Let’s take a look at Google Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads when it comes to ad options, audience reach, cost, features & more.
Here, you’ll find:
- Similarities between Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads
- How these ad platforms differ from one another
- The pros and cons of each
- Tips for determining which is right for your business
Google Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads: is one really better than the other? When it comes to paid search marketing platforms, Google Ads is often at the top of the list.
And between its popularity, versatility, and simplicity, Google is a highly appealing choice. But when you put all your pay-per-click (or PPC) eggs in one proverbial basket, you could be missing out on potential leads.
That’s just one reason we’ve seen many businesses explore options outside of Google Ads. One growing trend we’ve noticed lately: more B2B companies turning to LinkedIn Ads.
Of course, both Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads are efficient paid search advertising tools. However, each one comes with specific pros and cons that provide different benefits.
Let’s take a closer look at how they compare.
What are Google Ads?
Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) is Google’s online advertising solution. This service offers businesses the ability to showcase their products and services using Google’s entire advertising network.
This includes such advertising platforms as Google Search, YouTube, and the Google Display Network.
This PPC advertising platform uses a bidding system where businesses can bid for the keywords they want to target. Their ads will then be shown on the search engine results page (SERP) according to their bid and a few other ranking factors.
But Google Ads also have other ad types (more on this later), which include the following:
- Display ads
- Shopping ads
- YouTube video ads
- App promotion ads
- Local search ads
- Call-only ads
- Local service ads
What are LinkedIn Ads?
LinkedIn Ads are a social media advertising tool that help businesses and professionals promote their presence and cater to a primarily B2B advertising audience.
There are currently four ad formats options available on LinkedIn Ads, namely:
- Sponsored content: Also known as native ads, sponsored content is an advertising media like carousel ads, single image ads, or video ads. These show up as “Promoted” content directly on a user’s social media feed.
- Text ads: Through text ads, advertisers are able to advertise their message on the top-right portion of the LinkedIn user’s desktop feed.
- Sponsored messaging: Previously known as sponsored InMail, this tool allows advertisers to speak directly to their target audience through their inbox.
- Dynamic ads: This ad type takes personalization to a whole new level by leveraging a user’s personal details, including their photo, job title, and organization.
Google Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads: A comparison
Google Ads and LinkedIn Ads are helpful digital advertising tools. They each allow businesses to showcase their products and services and improve brand awareness through their respective platforms.
So, Google Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads. Both are excellent digital marketing channels used to capture opportunities and potential customers. While they serve the same purpose, there aren’t many similarities between the two. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to HawkSEM Senior SEM Manager Alyssa Galik.
“Being different platforms allows them to offer different opportunities for businesses,” says Galik.
Let’s explore some of these differences below.
It’s an understatement to say Google reaches a massive audience. Because of this, it’s fair to assume that almost everyone’s target audience uses the search engine to some degree, which isa big advantage for companies when it comes to targeting.
On the other hand, businesses that need to narrow down their reach may struggle to get their settings just right on the platform. And a mistake made when segmenting audiences could negatively impact your digital ad campaign spend.
Of course, LinkedIn has a much narrower audience: businesses and business professionals, mostly. But this makes it an ideal destination for B2B marketing. LinkedIn allows marketers to target decision-makers and key audience members in a variety of effective ways.
For B2B companies looking to connect with decision-makers, LinkedIn is an excellent digital ad platform. For B2C companies trying to widen their reach, Google Ads usually work best.
“There is an easy way to look at how each of these channels operates,” said Galik. “In Google Ads, you are meeting the user where they are, in the midst of their search. [Meanwhile], on LinkedIn, you are looking to capture the audience where we are – on LinkedIn. This can be looked at as Google using intent-based targeting [whereas] LinkedIn uses user-based targeting.”
Pro tip: While LinkedIn does have a smaller audience. But since the pandemic began, they’ve had an impressive growth spurt with increased metrics across the board. They’re expected to keep growing and gaining more traction in the marketing space.
When targeting an audience through Google Ads, you have several options to work with. These include:
- Buyer behavior
- Interactions with your website or app
But no matter how well you know your buyer persona, it can be difficult to completely avoid clicks from unqualified leads.
When users sign up for LinkedIn, they often share a handful of personal details, such as their job title, education, experience, industry, interests, and much more.
LinkedIn users can also join groups, spark conversations, and even create followings. This data becomes priceless when you start targeting highly specific audiences and implementing account-based marketing.
This platform even offers a Matched Audiences feature. This helps marketers match their email lists and website visitors with LinkedIn users.
For B2C and B2B companies targeting a wide audience, Google Ads has sufficient targeting features. But for B2B companies that need to target highly specific potential clients, LinkedIn Ads provide more than 20 audience attribute categories.
Lead generation and intent
When it comes to lead generation, Google Ads’ wider reach becomes an advantage. For one, you can bring in a big number of potential clients without exhausting your budget.
The audience you target on Google comes to the search engine with an intent to find a product or a service. This makes lead generation much easier.
Generating leads on LinkedIn can be somewhat trickier. Platform users often sign in to learn industry news or chat with fellow group members. No matter how well you design or place your ad, viewers simply may not be susceptible to it.
However, unlike Google Ads, LinkedIn has an option of targeting leads through messages (called Message Ads), which can help with the lead generation process.
Lead generation is often more efficient through Google Ads. However, LinkedIn offers an opportunity to find valuable prospects with a variety of specific targeting tools.
Pro tip: Google is constantly making changes to Google Ads, and what you don’t know can hurt you. Keep up to date with changes and the latest ways to make Google Ads work for your business.
When it comes to pricing, LinkedIn’s ads are generally more expensive than Google’s. Just like in Google, you can choose cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-impression (CPM) options as well.
“Google Search costs are based on [the amount of] competition in the space — the less competition [there is], the lower the cost,” explains Galik. “[Meanwhile], all of LinkedIn’s costs are based on your audience size and who else is also targeting that audience. If you look to compare the Google Display Network to LinkedIn, you will see a much larger discrepancy in CPC and CPM.”
With Google, the average cost per click is about $0.67 for search and $2.32 for display ads. But to take full advantage of the low cost, you’ll likely need to put in some serious audience segmentation efforts. Otherwise, your paid search marketing ROI may be less than satisfactory.
Digital ad budgets for these two platforms depend on a handful of factors. But on average, Google Ads are less expensive than LinkedIn Ads.
However, a B2B company with a tight paid search marketing budget may benefit more from a limited number of LinkedIn Ads than from a wide variety of Google Ads.
“The differentiation tends to lead the decisions for the overall marketing strategy — looking at the budget at hand and the consumer you are looking to drive, between B2B and B2C, and which one is going to reach the right audience [more] efficiently,” says Galik.
Google Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads: Pros and cons
This quick comparison can help you make the right decision when choosing between the two paid search advertising options.
Google Ads pros:
As of March of 2023, Google owns a 92.9% share of the search engine market. For the sake of comparison, Bing’s market share is just around 3.03%.
With this massive market share, Google enjoyed over 88.3 billion total monthly visits for January 2023, which resulted in over 260 billion monthly searches.
Essentially, Google has a wider user base than all other social media platforms combined, which presents a good case for why Google Ads offers a significantly wider audience for your ads than LinkedIn.
As mentioned above, the average CPC for LinkedIn Ads is about $5.26 and about $0.67 and $2.32 for Google search and display ads, respectively.
Based on average figures alone, it’s clear that LinkedIn Ads cost more than Google Ads — but there’s actually a reason for that.
LinkedIn requires a minimum bid of $2 for CPC and CPM campaigns and a minimum daily budget of $10 for any ad format. In contrast, there is no minimum bid for Google Ads. Instead, costs per bid are all determined through ad auction, which can go higher or lower, depending on how competitive a keyword is.
But generally speaking, ad spend for each click on Google Ads is considerably lower overall, even with the auction taken into account.
Did you know that Google is now also a verb?
If you look up the word “Google” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you will find its definition: to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the World Wide Web.
This is a testament to how people rely on Google Search for information based on certain keywords. Using the right keywords, you can target those whose intent to buy is the highest, increasing your likelihood of a conversion.
“Google Ads allows you to market to someone when they need it. It is usually defined as being able to target someone in the right palace at the right time. In a way, the audience has already been defined for you. If they are looking for a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and your ad for a CRM appears, you have met the needs of that consumer, whereas [on] LinkedIn, that guarantee does not exist,” said Galik.
Excellent documentation and support
The topic of Google Ads has been discussed extensively throughout the internet. But Google itself also has a comprehensive knowledge base of information covering everything about Google Ads, from different types of campaigns to troubleshooting the most common issues. All of these pieces of information can be found on Google Ads Help.
One downside, however, is the fact that there is just so much information available. Often, you may find it challenging to find the information you’re looking for or perhaps this information is outdated. If you’re looking for some general information, then you may also find the official Google Ads Community helpful.
For more specialized queries, such as specific information about your campaigns, account, billing information, and more, you can get in touch with the Google Support team through their contact form.
Multiple ad types
Google Ads has a wide variety of campaign types you can run for different marketing campaigns. These include the following:
- Responsive search ads – ads whose content adapts to show more relevant messages based on user search queries.
- Dynamic search ads – ad content, including headlines and landing pages, are auto-generated using content from your website based on their relevance.
- Display ads – visually-engaging ads showcased on the Google Display Network to reach users as they browse through websites and Google properties like YouTube and Gmail.
- Shopping ads – promote your online and local inventory directly on Google Search results, increasing traffic to your items and your e-commerce store.
- YouTube ads – display video ads over YouTube videos for direct exposure to a relevant audience.
- App promotion ads – use a wide range of creative assets like images, ad copy, and videos to create ads that promote your app throughout the Google Ad network.
- Local search ads – ads that feature your business locations whenever a user makes a location-based search.
- Call ads – similar to local search ads but only appear when a user makes a location-based search on a device that can make phone calls.
- Local service ads – connect you with users searching for services you offer around your local area.
Google Ads cons:
Potential learning curve
The learning curve for Google Ads’ basic features is generally low. However, it does get considerably steeper for its more advanced features, such as setting up remarketing campaigns and automation for your ads.
Unfortunately, the need to learn about various Google Ads features doesn’t end, especially when new updates are being introduced to the platform regularly.
Fewer segmentation opportunities
Google Ads offers a wide range of segmentation options to help you reach your intended audience. These include setting up audience segments, retargeting lists, and the ability to create custom segments. But these require a bit of advanced knowledge to set up properly and reach the right people.
These pale in comparison to LinkedIn’s targeting options (will be discussed in more detail below), which are some of the most nuanced among various PPC advertising platforms.
A competitive market
A key element in the keyword auction system is that it gives you the opportunity to rank well by placing the right bids. The higher you bid, the higher your likelihood of securing the top spots.
Over the years, the level of competition on Google Ads has risen considerably, with more and more businesses choosing to run ads on the platform to gain more leads. It can get even more competitive for some industries, where placement on search results can impact your ad’s clickthrough rates.
In an auction system where placement is determined by bids, being in a competitive market can work to your disadvantage. More companies competing for top placement results in a higher overall CPC, resulting in an increase in your overall ad spend.
Ad design and content limitations
Despite the wide assortment of ad types to choose from, the design options for different Google Ads are quite limited. Google is quite strict when it comes to ad design, as it states on its website:
“In order to provide a quality user experience, Google requires that all ads, assets, and destinations meet high professional and editorial standards. We only allow ads that are clear, professional in appearance, and [can] lead users to content that is relevant, useful, and easy to interact with.”
Any violation of its ad design policies will result in an ad or asset being disapproved. In effect, advertisers are left with a limited range of options for designing their ads.
LinkedIn Ads pros:
In-depth targeting opportunities
If you have any experience with digital advertising with other social media platforms like Facebook Ads, then you will most likely be already familiar with their targeting options that let you target people based on demographics, interests, etc.
But LinkedIn’s targeting options are far more comprehensive than any other ad platform, including Google Ads, with options that allow you to target audiences based on professional attributes, which include:
- Job functions
- Member skills
- Job titles
- Company names
- Job seniorities
- Member schools
- Fields of study
- Member interests
- Groups they belong to
For Galik, the benefits provided by LinkedIn’s targeting opportunities extend beyond the available options.
“The targeting opportunities [go] beyond the criteria shared above. LinkedIn also provides a variety of integrations to ABM technologies, which can be critical to B2B businesses. These integrations can allow a business to integrate their accounts lists, CRM data, and other customer data directly into the LinkedIn Ads platform to build a robust ABM strategy.”
Easy to get started
LinkedIn makes it easy to start advertising on their platform using the Campaign Manager platform.
Through Campaign Manager, you will be presented with all the options you need to control your ads, from setting your budget to choosing the duration of your ads in six steps, namely:
- Selecting targeting criteria
- Choosing your advertising objectives
- Selecting of ad format
- Setting the budget and schedule for the entire campaign
- Measuring and optimizing campaign results
- Setting up ad creatives
One of LinkedIn’s main advantages over other social media platforms is its audience. It is made up of a primarily professional audience who are more educated and have relatively higher incomes than users on other channels.
For companies operating in the B2B space, LinkedIn is the perfect platform for generating leads as it allows them to reach an audience that’s already made up of professionals and key decision-makers in their organizations.
Plus, about 72% of its massive user base of over 875 million users are already open to receiving commercial messages from businesses they know, making it the perfect platform for B2B marketing.
Account-based marketing opportunities
For companies investing in account-based marketing (ABM), LinkedIn Ads is the perfect platform for you with its full suite of ad options designed to support your ABM efforts.
You can upload your account list, include in-depth information about your target accounts, and take advantage of LinkedIn’s comprehensive personalization features to create tailored ads that target your intended audience with pinpoint accuracy.
Easy budget planning
Although the costs for LinkedIn Ads may be relatively higher than that of Google Ads, campaigns can still be quite cost-effective in the long run when configured properly.
As a results-based advertising solution, LinkedIn allows advertisers to adjust their ad budget based on campaign performance, providing more control over their ad spending.
LinkedIn Ads cons:
Narrow and specific audience
Composed of primarily a professional audience, specific audiences that advertisers can target for their ads are confined to that set of users. Although this type of audience is excellent for B2B marketing, those who operate in the B2C are better off using Google Ads.
“LinkedIn allows you to target very niche audiences,” Galik said. “You get to pick who sees your ads. And for certain businesses, that could be the most important factor for your marketing strategy. Google Ads has a variety of channels to advertise on, Search, Display, YouTube, etc., which in turn creates a larger audience opportunity.”
Potentially low-intent audience
LinkedIn is a social media channel that was built for professional networking. And for the most part, that’s what most of the people have come there to do.
Not everyone you could target on LinkedIn is there to take advantage of the fantastic products and services your business is offering. They could be there to connect with other people from their field or find employment opportunities that match their skill sets.
So, make sure to keep this piece of information in mind when designing your LinkedIn advertising campaigns.
Higher CPC and impressions
As we’ve mentioned earlier, LinkedIn advertising costs are considerably higher than that of Google Ads. On average, each click will cost you $5.26, which is about 154.8% higher than the average CPC for Google Ads.
And although actual costs may vary, the average cost per 1,000 impressions for LinkedIn Ads is $33.80, which is 167.4% higher than $3, which is the average cost per 1,000 impressions for Google Ads.
On top of that, you could also be spending $0.80 per message you send when using message ads.
Lack of robust reporting and analytics tools
Finally, LinkedIn lacks the robust reporting capabilities of Google Ads, which can be integrated with Google Analytics and other custom reporting tools for greater insight into each campaign.
Although it gives you available data that can inform your campaign, its reporting dashboard is pretty bare bones and doesn’t offer the wide range of metrics we’re used to seeing on other ad platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
So, Google Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads: which one is better? The answer, of course, is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
The right choice of a paid ad platform will depend on several factors, which include your budget, specific product or service, target audience, and marketing goals.
The good news? You don’t need to choose between Google Ads and LinkedIn ads. Many B2C and B2B companies use both of them — along with Instagram, Facebook, and other avenues. Galik said it best:
“For every business, regardless of channel, it takes the right marketing strategy [and marketing agency] to create optimal performance. The best way to promote a B2B or B2C product or service is through a marketing mix across multiple channels.“
If your budget allows, diversifying your paid search marketing effort is an excellent way to achieve a better marketing ROI. And if you need help, get in touch with our experts!
This post has been updated and was originally published in November 2020.