LinkedIn Direct Ads vs Google AdWords vs Facebook Ads

These three ad types are hotly contested for effectiveness right now, so I thought I’d give you a quick run-down on the basic differences in each one for a small business.

LinkedIn Direct Ads

These are by far the least effective and most expensive for a small business. LinkedIn has several snippets of language in its ad agreement users sign that allow it to wreak some havoc on your ad budget. Most notably, the part of the usage agreement that allows it to exceed your Daily Ad Budget by as much as 20%. If they allowed you to set a Daily Ad Budget below $10, you might be able to accommodate this extra 20% easily, but their Daily Minimum is $10. This makes it hard for a small business operating on a shoe string budget to plan.

If the click through rate was high enough, the budgetary issues would not matter as much – you would be getting a better return on your investment. However, running an optimized LinkedIn Direct Ad for a week netted the following numbers: 27,143 impressions, 10 click throughs. That’s not a lot of activity on an SEO optimized ad. The other issue I found with LinkedIn Direct Ads was the inability to see where and how it was being displayed. Both Google AdWords and Facebook Ads offer you a much better snap shot of how your ad is being delivered, and much better and more comprehensive analytics to help you fine tune your efforts.

Bottom line: for a big business with a larger budget, LinkedIn Direct Ads may be a great solution, but for a small business who is counting every penny, I’d try another ad method for your hard earned dollar.

Facebook Ads

The jury is still out for me with Facebook Ads and how effective they are for a small business. They have some detailed demographic data and capabilities that make them worth checking out, and a much better analytics set up than LinkedIn Direct Ads (Google AdWords still wins the analytics data fight for ad tracking). Success with a Facebook Ad depends largely on your business type and target market, however; while success in AdWords can be much more broad if you are good at writing short ad copy.

Facebook Ads also gets a proceed with financial caution flag from me. Facebook is a bit better at setting daily minimums and weekly budgets, but a small business owner must pay attention to their weekly spend and remember to stop the ads from running if you find yourself reaching your weekly budget. This is also true of LinkedIn Direct Ads, and one way you can curb the bleed on their daily minimum.

With Facebook Ads, a great picture and action language is key to any kind of success. Don’t be afraid to do a little A/B testing, running the same ad with different photos and logos, to see where you score. Too many people just toss up one version of an ad and call it good, then wonder why they aren’t getting any results. Another thing to consider with Facebook Ads: the landing page. Are you choosing your Facebook Page with a call to action, or taking folks out of Facebook to your website’s great landing page? It matters. Do similar A/B testing with your landing pages and conversion goals to see what is more successful for your business.

Google AdWords

In spite of recent changes to search, for small businesses with tight budgets and a great need for detailed analytics on the ads they invest in, Google AdWords remains my favorite ad method. I think that Facebook Ads will be a contender over time, but for now – Google still wins. Small business needs the ability to see detailed drill downs of their ads, their click through rates and how well their ads are converting, and Google AdWords still does that the best.

It can be frustrating to work with Google AdWords, trying to hit that sweet spot of keywords and click throughs without triggering the AdWords moderator bots that can get your ad pulled. One key is action words and knowing the difference between a feature and benefit. What I mean by that is being able to show the ad reader the benefit your business gives them if they click through. So instead of saying you have a “wide selection of sizes” for a dress, you say you have “hard to find sizes always in stock”. See the difference? Don’t under estimate the power of linking your AdWords ad to your Google Place either – this can reap many local benefits for your business.

Google AdWords can also quickly exceed a small business budget. Be ready to experiment with your maximum  bid level and daily budget a bit until you find the return rate and expenditure paring that works for you. Just as with Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Direct Ads, you will want to monitor your budget daily. Even more important, set conversion goals and track them by linking your Google AdWords account to your Google Analytics account. If an ad isn’t converting, use version testing to try another method.

The Wrap

No ad system is foolproof anymore. People use AdBlocker on Firefox and Chrome extensions that remove not only ads but social widgets (including social comments) and other tools to keep ads at bay. That is another reason to be cautious about your ad spend and the duration of your ad campaign. Regardless, ads are still an integral part of great marketing, along with social marketing and traditional off line methods. You can’t assume that your target market is only in one place.  I hope this quick sketch, while not being a deep dive into methods for each system, helps you decide where your ad money will best be spent.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ad methods and how they worked for your type of business in the comments.



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  2. pkioupakis December 2, 2010

    only recently have I started clicking on ads and these are on Facebook, they make sense to me. When searching I prefer clicking on the nonpaid search results, if they are at the top they must be good, as I’m searching at that time not looking for ads 🙂 great post, thanks!

  3. […] LinkedIn Direct Ads vs Google AdWords vs Facebook Ads ( […]

  4. Jmcconnell January 19, 2011

    I thought your article corroborated my conclusions to a great extent. About 4 months ago, we launched a website,, that provides FL homeowners 35 free quotes instantaneously. Considering it is a free service, we thought it would be compelling for any one of the above ad channels.

    We started with Google initially and through 3 months of tweaking, we have had great success. Considering how competitive the insurance market is, we have achieved +2% CTR and $3 average CPC and a conversion rate of almost 50%. Adwords suggests +$6 for alot of the keywords we are using, so we feel our avg CPC is great. Microsoft Adcenter is yielding a higher CTR, but they have less search traffic. However, conversion costs are much better.

    We also experimented with Facebook. We have had no problems getting clicks, but we have high bounce rates and very low conversion – 10%. This was definitely not what I expected, but I think the biggest disadvantage is that the ad takes them to our website and is a complex transaction. Most Facebook ads are sign-up and get this free or discount for tangible goods.

    I have been considering LinkedIn and having done some research, I think the results will be similar to Facebook. I have also looked into Zillow, but they only have a CPM program. Their agents consider a .5% CTR a very successful ad.

    From my perspective (i.e., dealing with a complex transaction – insurance), I believe we have much better success Adwords and AdCenter because it is dealing with people actively searching for insurance. Ad clicks on Facebook (and I presume LinkedIn) is taking them away from their social network and agenda. Therefore, they are much less likely to linger and take in the website. We do intend to set up a Facebook page, but have not been in a rush due to the limited success.

  5. […] LinkedIn Direct Ads vs Google AdWords vs Facebook Ads ( […]

  6. Kira Morehouse January 26, 2011

    Having worked with setting up and managing Facebook Ads, I wonder what your thought is about the “Lifetime Budget” feature? I found this to be very helpful with keeping spending in check once it rolled out late last year. You did not include that in your review.

  7. geechee_girl January 28, 2011

    That feature was in beta when I was testing the Facebook ads, and I found the beta version had the same issues with exceeding limits. I’ll have to do another round of testing in Spring, as they rolled out more new features this week.

  8. Rishi June 15, 2012

    I think this is a very interesting piece, but I’d love to see a rewrite of this given the recent LI and FB IPOs as a number of their ad services have changed

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