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Facebook Retargeting Versus Google Ads Retargeting

James Parsons • Updated on March 10, 2022
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Google vs Facebook Retargeting

When you run an advertisement, it gets shown to a lot of people a small number of times. The idea is that showing an ad to a person too often will make them notice and reject it consciously, rather than notice it unconsciously and click it when they’re interested and receptive.

The problem is that, of all the people who click your ads, only a tiny number actually go through and convert. Most of them are interested, though; after all, they clicked the ad. The problem is, the time just isn’t right. Maybe they want to take some time to think over the idea of making a purchase. Maybe they want to save up some money to make the investment. Maybe they want to talk it over with friends or co-workers first. The point is, there are any number of good reasons why a person might buy, but might not buy immediately.

The trouble with that is that most ads, once clicked, don’t display for that user again. They’ve seen it, they had their chance, and it’s not worth the value to display it again. So now you have a ton of people who want to buy your product, who don’t necessarily remember where your site is or how to access it, and consequently don’t come back to buy.

Retargeting is the solution to this problem. The idea is to build a list of people who clicked your ads and find them in different places, later on down the road, where they may be more receptive to purchasing. Essentially, catching them at the store and saying “hey, remember how you thought buying X might be cool?” and presenting them with the option to buy.

In order for a retargeting or remarketing program to be successful, it needs to meet several criteria. It needs to find the right people, at the right times, in the right places, with the right messages to successfully convert them. It’s your second chance, but you don’t necessarily get a third.

With that in mind, obviously two of the biggest ad networks in the world have retargeting programs. Between the juggernauts of Facebook and Google, which is best?

In the Blue Corner: Facebook

Facebook retargeting has a few major points in its favor, to convince you to use their service.

First, it’s easy to track the right people. Particularly if you’re already using Facebook ads, you don’t have much setup work to do. All you need to do is set up a custom website audience and use the Facebook tracking and conversion pixel on your website. When a user visits, they’re added to the list. If they convert, they can be removed, since you don’t need to send ads to the people who already bought.

When you set up a new ad on Facebook, it works the same as creating your ad in the first place. All you need to do is use the custom audience you created, the one full of unconverted visitors, and market directly towards them. You can even use specialized offers and deals dedicated to people who coming back, more time-sensitive offers you couldn’t present to the general public.

As an additional benefit, it’s incredibly easy to segment within this custom audience. Say you only want to advertise to the people who like your page, who are male, and who like doughnuts; it’s entirely possible to do so.

You can also create Facebook remarketing advertising based on off-site lists, such as your mailing list. Just create a custom audience and import that mailing list, and Facebook will match it up with any Facebook profile using those email addresses. Now you can market to people who might not even know you have a Facebook page.

Finally, you have the lookalike audience. Track the people who actually convert and build an audience out of them and them alone. Now create a lookalike audience; a wider audience of Facebook users who share important qualities with the people who convert. Now you have an automatic list of people more likely to convert than the general public. Pre-emptive remarketing at its finest.

The Challenger: Google’s Remarketing

Google AdWords Remarketing is remarkable, but that doesn’t mean it’s the absolute best it could possibly be. See, while Google is an absolute powerhouse in the world of search, it has its limitations. AdWords specifically suffers from a somewhat smaller network of sites than you might expect.

Sure, Facebook retargeting only operates on Facebook itself, but Facebook is a hub from which immense amounts of traffic is funneled. Google has a wide reach through the Display Network, but that network is smaller than those offered by some third parties, like Adroll.

That’s not to say that the Display Network is tiny. In fact, most sites will find their audiences within the Display Network easily enough.

Google’s primary draw, and biggest flaw, is its enforced quality. You can’t use keywords too far from your core product, or else Google will deny them. You can’t market on sites too far outside of your subject, or Google won’t display your ads. What you do display is very high quality, but it’s limited in several ways.

Google also suffers compared to Facebook in terms of creating the right audience to target. Google can only build up based on code implemented on your website, and it can only use the categories they track. Compared to Facebook’s interest tracking, demographic detail and activity logs, Google is stunted.

That said, due to the quality rules Google enforces, many more people trust the quality of Google ads over those on other sites through other services. A user can rest assured that an ad they see displayed by Google is going to be of high quality, or at the very least definitely safe for their computer.

So which is better, Facebook or Google? The answer tends to lean towards Facebook, assuming you use Facebook properly. If your audience isn’t primarily on Facebook, or if you don’t have much of a Facebook presence, the benefits the social network provides are slim compared to those Google offers. In either case, however, you can certainly use both. There’s no harm in remarketing in two different programs.


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