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Small Business Ads: Google vs Facebook (Mercantilo)

Small Business Ads: Google vs Facebook

It’s 2018, and both Facebook Ads and Google Ads have now been well over a decade in their existence. By now you’d think that the question of which platform to use to advertise your small business would be completely solved.

Yet, when I talk to small business owners, especially those who have never tried to run ads online before, the question regularly comes up from them: “So should we run some Facebook Ads or Google Ads?”.

My answer is invariably the same: “It depends.” Here’s why…

Your customer’s experience

The first thing any good business owner and marketer must learn to do is to put himself in the shoes of a potential buyer or customer. You have to learn to completely change your mindset when looking at an ad you are putting together from “Bob the marketer” to “Bob the buyer” and give each element of your campaign a look-over from the viewpoint of the eventual person who will see them.

When you do this often enough, some things will start to occur to you: Rarely will a buyer go from seeing one ad to buying that product or taking your service in a single shot.

Customers usually go through several steps on their journey to your (possibly virtual) door.

This is usually referred to as a “Marketing Funnel” and is a concept that has been much explained in many places, but I will try to capture the essential points of the funnel as it applies to marketing online for small/medium sized businesses.

I will take you through each part of the funnel, what it’s for, and which type of Ad (Facebook, Google or otherwise) I think is best to run for that part of the funnel, as well as what type of public to target for each phase as well.

The Marketing Funnel

Your potential customer generally goes through 3 main “Phases” with regards to a particular product or service they end up buying. Here’s an overview of what this looks like, we’ll go through these in detail below…

Small Business Ads: Google vs Facebook

Phase 1: Awareness

The first step for any marketer is to make their target audience become aware of their product. For certain specialized services or products this might be further sub-divided into two steps: 1) making the buyer aware of the product itself and 2) Making the buyer aware of your company and the fact that YOU sell that product.


Let’s take an example of a company selling a new kind of mattress online, the “Green Mattress” for $2000.

The first step, making the customer aware of the product itself (a mattress) is unlikely to be necessary since virtually everyone seeing their ads are already going to know what a mattress is and what it’s used for!

So this phase of the funnel would have the following goal: To make people aware of the Green Mattress and why it is a superior product to all other mattresses, and why the customer should buy it when they are next in the market for a new mattress.


Some might say the ad might also try to convince the potential customer that it is now time to buy a new mattress (even if they have an old one). This is where one should try to think like their potential customer, in other words, try to be “Bob the buyer”.

For example, Bob the buyer is browsing along on Facebook or YouTube. They see a video about this new Green Mattress. Let’s say the ad speaks to Bob so they click on the ad and see the price tag: $2000. They know that’s out of the budget right now, but if they’re interested they might make a mental note to start saving up to buy it, or that the next time they need a new mattress, they’re buying the Green Mattress.

This type of example occurs often the first time a potential buyer is shown an ad about an expensive product they might not have a pressing need to buy. They are unlikely to buy right away from such an ad. A rookie marketer might think they need to “tweak the ad” or even that ads don’t work… But put yourself in the shoes of the people watching the ad: They’ve never heard of your product or your company. You’re asking them to spend a large sum… It’s unlikely anyone ever would do that from just watching an online video ad. It will take more work to build up the value of your company and product and generate a sale.


To compare this to Selling 1 on 1, the value of the item or service you are offering has to be bigger in the buyer’s eyes than its monetary price. By value I mean what does the buyer think this product is worth to them in terms of convenience, use, time saved, money saved, etc…

If you were selling the Green Mattress in a show room, you might spend an hour with the customer listing its benefits, getting them to test it out, getting them to picture replacing out their old, moldy spring mattress with the green mattress, getting them to realize how much money they will save in chiropractic adjustments once their back stops hurting from their bad mattress, etc… 1 on 1 selling is almost easier because you can find out information personal to that buyer and use it to your advantage to close the deal.

The moment the buyer will buy is when the perceived value of the product is bigger to them than its monetary value.


The same is true with digital marketing, except that in digital marketing the cycle of building up the value of your product and the trust for your brand or company may take several ads and interactions over a period of several weeks/months, whereas it would have taken minutes or maybe an hour in face to face selling.


So now back to our example: Customer sees the ad for the Green Mattress, preferably several times so they remember it. They’ve become aware of our product. Goal achieved!

Best types of Ads for “Awareness”

For products:

Videos that demonstrate the product and its benefits.

For services:

Videos explaining the services you offer, showing testimonials from others who have benefited from it, showing your clean, aesthetic premises, etc…


In both cases, video ads are best run on Facebook, Instagram (capped at 60 seconds per video) and YouTube.

If you can’t do video, try to attract users to read a long-form blog post about your service or product or present something that can describe what it is you sell and achieve the result of them becoming interested in it or at least aware of its benefits (white paper, testimonials, top reviews, etc…).


I will say video is best, and even videos of you talking, shot on a cellphone will sometimes work as a first cut for this type of ad if you don’t have the means to invest in getting a video professionally shot and edited.

Who to target for "Awareness"

My opinion is that at this level you should cast a bit wider net than what you think your actual audience is.

For example, using interest categories on Facebook is still casting a wide net, while trying to narrow it down somewhat, but for products or services that anyone could buy or take, I might just go with basic Location, Gender and Age targeting and go from there.

People who are interested in your products or services will engage with your ads, and the fact of their engagement can be used to retarget them for the next phase of the funnel. This is why it is okay to target wider than you normally would: people who are interested will self-select by interacting with the ad, and we can use that fact to target them with more ads further down the funnel.


If you already have a running website that is getting a bunch of web traffic, or better yet if you already have a long list of past buyers and their information (email, etc…), creating a lookalike audience for those past buyers or website visitors is also likely to be a good target for your awareness ads, as these are types of audiences that try to find people similar to your existing audience (a.k.a more potential customers).


If you’re running video ads on YouTube, try targeting relevant keywords for your product or niche.

Phase 2: Consideration

So you’ve blasted your awareness ads and “Bob the buyer” is now very well aware that your Green Mattress is the mattress likely to give them the best night of sleep in their life, should they buy it.

You must now get the buyer from “Being aware of the product” over to “I’m buying this thing”.

This step of the funnel is called “Consideration”. The buyer is now considering whether he will buy your product or service, or not.


So what types of ads work best at this point?

Direct response ads and Search ads. Let’s go over each type…

Direct Response Ads

A direct response ad is an ad whose purpose is to generate a direct action on behalf of the prospective buyer, and which generally tries to create a sense of urgency in the buyer.


For example, at this point ads which offer a time-limited discount (“20% off today only!”) or a benefit for buying the service for the first time (“New patient special: Free dental cleaning for your first visit”) are more likely to tip your target customer over from “I know about these guys” to “Let’s do business with them”.


If you don’t for some reason have anything to offer, you can just have an ad that calls directly for the buyer to visit your site or buy something. But I’m sure you can come up with an offer!

Search Ads

At this point in their buyer journey, the prospective buyer is also likely researching out potential options for your service or product. In the case of the mattress, he may now go to google and type in “Mattress stores near me” or “buying a mattress online” or “best mattress 2018”.

Regardless of what it is you’re selling, buyers are likely to do some research. In fact a study found that as many as 88% of buyers do online research before buying a product online or offline!

Presenting the user newly with your product in the Search Engine results is key at this stage of the game. The easiest way to achieve this is just to run some Google Ads (formerly AdWords Ads) targeting keywords that are relevant to your product or service.

If you are a local business, you should only target people who are near your store or office, of course.


While Search Ads are great for getting in front of users on Search Engines, there’s another aspect that is not talked about enough at this point of the funnel, and that is SEO.

88% of buyers do online research before buying - Mercantilo

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

You’ve probably heard of SEO before, and were told it’s something you had to do for your website. You might even have hired a company to some for you.

Bottom line, SEO is about getting your website pages to show up higher on Search Engine result pages. The details of how to go about this are somewhat technical and out of the scope of this article, but it is important to note that with SEO, you don’t have to pay a cent when users click on your website link, assuming it is a link that was ranked higher by Google “organically” (without paying for it, as part of Google’s normal ranking processes).


Having a Blog with relevant articles that help the potential buyer make a decision to buy your product at this point can be a huge benefit, especially when those articles rank high in the list of results for what they are searching for.

For example, an article about the design of the Green Mattress and why it causes less back pain would be a great read for a buyer now considering which mattress to buy. It might elevate in their mind the value of your product that much more and cause them to tip over into wanting to buy it right away!


This part of the funnel (“consideration”) is likely where you want to spend most of your money, as it is the part that will result in most direct conversions (sales or leads for your business).

Best types of Ads for "Consideration"

Google Search Ads on relevant keywords

“Offer” type ads that generate a direct response on Facebook, Instagram and even YouTube (with a video offer).

Who to target for "Consideration"

Search Ads are targeted based on the keywords shown so no further targeting is generally needed, save for Location targeting if you run a physical business (to target local customers only).

Facebook/Instagram/YouTube ads for this part of the funnel can be re-targeted to people who interacted with your website, your “Awareness” ads, previous customers (to get repeat business, if applicable), etc… 

If you used video ads for Awareness, try re-targeting people who’ve watched at least 75% of your video. They are very likely to be your target audience.

Essentially, just use an interaction with the “Awareness” ads or with your website as a way to pick who will see your offer ads and watch your direct response ads get much better results!

Phase 3: Decision

At this step of the funnel, your user has decided to buy a product or service that you offer.

At this point, your job is to help them get to your site to make the purchase (or put in their contact information, in the case of a lead).

Your job is also to reduce the friction necessary for them to do what it is you want them to do!


I see this principle violated so many times. For example, I once watched a very high production quality video about a particular piece of online software. I was almost immediately sold.

I clicked to go to their website and landed on their front page… where there was no direct obvious option to buy the product, just more marketing speak. What a shame.

I clicked around the website for a bit looking how to buy their software. I don’t think I ever found the right page. I closed the tab and didn’t buy the product.

You see, they had me closed. If clicking on the ad had taken me to a form to entire my credit card info, I probably would have happily paid at that point. But for whatever reason they thought only showing me more info about their product was more important.


This goes back to clearly defining what you want the user to do at each step of their buying experience. At this point, our goal is “Close the sale”.

Now the dictionary defines the word “close” as “bring (a business transaction) to a satisfactory conclusion.”

The only satisfactory conclusion is buyer paid, money in our account, product on its way.

Or in the case of a service it would be: buyer scheduled to come in and put a partial payment down, if applicable.


So you see that you can now easily take a look at your “Landing page” (the page the user ends up on when they click on your ad) at this point and quickly identify any issues:

  • Is this the right Landing page for this ad, or should we use a different one more tailored to match the ad itself?
  • Is there a clear button to click or form to fill to buy the product (a “call to action”)?
  • Are there other “call to action” type elements that need to be removed in order to not confuse the buyer?
  • Are there too many steps in our checkout process, and can we trim that down (ideally one form to fill, one click to buy and done).
  • Is the buying experience on a mobile phone good? (call to action is visible without scrolling when the page loads initially, site loads quickly, etc…)


If you do your job right, you should be easily seeing double digit conversion rates at this point from anyone who loads your landing page. That’s because the buyer is at a mental state where they are ready to buy, nay, they WANT to buy. Your job is to make that experience easy at this point.

Best types of Ads for "Decision"

Google Search Ads, especially those targeted to keywords that express intent to buy or refer to your brand by name (“buy green mattress” or “buy mattress online”). Those keywords will tend to be very expensive, but that is because they generally convert the best.

Also make sure you buy search ads targeting searches for your product’s name or your company name. A lot of people navigate to a website by searching for its name on Google and will just blindly click on the top result (an ad). If you don’t buy that ad space, it’s easy for competitors to do so and very legally steal your traffic (I’ve seen it).

Who to target for "Decision"

Target keywords that show an intent to buy, possibly limiting to locations near your place of business if you have a physical store or office.


There is a lot more depth to each part of the funnel and many more possible strategies for each.

I’ve tried to keep this article to pretty high level details of how one would put together a comprehensive strategy to generate leads or sales for your business.

At Mercantilo we practice what we preach, and we love putting together these kinds of campaigns for small businesses and seeing them get stellar results!

If you need help with your marketing efforts, you can always Contact Us for a free analysis of your website and marketing efforts and a Free Quote.

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