Google Ads or Facebook Ads?

When it comes to paid advertising, where should dentists look first?

Google symbolContinuing the theme of questions we frequently hear from dentists, today’s blog takes a look at which channel to choose when first delving into the world of paid advertising on the web; Google or Facebook.

But before we jump in, it’s worth a recap on why dentists need to consider paid advertising at all – surely a good traditional, free Google position is enough isn’t it? Well unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as that, particularly these days.

What changed? Why the rush to paid advertising?

Historically it was fair to say that a great Google position was all you needed to secure lots of new patient enquiries from the web and in some cases this is still true. Great search engine positions are still the main cornerstones of digital marketing for all dentists and where competition is relatively light, can still be sufficient without complementary paid advertising.

However, with Google starting to publish more and more ads to the home page of its search engine, particularly in mobile view, and with Facebook minimising organic reach to those who liked your business page to lower than 4%, the picture starts to become clearer. Essentially what we are seeing is Google and Facebook forcing “pay-to-play” i.e. they are making it harder for you to use their respective platforms for free. Hence the upsurge in paid ads as dentists vie for position to get their message out to the public.

Unfortunately, the knock on effect is that it becomes increasingly expensive to advertise as more dental businesses jump into the same pool. That said, it is still very possible to make excellent returns from paid advertising, but you need to know what you’re doing. More of that later.

Facebook logoTo put it into context better, in Google, over 30% of all traffic now goes to websites via paid ads. If you then throw the “local/maps” results into the mix, another 30% of traffic, you’ll see that the remainder left for the traditional “organic” rankings is lower than ever before.

Using Facebook as an example, if your business page had 300 likes, at 4% organic reach, only around 12 people would see your posts – even though way more than that liked your page and were actually interested in your services! To reach them and lots of other Facebook users, you now have to pay for the privilege.

OK, so I may need to pay to advertise, but what next?

Having understood the pay-to-pay landscape and accepted that you likely will need to step in at some point, you then need to make the decision about where to advertise and this primarily comes down to a choice of Google, Facebook or both. So where do you start? Let’s have a look at the characteristics of these two main channels and what to expect.

Google Ads – pay-per-click

Google allows you to advertise at the top of the search index if you have sufficient funds to out-bid your competitors. It’s essentially an auction so whoever bids highest for the user’s click will (usually) see their ad placed highest and most prominent. Actually it’s not quite as simple as that but it will suffice for this discussion.

Given the auction-like nature of Google Ads (I’ll call it pay-per-click or PPC from now), we can see that it can easily lead to rising click prices for competitive treatments such as dental implants and orthodontics. This is exacerbated further by location – so big towns and cities with lots of dentists will have more competition for clicks and so generally bigger budgets are needed. To give an idea, a click on an implant ad in a competitive environment can cost upwards of £5. Given that you need to generate several hundred clicks to get relatively few cases booked in, you can see that budgets are not trivial. It can cost £50 or more to get what we refer to in the business as a “conversion”. Similar click costs are evident for popular ortho treatments such as Invisalign and quite regularly dentists will spend thousands of pounds per month on ads for these types of treatments in competitive areas.

So Google ads can be quite costly but they are also excellent for establishing exposure quickly and prominently. Unlike Facebook, when you serve a correctly configured Google Ad, you know it will be seen by people who are actively seeking those services, and hence we say that the quality of the leads is quite high.

So if you have a sensible budget and can also pay to have your ads configured and managed correctly, then Google Ads are a great way to make sure you get your share of the targeted paid traffic coming from Google.

Facebook Advertising

We’ve looked at some of the characteristics of Google PPC but what about Facebook? Over the last couple of years, Facebook advertising for dentists has really taken off and is now considered by many to be an indispensible route to new patient enquiries. Ads you create on Facebook are very visual when compared to Google and give you an opportunity to get quite creative when sharing news and offers about your services. It’s also not such a technical challenge to post ads on Facebook when compared to Google, although you still need a reasonable degree of experience to make sure you get good returns on your investment.

Cost-wise, it is also a more accessible route than Google and even in fairly competitive environments you can start to get some decent traction with budgets as low as £15 per day. So using Facebook ads is great way to target a lot of people very quickly.

Whilst there are some good targeting options provided by Facebook, there is an important factor to consider when it comes to the quality of leads generated from the platform. Because you are serving ads to a group of people who are engaging in a social activity rather than searching for a service with intent (c.f. Google), then you should expect the leads from Facebook to be somewhat lower in quality. Indeed you will get quite a lot of speculative enquiries and plenty of “tyre kickers” to be frank. Consequently you need to be prepared for this at the practice level and have someone diligent and patient within the team to sort out the good leads from the bad.

Which channel to choose?

Ideally you would deploy a holistic digital marketing campaign including organic SEO and paid ads on Facebook and Google and in fact many well-established dentists do just that. However, if you are starting out and/or have a limited budget, then maybe Facebook would be your best place to start as you can establish a wide reach quickly and reasonably cost-effectively. Although you do need to be prepared to sift out the lower quality enquiries as discussed above.

Demographics also play a part. So for example, a very visual, graphics based campaign for orthodontics on Facebook targeted to a specific age group, can often be more cost-effective than a similar campaign on Google. Conversely, a treatment such as dental implants where potential patients have done their research and are looking for a specific service, might be better tried first with Google ads. The beauty of both of the platforms is that you can experiment and see results quickly – if it isn’t working, you can try a different approach.


The days of pay-to-play dental marketing are firmly with us and it certainly pays to know something about the two main advertising channels, Google and Facebook, and how they can be used to best effect. If you don’t wish to dive in and try the DIY approach (noting that getting it wrong can waste a lot of money quickly!) then the paid ads team at Dental Media is on hand to help out. Please call us on 01332 672548 for a no-obligation chat to help get your campaigns up-and-running.