properties, like YouTube.

Video – Video ads can appear on YouTube or on Google Display Network properties that support video.

Shopping – Ads for specific products are shown in Google searches.

Demand Gen – Ads show in discovery feeds seen on YouTube and the Google Search app.

Performance Max – This is the only campaign type that extends to all Google ad platforms and channels, such as search, display, YouTube, shopping, Gmail, discovery feeds, and Google Maps.

App – This is for driving downloads and fostering engagement with your mobile app.

Smart – This is a simplified campaign setup that gives Google more control and offers fewer options to the advertiser.

The main reason Google requires the selection of a campaign type is that Google offers a more diverse array of advertising options. For example, search advertising is very different than display advertising — or any other type of advertising, for that matter — since ads are triggered by people’s searches. Meta ads, on the other hand, are normally only seen because of the same type of action – scrolling. People scroll through their feeds, stories, reels, etc. Users sometimes search Facebook or Instagram for information, but this usage is very different than Google search usage and very low volume in comparison to their scrolling activity.

In closing

Understanding the difference between objectives, goals, and campaign types will give any advertiser a considerable leg up in helping them make decisions for their ads. These options connect to the inner (and somewhat hidden) power of the ad systems and can be make-or-break features for success. To understand them further, I recommend doing some practicing. Create some campaigns in Google or Meta Ads just to explore the different options available. The practice campaigns don’t need to be published or go live. They can always be removed when you’re done using them.