Facebook Advertising Versus Google AdWords: Battle of the Billon Dollar Markets

Google Adwords Facebook Advertising

In today’s digital landscape, more and more options are available to businesses willing to spend money for online advertising. Between Google, YouTube, display ads, remarketing, social media, lawyer directory websites, and more, it can be difficult to navigate the options and determine the best fit for your law firm.

While Google AdWords is still the biggest kid on the block, Facebook is inching closer every year and has, in many ways, outpaced Google in terms of targeting. Below we break down the two largest digital advertising platforms, their strengths and weaknesses, and when you should use each for your law firm.


Google launched AdWords (also commonly referred to as pay-per-click or PPC) in October of 2000 with just 350 advertisers. At that time, users conducted more than 20 million searches per day, and Google dominated the digital advertising market with little competition. Seventeen years later, the search engine handles more than three billion searches per day and advertisers can now run campaigns on YouTube, the Google Display Network, and Google’s mobile app network all through the AdWords interface.

Keeping pace with the growing search volume over the years, the number of advertisers skyrocketed exponentially. In 2015 alone, Google generated $51.81 billion in net ad revenues, representing more than a 30% share of all worldwide digital ad revenues. That’s a 12.7% increase over 2014 for the digital behemoth. And the train didn’t stop there: Google surpassed its 2015 revenue by the end of Q3 in 2016, with $56.98 billion in revenue by September 30.

Today businesses willing to spend the money can easily jump to the front of the line in Google search results, with only a small “Ad” logo signifying the result isn’t organic. The industry with the highest average AdWords cost per acquisition (CPA) is – you guessed it – the legal industry, averaging $135.17 per action. For comparison, the average cost across all industries is less than half that amount – around $60.00 CPA. The legal industry also boasts a below average click-through rate (CTR) in AdWords, averaging 1.35% versus an overall average of 1.91%.

But don’t get discouraged by the numbers. There are still instances where Google AdWords can benefit a legal practice and help with both name recognition and client acquisition.


Google AdWords can work for your law firm, but it’s important to have realistic expectations going in. Attempting to launch a national campaign for a small to medium-sized firm and bidding on keyword phrases such as “lawyer” or “attorney” is the equivalent to throwing money away. Law firms can easily spend $50,000 to $100,000 per month on PPC in the blink of an eye, so make sure you evaluate your target demographic and utilize your budget wisely.

When contemplating PPC advertising, consider the following questions:

  • What geographic region do you want to target, and how competitive is that market? The cost per acquisition in Houston, Texas will be very different than in Omaha, Nebraska.
  • What differentiates you from other law firms? Can you offer a free consultation or 24-hour assistance? These are both great items to highlight in your ad, enticing potential clients to click or call.
  • Are you looking for clients who fit very specific criteria? Because generic keywords in the legal industry are incredibly expensive, focusing on one or two specific practice areas can be a much more cost effective solution.


Facebook launched its first advertising platform in 2004, the same year the site launched. The first iteration, however, focused on advertising campus parties and other social events, costing somewhere around $10.00 to $40.00 per day. In 2005, Facebook partnered with Apple and Victoria’s Secret for sponsored “Groups,” and brought in $9 million in advertising revenue.

Fast-forward ten years and multiple evolutions of its advertising platform: Facebook now dominates social media advertising, generating $22.37 billion through social ads in 2016, second only to Google in overall digital revenue. The advertising platform expanded to include Instagram after its acquisition by Facebook in 2012, allowing ads to populate across both social media channels from the same interface.

While desktops still fund Google, mobile advertising makes up 84% of Facebook’s ad revenue, versus only 20% of Google’s revenue. Facebook has embraced the concept of mobile faster than almost any other platform, with more than 1 billion people across the world accessing the site daily on a mobile device.

Advertising on Facebook can be a great addition to a law firm’s digital marketing strategy, especially for firms with a potentially smaller budget or those seeking a larger volume of clients, particularly for class action or mass torts cases.


Facebook allows an advertiser to target users based on a host of characteristics – everything from interests to demographics to income level. The amount of data aggregated by Facebook is second to none, providing endless possibilities for crafting exactly the right target audience to see your ads.

Because of its ability to target, Facebook is a fantastic platform to find clients for specific cases. It can require a little creative thinking to build your customer profile; but, because of a relatively low entry cost, it’s quite easy to test multiple target audiences, ad copy, and images.

While Google AdWords includes an element of competition – with multiple law firms competing for the same keyword phrases – an ad’s exposure on Facebook is generally only limited by the size of the budget in relation to the size of the target audience.


At their foundation, Google AdWords and Facebook Advertising have fundamentally different approaches to marketing. While both provide a multitude of targeting options, up to and including remarketing to previous visitors, they approach digital advertising from opposite sides.

Google AdWords requires active participation by the user. The only way a consumer views your ad is when he or she actively searches for specific keyword phrases your firm is bidding on.

  • PRO: This can help provide more qualified leads to your law firm, as the ad reaches consumers with enough interest to seek out additional information.
  • CON: It requires both consumer motivation to search for information and – depending on the complexity of the legal issue – a somewhat educated consumer to search for the correct keyword phrases that will trigger your ad to show up in the results.

Facebook Advertising, on the other hand, uses passive targeting. It allows the advertiser to target specific users and serves the ad directly to the consumer with no action required on their part.

  • PRO: This is a great way to reach potential new clients who fit certain criteria but are completely unaware of their potential legal options. The ads reach Facebook users whether they like it or not if they meet your targeting criteria.
  • CON: Because of the nature of social media, leads can be less qualified, as many people utilize Facebook as news source. Some inquiries are simply looking for more information about a subject and have no desire to contract for legal services.

Both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads can provide a law firm with much needed digital exposure and help generate leads. Each plays a specific role in a marketing strategy and every firm should evaluate its budget to see where its money is best spent. As digital advertising specialists, we can help assess which option would perform best for you and your firm. Contact us today to learn more.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share with friends