Which Online Ad Platform is Best For Me?

By Ashlyr Russell

Advertising and marketing has never been more dynamic. Thanks to social media, search and our always connected lives, consumers are more engaged and demanding than ever! Businesses can brand and market their products in more ways to target and convert new customers and get more from existing ones.

There are multiple tools at our fingertips to advertise and market your business. The next question becomes, which online advertising platform is best for you?
The answer to that depends on a few factors:
  • Cost
  • Target audience
  • Goals
Whether it’s Google, Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, each platform has multiple benefits and options that can help promote your brand and boost sales.

Before we dive into which platform is right for you, we must discuss the different advantages, features, and costs of the most common (and effective) ad platforms currently in use.


Google is the largest search engine in the world. Ask anyone a specific question and you’ll sometimes hear, “Google it.” According to Internet Stats, there are approximately 3.5 billion Google searches per day. With that amount of search traffic, standing out in a sea of competitors can be challenging. But fear not, Google has a wide variety of advertising tools that can boost your business once you know how to use them properly and effectively.

Google advertising service, recently rebranded as Google Ads, boasts multiple advertising tools and formats that you can choose to get your ads to stand out and increase consumer engagement. Because most consumers use Google to search for products or answers to questions, Google Ads is an excellent place to tap into that search traffic flow.

The most common types of advertising with Google Ads are:

Search network: This tool allows your ads to be placed at the top of the search results matching to specific key search terms. The example below is for “ Hotels in Niagara Falls”.

Display network: This tool displays your ad campaign on other website pages or apps where the key search terms match the content of the site.

Google Shopping: This is an e-Commerce based tool designed to display product ads related to what is searched. For example, if you search for “hockey stick”, the following will appear:

Video shopping: This feature involves video-displayed-ads to be streamed on streaming sites like YouTube.

Google ad-retargeting: In Google Display Network, there is a retargeting tool to re-engage consumers after they have visited and left your site. When a consumer visits a website, interacts with it, and exits without making a purchase, retargeting via ‘ad display campaigns’ strategically places ads on third party websites to re-engage the consumer in order to bring them back to your website. In contrast, remarketing re-engages consumers through email marketing solely. Both methods are useful in attracting previous consumers to your site to increase conversion, but the implementation of each strategy depends on the consumers actions and your target.

With such a wide variety of advertising methods, you can target different avenues of engagement, which may boost your business tremendously! Additionally, Google Ads popularly operate on a cost per click (CPC) basis, meaning that advertisers pay when a user clicks on their ads. The average CPC ranges from $1 to $2, but it is important to note that the range can vary to as little as $0.30 to $50. CPM (cost per impression) is also an option, however most campaigns opt for CPC. To learn more about Google Ads, their cost models and more, check out our previous article: How Can Google Adwords Benefit Your Dental Practice?


Now what about Facebook?

Have you ever mindlessly scrolled through your Facebook feed and stumbled on an ad post that caught your eye? Have you thought, “Oh wow, that’s pretty interesting” and clicked like or share?

Facebook is unique because the intention is usually not to shop or to search for a product/service, but it is a gold mine for building brand awareness and engagement. As of March 2019, there were 2.38 billion monthly active users on Facebook, which means with such a big audience, there is no doubt that your business can be a success!

Facebook offers different types of ad formats that are commonly used by most advertisers:

Photo ads: Photo ads are a simple way to capture the audience on their feed. These ads appear as regular photo posts that pop on an individual's feed through scrolling.

Video ads: Video ads are a fun, yet tricky way of engaging consumers. Time is precious, therefore it is important to have video ads that are short and direct to grasp the user’s attention and interest.

Carousel ads: This type of ads uses up to 10 photos or videos to display a product or service. An advantage with this format is that you can highlight the benefits of one or multiple products at the same time.

Slideshow ads: Slideshow ads are an easy way generating short video ads from a collection of photos or video clips.

Like Google Ads, Facebook offers a variety of advertising options that you can choose. You can generate ads related to your marketing objectives (awareness, conversions, etc) and direct the ad to a specific target audience using the “Custom Audience” feature. This means that you can choose an audience based on demographics of interest including age, location, gender, and/or job, and the ad will pop on the feeds of those that fit that criteria.

You may be wondering how much does it cost to advertise on Facebook compared to Google Ads. Advertisers across all industries spend $1.86 CPC on average for an ad. However, the cost varies depending on the industry that you are in, the quality of your ads, and competition. Advertising with Facebook is relatively inexpensive for the amount of potential users that it can engage.


With Instagram, it’s the same game but different playing field. Instagram has 700 million users and counting. It’s a growing platform that thrives on imagery and authenticity for consumer engagement. Therefore Instagram is a gold mine for building brand awareness and conversions. After a few recent changes, consumers can even shop and purchase products through the platform as it now integrates Shopify as an option.

Like Facebook and Google, Instagram has different dynamic types of advertising tools to help boost your online presence. This includes:

Photo Ads: Similar to Facebook

Video Ads: Similar to Facebook

Carousel Ads: Easier than videos, carousel ads are a collection of photos that allows companies to target multiple different benefits of their products/services visually.

Story Ads: Still new to their advertising toolkit, story ads display on instagram stories and assist in boosting consumer engagement.

Like Facebook, Instagram has an option for companies to target specific individuals based on behaviour, location, and other demographics. Since Instagram is the sister company of Facebook (they bought the platform in 2012), ads can be generated, configured, and released through Facebook. Therefore if you can tackle Facebook, Instagram will be straightforward to use and apply for your business.

But what is this going to cost you? With the increased influx of advertisers using Instagram, the average cost of impressions are decreasing. In 2018, advertisers were spending $1.41 CPC. Therefore, depending on your budget and objectives, you can gain a lot of interactions without breaking the bank.


YouTube is the second largest search engine, but with a twist; it is also a social media network. With over 1.3 billion users who spend on average 40 minutes on the platform, YouTube is the perfect place to gain conversions and build brand awareness.

Although only limited to video ads and display ads, videos are the most engaging content. Therefore, using YouTube can provide opportunities for your company to be creative and interactive towards a large audience.

Additionally, there are many targeting options that you can choose to narrow your audience. This includes the topic of the YouTube video content, category of user interest, keywords, and demographics.

However, everything has its limitations and with YouTube advertising, there are a few that are worth noting. Similar to Instagram and Facebook, video ads should be short and direct. With YouTube there are options where users can skip your ad and that’s the tricky part. How do you make your ad stand out in less than 5 seconds before the user clicks “skip”? And if you do decide to pay for longer videos, how do you ensure you won’t annoy the user? Difficult, right? Best practices are to keep these limitations in mind when storyboarding and planning your video ads.

Another limitation to consider is the lack of control as to which videos your ads will appear on. There is no guarantee that your ad will be displayed on a video with related content that you may want. Youtube offers targeting options to narrow the audience for your ad, however, you can’t select which videos you want your ad to be displayed on. This may or may not be a gamble, depending on target and content.

Lastly, how much will advertising on YouTube cost? Advertisers typically pay per video view, therefore a typical video costs between $0.10 and $0.30 per view. Of course this depends on the quality of your video, target audience, and objective.

In Summary

Now that you are aware of the basics, you can start to better weigh which ad platform is best for you. Each platform has their advantages and disadvantages as they have large active audiences and offers similar approaches in engaging and captivating users. Additionally, online ad platforms are relatively inexpensive as trial balloons beyond the potential cost of producing your video. With any video ads you produce, you can usually port it from one ad platform to another with minimal work.

Therefore by knowing your objectives, budget, target audience and intent you can narrow down which platform is best for your business. For example, if your goal is to use an ecommerce approach to selling a product then Google shopping would be a perfect fit. Or if you want to introduce a new product to a younger audience and build awareness then using carousel photo ads on Facebook or Instagram would provide the most information about the product. Then using the “Custom Audience” feature on Facebook would narrow your target.

With the information that’s given to you about each platform, it’s up to you to decide.

Want to learn more about how optimize Facebook ad videos for better engagement? Check out our previous post, 7 Ways to Improve Your Facebook Video Ad Campaign.