I honestly never thought that I’d be paying for any sort of advertising for my blog, at least not until it entered into the “big time”, with many hundreds of thousands of pageviews per day. I never really believed that the cost of advertising on a small scale could really be worth the results. If you only invest less than $10 a day into an advertising campaign, can it really have any impact at all? Don’t most advertising campaigns require hundreds of dollars a month or more?
This is the question that I set out to answer at the beginning of this year. My goal was to start out small – only investing $8 per day. Not like the big advertising entities that Justin wrote about not long ago. The goal of my advertising campaign would be only to gain traffic at my site, not to sell anything or funnel traffic to a single “conversion” page. My hope was that the “seeding” of incoming traffic from the dozens of clicks on the ad would gradually build up a snowballing collection of loyal readers. That was the plan.
In this article, I’m going to share the results of my tests. The tests involved individually running a Facebook advertising campaign costing approximately $8 per day for a couple of months. I discussed how to set this up in a previous article about Facebook advertising. Next, I initiated a Google Adwords campaign for $8 per day for a couple of months. I’ll show you how I set up each advertising campaign, and reveal the final results – comparing Facebook advertising head-to-head against Google Adwords advertising. You can be the judge as to which investment is better for a small-scale blogger.
Facebook Ads vs. Google Adwords
I should disclose up front that I am by no means an advertising or marketing expert. My expertise in the domain of drawing in traffic is focused on SEO techniques, and the world of online advertising was relatively foreign to me up until January of this year.
Testing Facebook Advertising
Diving into Facebook Ads was only frustrating at the very start, because it took the Facebook team an annoyingly long time to approve my ads. I started out trying to create a static ad for my site, until I stumbled upon an interesting advertising option Facebook offers where they will dynamically create a new ad every time you publish a new post update on your Facebook page.
This not only avoids the need to have to invest time in developing an eye-catching ad that encourages clicks, but I also found that it really seems to encourage clickthroughs by a larger population of Facebook users. If one post subject doesn’t attract a lot of people, you only have to wait until your next page post – that ad could very well attract a crowd. This ability to dynamically publish post ads is, in my opinion, one of the biggest advantages about Facebook advertising. It is exceedingly convenient.
Also, Facebook has nice performance feedback reports. I’ve seen some big numbers here – with hundreds of thousands of impressions reported and thousands of clicks, but it’s really hard to verify these numbers, because those clicks go to your Facebook page, not your website.
You can create ads on Facebook that go directly to your website, but I found within just a week that the click-through performance was nowhere near the sort of numbers you can get from using the dynamic post engagement ads. So, after that first week, I switched to post engagement, established a limit of $8 per day, and waited to see what the results were like.
As far as accumulating Facebook page “likes” go, Facebook ads are the single-most effective ways to build an audience on Facebook. It is remarkable how quickly I was able to accumulate fans on the Facebook page – starting from just a few days after starting the advertising campaign. 133 likes on just one day that first month, and that was after getting only 2 or 3 likes per day before advertising.
I was definitely curious to see if the Facebook page traffic resulting from that advertising would have any effect on my site traffic, since that was really my ultimate goal here. What I noticed is that whenever there was a Facebook post that attracted a lot of interest, I definitely got a nice spike in Facebook referral traffic. In my case, that amounted to a hundred to two hundred folks per spike, but when you’re struggling to build traffic levels by a few hundred readers at a time, those spikes help tremendously. They bring new people to your site, and they can contribute to your growth over the long-term. Obviously, if you want more traffic, you’d increase your investment proportionally.
Over the long-term, I could see that I wasn’t imagining things. Over the course of about three months, you could see how before I began the Facebook advertising campaign, my site traffic was relatively flat. There was slow, steady growth, but no frequent spikes in interest. That all changed after starting the Facebook advertising campaign in January. I could see frequent spikes in my overall site traffic that coincided with the referral spikes from Facebook.
I was sold on Facebook advertising after the first month, and I continue to use it to this day. I love that I never really have to think about my ads, I just try to make interesting posts that may go viral, and hope that the post ad catches a lot of eyes and gets them to click, and ultimately discover my page and my site for the first time.
Google Adwords Advertising
Google Adwords was an entirely different beast. I’d been receiving $100 coupons for quite a while from Google as encouragement to launch my first advertising campaign. Of course, once I went to start using Adwords, I couldn’t find a single one of those coupons. Figures.
There’s a little bit more of a learning curve with Adwords than there is with Facebook. There are actually people out there that specialize in creating and running Adwords campaigns, so this is by no means a full-blown, professional test. The goal here was to create a very simple 1-ad campaign with a small budget and see how it performed compared to Facebook using the same budget. It turned out creating an ad wasn’t all that hard, and the steps are laid out in the tabs that you find in Adwords.
You start out building an Ad Group, and establish your daily budget for it in the settings tab. Then you move on to the Ads tab and upload the ad you created using your favorite image software. In this test, I created a basic image ad with some interesting text and a compelling call to action. The ad was approved in just a day or so, as opposed to getting my first ad approved on Facebook, which took about a week.
Then, you need to dive into the heart of what makes Adwords work – the keyword phrases that you want to bid on. You need to choose these wisely. They should be phrases that are extremely popular, but also ones that are very relevant to your own site content – this way when people are on a website that is focused on those keywords, they’ll see your ad and they’ll be far more likely to click on it, because your ad serves up more content related to their interests.
You can just imagine that your choice of keywords – and the quality of your ad of course – will have a significant impact on your ad performance. In this test, I chose keywords that I knew were relevant to my site based on what Google listed in my Webmasters account, and that I also knew were very popular in the search engines from some of my past research.
Just as in the case of Facebook, I saw almost instant results. Also similar to Facebook, the claimed impressions were quite high, but in the case of Google Adwords, the clickthrough rates weren’t quite as impressive. While Facebook had ad-clicks of 40 to 150 per day, the Google ad averaged a steady 35 to 50 per day with no real spikes to speak of.
Again, these are the same costs, but a clear difference in click-through rates for each ad. This could probably be explained by the fact that the Facebook ads are based on posts and often times more enticing to click on than a standard, static ad.
To get a clearer picture of how these two ad services impacted traffic at the blog, I took a closer look at whether Google had a similar impact to site traffic as Facebook did. So, checking out Google Analytics around the time that I launched the first Google Ad campaign, I saw just an initial spike right after the ad campaign started, and then it tapered back down to nearly no impact.
Unlike the regular spikes of incoming traffic that I can see coming from the Facebook referrals every now and then, I saw pretty much zero impact to the site traffic from the Google Adwords campaign.
However, Google Adwords does offer a nice, reliable clickthrough rate on a daily basis – which means if your goal is to drive people to a single sales page or some other page that can successfully convert visitors to buyers, Adwords may be a great resource. For $8, I can get nearly 50 people a day to visit a page and potentially buy something. For a larger investment, that could go up. With an even better ad, that could skyrocket.
However, as a way to drive traffic and grow site readership, a low investment at Adwords just doesn’t have the same impact as a small investment at Facebook. Even better, the impact to page likes has been tremendous. It took nearly two years to hit 1,000 likes on the blog Facebook page. After just a few months of Facebook advertising, that skyrocketed to over 11,000 fans – and the growth isn’t slowing at all.
That growth means a significant audience on Facebook, which will most certainly convert to very nice traffic spikes when particularly viral posts are published. That is the real beauty of Facebook advertising – it may not have a huge, direct impact on site traffic right away, but it grows your Facebook following quickly. That alone provides for a very strong foundation for your website growth.
It should be obvious by now that my selection of a winner between Facebook ads vs Google Adwords is Facebook. However, that’s for traffic growth. If this were a campaign to sell an item online, that could change the entire game, and it’s definitely worth a future experiment.
Do you use either Facebook Ads or Google Adwords? What has been your experience with the services? Did you find great success with one or the other? Share your experiences and tips in the comments section below!
Image Credit: Advertising Megaphone Via Shutterstock