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Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads: Which is Better for Doctors in 2020?

If there’s one thing that’s universally true when it comes to healthcare marketing, it’s this: every practice wants more leads.

Advertising your practice online is a fairly easy way to get those leads. Many practices turn to advertising to help them get more new patient leads and reach their growth goals faster.

In previous episodes we’ve explored some of the differences between marketing strategies like SEO and paid advertising, but there are differences between ad platforms, too.

A common debate among doctors and marketing managers is this: which platform is better for advertising my practice, Google Ads or Facebook Ads?

If you don’t want to throw your hard-earned money down the drain, you need to know the answer to that question. So in this episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast, we’ll try to settle the Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads debate once and for all.

Setting Advertising Goals and Strategy

Before we get into specifics of the Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads debate, I want to take a minute to talk about advertising goals, strategies, and answer some questions doctors have about advertising their practices.

Is advertising worth it?

Perhaps more common than the Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads debate is the debate over whether advertising is useful to a practice at all.

Some doctors prefer not to advertise their practices because they find it too expensive. And to be honest, that’s a fair concern.

When you think about marketing your practice to get more patients, cost is an obvious concern…and if you don’t have the budget for it, advertising doesn’t make much sense.

But for most doctors, advertising is more than worth it. Yes, it can get expensive – especially without expert Google Ads management – but with the right strategies and techniques, the return on investment for advertising a practice pays for the ad spend many times over.

As long as you go about it in the right way, advertising your practice on platforms like Google or Facebook is almost always accretive to your practice.

If you find yourself asking if advertising is worth it, try flipping that question on its head: what if no patients came to your practice?

We’ve seen that happen recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s been really hard for many practices.

If you don’t advertise, many “would-be” patients won’t know you exist…and that means lost opportunities and lost revenue.

So yes, advertising isn’t free. But is the cost of ad spend worth having a steady, consistent pipeline of patient leads coming into your practice and helping you grow?

Most often, the answer is yes.

But cost is still an important consideration. That brings us to our next question: why is advertising so expensive?

Why is advertising so expensive?

The cost of ads on Google and Facebook can vary greatly – and that’s all because of how these systems work. Let me explain.

Google Adwords and Facebook ads both work in an auction format.

A business who advertises on Google Adwords “bids” on certain keywords that they want their product or service to appear for, and Google matches up their bids with real people who are searching.

When you search for something on Google, Google looks through its list of advertisers who have bid on that keyword and displays ads that are relevant to your search.

This is why Google Ads are frequently called “paid search” ads.

The advertiser who has the highest bid will appear first – and their ad will have the greatest chance of being clicked on.

The same happens on Facebook, but in a slightly different way. Because Facebook is a social network and not a search engine, they use the social information they have on you to show you ads. This includes things like the pages and posts you’ve liked, your friend list, products you’ve bought on Facebook, information about your age, gender, and location, etc…

Facebook then uses this information to occasionally insert ads into your News Feed – again, through an auction process.

So that brings us back to cost: why are Google Ads and Facebook Ads so expensive sometimes?

Facebook Ads can be cheaper than Google Ads...but it all depends on what you are advertising
Facebook Ads can be cheaper than Google Ads…but it all depends on what you are advertising

The answer is because both Facebook and Google Ads work in that auction format.

  • More competition = higher prices.

The more advertisers who are bidding in the auction, the more expensive the ads will be.

And in general, the greater margins that can be made on a product or service, the more advertisers will want to bid. That’s why it’s a lot more expensive to advertise a specialized service like liposuction than it is to advertise a commodity like ballpoint pens.

But advertisers come and go, so cost per click and other budget metrics can fluctuate over time.

We’ve seen this a lot recently with COVID-19. Because of stay-at-home orders and mandatory shutdowns, two interesting things happened:

  • Consumer behaviors changed dramatically overnight. The demand for certain things like air travel dropped to virtually zero, while demand for other things, such as hand sanitizer and masks, shot up through the roof. Because of this, the prices for advertising in certain categories saw wild swings.
  • Business shutdowns had a drastic effect on ad spend. Many companies cut their advertising budgets substantially, and other fled the market entirely. This mass exodus of advertisers reduced competition in a major way, which drove ad costs down. The businesses who were able to stay in the game saw their average costs go way down.

Now of course, these sort of swings aren’t typical, but they’re important to know about nonetheless. Why? Because the average cost of each click greatly affects your ad budgets.

That brings us to our next major question: when it comes to budgeting for ads, how much is enough?

How much should my practice pay for advertising?

This is perhaps the most common question when it comes to advertising on Google or Facebook: how much should my practice pay for paid search ads?

And although it’s frustrating, the answer is simply: it depends.

It depends on your advertising goals, the overall brand awareness of your business, your advertising budget (and how that fits into your overall marketing budget), etc, etc…

Budgets for Google Adwords and Facebook Ads vary greatly. We’ve had practices get great results with as little as $100 on select campaigns, but most practices with ongoing campaigns spend at least $3,000/month.

Some spend more and some spend less.

Again, it all comes back to ROI. I’m not saying that budgets aren’t important, but you would be far better off spending less and getting better results in an ROI-positive campaign than spending money left and right on paid search without any real results coming from it.

This goes for every ad platform there is –including Google and Facebook – ROI is much more important than the dollar amount you spend.

Now that we have those common questions about ads out of the way, let’s dive in further by exploring the differences between Google Ads and Facebook Ads…

What are the main differences between Google Ads and Facebook Ads?

As we saw earlier, Google and Facebook both work in an auction format, although they display ads in different ways.

Google’s ad platform focuses more on keyword-based paid search, while Facebook uses social data to offer more granular targeting options. Let’s explore some of the similarities and differences between Google Ads and Facebook Ads:


In terms of budget, each platform is pretty much the same. Advertisers can set their own budgets for campaigns and pause ad spend at any time.

Some keywords on Google tend to be more expensive (for instance, with high-competition, high-margin products and services).

Cost per click and other budgeting metrics on Facebook Ads, however, tend to be a little “flatter” – although costs have been steadily increasing over time as more advertisers enter the market.


In terms of reach, each platform has enormous potential:

  • Google receives 5.6 billion searches per day. That’s a lot of opportunities to display ads.
  • Facebook has 1.7 billion daily active users (people who use Facebook every single day). Again, tons of potential if you’re doing Facebook advertising.

Targeting Options

Next, we come to targeting options – and this is where the platforms start to diverge.

Both Facebook and Google offer advertisers lots of options to target potential customers. Both include basic demographic options: advertisers can target people based on their age, gender, marital status, geographic location, etc.

But there’s a key difference: Google matches ads with people based on what they are searching for in the moment.

Google Ad are primarily keyword-based, while Facebook Ads are primarily audience-based
Google Ad are primarily keyword-based, while Facebook Ads are primarily audience-based

Facebook matches ads with people based on the social categories they are in: what things they have liked, the products they have bought, the people they have interacted with.

For instance, it’s a lot easier to target fans of the Los Angeles Lakers on Facebook than it is on Google.

Why? Because a true Lakers fan has probably “liked” the Facebook pages of the Lakers or their star players. This gives Facebook valuable data that it can use to make sure the best Lakers ads are served to that person.

On Google, however, someone would have to be actively searching for the Lakers in order for ads to be shown.

For some types of ads, it’s more difficult to advertise on Google…and for other types of ads, it’s more difficult to advertise on Facebook.

Your choice of ads platform depends on your goals and what you’re trying to advertise:

  • If you know what your audience is searching for by name, Google will most likely be a more effective place to run ads.
  • If you want to promote general brand awareness or sell a product or service to a broad audience of people who are interested in a certain topic, Facebook may give you better ROI.

How Google Ads and Facebook Ads Display

The final difference is how Google Ads and Facebook Ads display on these different platforms.

Google displays ads above organic search results. This is important for two reasons:

  • A large number of people click on the first Google result they see, regardless of whether or not it was an ad
  • People using Google are explicitly searching for something – and frequently, they’re doing research on a product or service

Facebook, on the other hand, inserts ads among organic posts. A Facebook ad may appear in your News Feed, on the sidebar of the Facebook website, or while you’re scrolling through content on another Facebook-owned property, such as Instagram.

Because it’s a social network and not a search engine, Facebook doesn’t have that opportunity to reach people when they are actively searching for something. Don’t get me wrong – their algorithms are very good – but to some extent, Facebook advertising is more disruptive and intrusive than ads on Google because a Facebook ad is inserted into other content.

That’s not to say that Facebook ads can’t work – they definitely can. But it’s important to make sure that your choice of ad platform matches your goals for advertising and the image of your brand you want to promote.

Google AdsFacebook Ads
Budget✅ Set your own budgets
✅  Pause at any time
✅ Set your own budgets
✅  Pause at any time
Potential Reach📈 Very Large📈 Very Large
Targeting🔍 Primarily Keyword-Based👦 Primarily Audience-Based
How Ads Display⬆️ Above Organic Results➡️ Inserted In-Stream


Let’s come back to our original question. Which is better for your business, Google Ads or Facebook Ads?

For many healthcare practices, the right answer will depend on a number of factors: your goals, your budgets, and your overall marketing strategy.

In general, however, if you want to promote general brand awareness, Facebook Ads is a great platform to use.

Facebook Ads can:

  • Keep your practice top of mind
  • Help you target local patients
  • Grow the reach of your social media profiles
  • Get your content in front of an interested audience

If you want to advertise a certain service or procedure that you know patients will be searching for by name, Google Adwords is definitely the platform to choose.

Google Ads can:

  • Help you target certain keywords
  • Reach local patients with geotargeting
  • Drive traffic to high-performing landing pages
  • Help you get more patients

One final note: Whether your practice chooses Google Ads or Facebook Ads to achieve your goals, your campaigns need to be managed very carefully. You need to make sure your campaigns are at their peak performance to drive patients to your practice and help you grow.

Next Week…

Well, that’s all for this week’s episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast. As always, thanks for listening.

Next week, we’ll have a very special interview with Troy Cole, a sales and marketing consultant who helps doctors fine-tune their communication strategies to turn their practices into patient-generating machines. It’s a great conversation filled with practical tips and strategies you can use to book more high-ticket procedures, so you won’t want to miss it.

And if you want more practice marketing resources, check out our website at We’re always sharing helpful tips and know-how to help you improve your practice marketing, grow revenue, and take your patient experience to the next level.

That’s all for today’s episode – I’m Crawford Ifland. See you next week.