When it comes to online display advertising, two titans clearly dominate the marketplace: Facebook and Google Display Network. So if you are looking to place an online display ad and only want to use one outlet, which is the better choice?

Just the (Digital Advertising) Facts

Each provider has its defenders and detractors, but those opinions are often based more on personal preference or familiarity with a platform than on hard data. Fortunately, search engine marketing technology/services provider Wordstream has released an infographic (see below) comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of Facebook and Google Display Network.

Wordstream gauges each platform’s performance in the areas of advertising reach, revenues/growth, advertising performance, ad targeting options and ad formats, complete with letter grades. Let’s take a quick look at what Wordstream discovered.

Facebook Wins Big on Page Views

Facebook and Google Display Network both receive a top A+ grade for advertising reach. Facebook has more than 845 million active monthly users, or 51 percent of all internet users. Meanwhile, the Google Online Display Advertising network (including YouTube, Blogger and Gmail) has roughly 1.5 billion active monthly users, or 90 percent of all internet users.

However, Facebook averages 1 trillion monthly page views, or more than eight times the 180 billion ad impressions Google Online Display Network serves in a typical month. Eyeballs are the one area where Facebook clearly beats out Google Display Network, as the remaining analysis will show.

Google Grows, Facebook Shrinks

In terms of revenues and growth, Facebook receives an A- while Google Display Network receives an A. During Q1 2012, Facebook reported revenues of US$ 1.06 billion, which represented a year-over-year 6.5 percent decline in revenues and 32 percent decline in profits. On the other hand, Google Display Network reported US$ 2.9 billion in Q1 2012 revenues (excluding US$ 7 billion in Google Search revenues), totaling a 1 percent increase in year-over-year revenues and 0.7 percent increase in year-over-year profits.

Google Has Higher CTR, Lower CPC

Google Display Network is also an A student in advertising performance, while Facebook gets a solid B+. At the time of the infographic (before Facebook’s IPO), Facebook did not publicly release click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC) numbers. However, Wordstream estimates that Facebook’s average Q1 2012 CTR was 0.051 percent, down from 0.063 percent in 2009. The average CTR for Google Display Network during Q1 2012 was 0.4 percent, almost 10 times higher.

And the average CPC for Facebook during Q1 2012 was US$ 80 cents, representing a 40 percent price increase from the previous quarter even as CTR dropped 8 percent. The average CPC for Google Display Network in the same time period was US$ 75 cents.

Google’s Aim is True

Google Display Network gets a B for ad targeting options, while Facebook is awarded a gentleman’s C. Only Google offers topic and interest targeting, keyword contextual targeting and remarketing, while both platforms offer location and demographic targeting. Facebook’s lone advantage is its unique offering of targeting based on user education, workplace and likes.

In addition, Wordstream cites Facebook for not having “figured out mobile yet,” as its 425 million monthly mobile users do not currently see ads. 

Biggest Google Advantage is Ad Format

In the final category of ad format, Facebook gets a below-satisfactory D+, while Google Display Network receives another A. Facebook only offers two small ad formats (a deliberate attempt to keep the site “uncluttered”): a Facebook ad with title, description and image, and sponsored stories.

Conversely, Google Display Network offers ads in text, image (including Flash-based) and video formats, as well as ads in mobile web games.


© WordStream, an AdWords partner.