I think we can all agree that digital advertising is essential for almost every business to survive in this day and age – and that of course includes schools. However, some schools on a limited marketing budget may be forced to make a difficult decision on where to allocate their digital advertising budget – Google Ads or Facebook ads?
Which platform is the best choice for schools is a question I’m often asked by school marketers. But before I answer that, let’s learn a bit more about each platform…
What are Google Ads?
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, Google Ads is a digital advertising platform run by Google, the world’s largest search engine. Used by more than 70% of all online users, Google Ads is by far the biggest and most popular pay per click (PPC) advertising platform out there. With more than 3.5 BILLION searches each day, there is a good chance your school parents are on Google and seeing their ads in one form or another—either Search or Display.
Google search ads are keyword-based text ads that appear in Google search results. These ads tend to be the most effective for schools looking for conversions – i.e. registrations to an Open Day (virtual or in-person). This is due to the fact that a parent is actively searching for school terms in Google, so the intent is there. They want to find information on schools or a particular school.
Display ads on the other hand are visual ads, using photos or videos, that appear in Google’s Display Network of over 2 million sites. In fact, you probably encounter these ads yourself multiple times a day (think of those shoes you looked at that follow you around the web!). Display ads use push marketing rather than the pull marketing of search ads. In other words, you are showing ads to those you think may be interested in your product—in this case, your school. Although this may seem like a stab in the dark, Google provides multiple criteria on which to better target your audience. This includes the users’ ages, location, interests, what they are actively looking at online, as well as how they’ve engaged with your school website. Although typically not as successful at conversions, display ads are an inexpensive way to expand your brand awareness and remarket to parents who have shown interest in your school but have yet to convert.
The Pros and Cons of Google Ads
- access to over 3.5 billion people each day
- the ability to target parents actively looking for schools
- dynamic and visual ads can be created from photos alone
- parents can be targeted both by their keyword searches and by their interests
- the ability to strategically remarket to visitors of your website
- typically you ads CPC (cost per click) is much cheaper than those of Facebook*
- success doesn’t always happen overnight, it can take time to get your targeting and messaging right
- it can be a competitive platform (all the more reason to be on it!)
*this does vary with each school, however, overall this has been my experience when running simultaneous Facebook and Google campaigns
What are Facebook Ads?
Facebook ads are again fairly obvious – ads displayed within the Facebook platform (which of course, includes Instagram). Like Google display ads, Facebook ads are visual ads used to target audiences based on things such as their demographics, location, interests, and how they’ve engaged with your school website. With Facebook ads, you have the added ability to target those that have engaged with your Facebook or Instagram page or event. One further capability in Facebook that is much easier to implement than in Google Ads, is the ability to create ‘look-alike’ audiences. Look-alike audiences can be based on, amongst other factors, your current Facebook Followers and website visitors. Although Facebook offers an extensive list of characteristics to choose from, look-alike audiences can be a great way to target parents if you’re less confident about your persona profiles.
The Pros and Cons of Facebook Ads
- as Facebook collects so much personal information they’re great for targeting your audience by their interests (the big privacy trade-off)
- you can quickly create a variety of visually appealing ads using photos alone
- the ability to quickly create look-alike audiences
- generally, a fairly simple process to get started
- you don’t have the option to put ads in front of parents actively searching for a school
- as schools often have very localised, with specific audiences, your pool can be extremely small, leading to ad fatigue
- editing video or slides created within the platform is not an option (it’s best to do this in Canva or another platform)
- for many schools, the CPC (cost per click) is much higher than Google Ads when using both search and display together
Facebook vs Google Ads Comparison
Side-by-side here we can see the similarities and differences of the two digital advertising platforms.
|Content Type||Visual—includes photos, videos and slideshows (uploaded or created directly in the platform) and animated gifs||Text—includes dynamically generated copy and ads which you control 100%||Visual—includes photos, videos (both uploaded and created in Google), and banner ads in static or animated format|
|User Intent||Passive—ad viewers aren’t necessarily looking for a school, they are targeted based on interests, demographics, location, etc.||Active—ad viewers are actively searching for a school; they are targeted by keywords as well as demographics and location||Passive—like Facebook, this is your passive audience which can be targeted by interests, demographics, location, etc.|
|Targeting||Comprehensive—user demographics, interests, life events, buying behaviours and engagement with website. Includes remarketing and look-alike audience targeting as well||Limited—typically based on user demographics and location however Google introduced Audience setting last year to allow you to better identify user intent||Comprehensive—user demographics, interests, life events, buying behaviors, and engagement with your school website, including remarketing and look-alike audiences|
|Audience Size*||2.5 billion visitors monthly||3.5 billion visitors daily|
|Typically Used For||Both brand awareness and conversions||Conversions||Brand awareness|
* your target audience size is of course dependent on your criteria, however, but it demonstrates the size of your initial audience pool
Google Ads or Facebook Ads, Which is Better for Your School?
Digital marketers continue to be divided on this across all industries. Each business and school will experience each platform in a different way. Success with digital advertising is dependent on many factors including your competition, goals, budget, and targeting techniques. One of the best ways to determine which platform is right for your school is to run parallel Google and Facebook campaigns. With all things being equal – budget, images, messaging, and audience targeting – this will give you the best chance of determining which is most effective in meeting your school’s digital advertising needs.
What do you do if there is no clear winner or you don’t have the budget for a comparison campaign? My suggestion would be, hands down, use Google Ads. Although every school is different, overall, I’ve found that over time (remember success may not happen overnight) Google Ads provide the highest number of conversions and impressions (think brand awareness) for your budget. Of course, it goes without saying, use your Google Analytics to determine the effect of any advertising you invest in.
If you’d like to discuss digital advertising for your school, whether to get a little advice, book a training day for your team, or use my campaign services, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to weigh in on your Facebook vs Google Ads debate!Get in Touch