Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads: A Beginners Guide To Help Decide The Best Ad Platform For Your Insurance Agency

Are you an insurance agency owner who wants to step on the marketing gas in your agency? Wondering what the real difference is between Facebook Ads and Google Ads?

This post is for you!

I get this question a lot — “Chris, we have a marketing budget, but we don’t know the best way to get the most out of it. Should we do SEO, ads, or something else?”

Naturally these conversations evolve into lengthy, in-depth discussions about the difference between the various marketing channels, and the pros and cons of each.

A common denominator embedded in all of those discussions, is the difference between Facebook advertising and Google advertising. It’s one of the more important keystones of the conversion, and one that needs to be thoroughly understood by the agency.

Because not understanding it can result in significant budget waste, and in the end, a level of frustration that often results in the agency ceasing all marketing efforts.

That’s a major problem, because as I say all the time — you’re not in the business of selling insurance, you’re in the business of marketing.

So let’s talk Facebook Ads vs. Google Ads shall we?

Google Ads for Insurance Marketing

google ads

We all know that Google is one of, if not the biggest force to be reckoned with on the internet. Google’s ad platform (formerly known as Google Adwords; now known as Google Ads) generates 90%+ of the company’s revenue.

Simply put, the reason why advertising on Google is so successful for advertisers is because it’s a search network, and there is purchase intent.

Purchase intent is the fundamental difference between Google Ads and Facebook ads.

People who use Google to search for answers, products, and services, are already problem-aware.

This is one significant advantage over Facebook because you are catching the prospect when they are in a time of need, and deeper in your marketing funnel, as opposed to someone who is scrolling through their social feed aimlessly with no intention of buying anything.

Selling something to someone is a thousand times easier when they already think they need it right?

Google Ads are keyword based

insurance keywords

The way Google Ads work is, you choose the keywords that you want your ad to appear for in the Google search results. This is different from Facebook where you use various targeting and demographic parameters, but the approach is similar in that you are building your advertising audience (with these keywords) with these keywords.

ProTip: when choosing your keywords, always use “exact match”, otherwise you’ll waste budget on stuff because Googles’ AI is flawed

The challenge is, other advertisers are attempting to show their ads for the same exact keywords, so there is a bidding system in place. The competitiveness of the keyword determines the average bid, and this is where things can get hairy with Google Ads because insurance is super competitive!

It’s a “supply and demand” situation. The more people who want to run ads for the keyword, the higher the cost is. This means that insurance related keywords are actually the number one, most expensive keywords in Google Ads!

insurance keywords

Image Credit: Wordstream

Google uses a combination of factors to determine whose ad will show higher in the search results. Thankfully it’s not just your bid/budget, but a combination of the ad copy, ad extensions, as well as the landing page that you’re pushing traffic back to.

Speaking of landing pages for insurance, we have an awesome solution built right into our designs that make creating a professional, conversion optimized design landing page as easy as point and click! Having a great landing page is a very important part of converting your ad traffic into an actual prospect.

Anyway, Google uses all of this data to formulate a Quality Score (similar as Facebook’s Relevancy Score) and shows the ad with the highest Quality Score in its results first.

This Quality Score plays a huge role in helping Google determine whose ad is displayed highest in the search results.

Understanding the insurance consumers’ “buyer journey”

As it relates to insurance, consumers take to Google when they feel pain. 

You can talk about value, service, and convenience all you want, but at the end of the day, money talks, and that’s why the average insurance consumer shops for insurance, in particular personal lines insurance.

When their rates increase by $600 for apparently no reason, they look for a better option, because to the average person, $600 is a lot of money, and they know there are many other options out there.

Of course, if they had a poor experience with a broker or carrier as it relates to a service or claims situation, that could be enough for them to take action as well, but a lot of people move because of rate increases, and Google Ads allows you to capture them while they are actively searching for that better deal.

Use the buyer’s journey to help you write your ads.

When you’re crafting your ad copy and keywords, think about common sense things people will type into Google when looking for a better price.

This brings up another key point — search volume.

Why search volume matters with Google Ads

high net worth insurance

When you run a Google Ad, it’s very much like SEO in that the success of your ad depends on search volume. That is, the number and frequency of people searching for what you sell.

A lot of marketing and SEO agencies seem to either miss this completely or gloss over it because they know deep down it’s the most important metric in the entire ads algorithm, and they don’t want the client to run if the volume isn’t high enough.

I recently had a conversation with an agency who wanted to run ads for high net worth individuals. As you can see in the screenshot above, there isn’t a lot of search traffic/volume for this.

Only about 150 search queries per month, nationally.

While you can still run ads for this keyword, you have to have the right expectations because you’re not going to get a lot of opportunities at 150 queries per month, even if your ad is in the top position in search.

There’s simply not enough people are searching for it and only about 2% of cold traffic converts on the very first visit even on a good day. Two key takeaways from that statement are this:

  1.  you need to have a retargeting plan in place whether it be another ad that shows to visitors after they leave your site, or getting them into an email drip sequence (very hard for insurance)
  2.  you can’t control search volume.

No amount of ad spend (or SEO spend) will create more search traffic. You can’t manufacture search volume out of thin air

You need to do your research before running Google Ads, so you know what to expect in terms of lead quantity. If you’re working with an ad agency, make sure you ask them what the search volume is for the keywords you’re trying to run ads for.

If there are fewer than say 500 queries per month for your target keyword, you’re not going to get a lot of leads, no matter how much money you’re willing to spend.

That being said, just because there is low search volume doesn’t mean you should scrap the idea of running ads all together. Maybe the product or line of business you’re selling has a super high commission. When thats the case, you may only need a handful of leads per year to actually break even and profit from your campaigns.

If you’re targeting larger, mid-market commercial lines business that yields commissions in excess of $5-10k, it’s still worth running ads, even if the search volume is lower in my opinion.

If you’re doing keyword research yourself, there are several tools out there that will help you determine search volume. SEMRush and Ahrefs are two of the best out there for this, but they are not free. If you’re a serious advertiser, and plan on running ads continuously, it’s worth paying for a subscription to one of them.

Pro Tip: Google Keyword Planner is Googles’ own keyword research tool, and while it is free to anyone who has a Google Ads account, the data is throttled for lower spending accounts. This means if you are new to Google Ads, you are not going to get accurate data from Google Keyword Planner.

I personally use and love Ahrefs for keyword research, and many other digital marketing tasks. For a long time SEMRush was better at keyword research, but in my opinion Ahrefs is a better overall tool and just as good as SEMRush with keyword data.

I never use Google Keyword Planner ever.

Google Adwords Express vs. Google Ads

google adwords express

As if running ads didn’t have enough twists and turns, Google has two different ad platforms. Adwords Express, and Google Ads.

ProTip: never ever, ever use Google Adwords Express. 

It’s a dumbed down version of Google Ads for beginners that attempts to build your ads for you. The problem is, it doesn’t work very well, and the default settings are really there to help Google, not you.

That’s right, I’m telling you to not listen to Google when setting up your ads.

If you follow their tooltips and suggestions when setting up your campaigns, whether it be Adwords Express or Google Ads, you will be helping them, more than yourself.

This is where working with an experienced ads agency comes into play. Most, if not all of them know this, and they know the tricks and what to look out for when setting up campaigns to make the most of your budget.

Facebook Ads for Insurance Agents

facebook ad for insurance agents

The very first thing you need to know about Facebook is that it is an advertising platform disguised as a social media network. Everything in it is being used by Facebook so advertisers can reach you in your feed.

What’s more, organic reach is hovering right around 5% right now. This means that if you post content to your business Facebook page, around 5% of the people who like your page will see that content.

If you’re a business owner and want to market your products/services on Facebook, you have to run ads — period. And I’m not talking about “boosting” an occasional post here and there.

Facebook is a pay-to-play platform. There is no free lunch on Facebook.

This is in large part why people think Facebook doesn’t work. It’s because they’re posting content that hardly anyone is seeing, and boring content on top of that, so when people do actually see it, they’re not engaging with it.

If you want organic reach on Facebook, post to your personal timeline.

With that being said, Facebook advertising can be extremely profitable, even more so than Google advertising. This is because the cost-per-click (CPC) is typically significantly lower than what you see in Google for insurance related advertising.

This means your ROI could be greater because your cost-per-lead is typically much less.

The reason the CPC lower is because there is less (or zero) purchase intent. Facebook advertising is literally the same thing as direct mail advertising. It’s spray and pray.

You’re sending someone an ad who you think is in your target audience and likely to buy what you sell, based on the demographic targeting.

With direct mail, it’s usually zip-code or location based, and maybe with some household income sprinkled in.

On Facebook, it’s way more than that. There are a lot of targeting options you can build your audience with because Facebook has a ton of data on its users.

The reason why Facebook is so powerful is four fold in my opinion

First, people are on Facebook all day, and check it on average 6 times per day! Eyeballs are there and that’s important when it comes to advertising.

Second, the way the ad itself is seen/experience by the prospect is much different.

A Google ad is a text-only ad, and you’re limited as to how much text you can write in the ad. You also can’t use videos or images in your ads, at least not yet.

With Facebook, you can use a convincing image or video, with more copy and a better headline and call-to-action. This has a tangible impact on the prospect.

Facebook allows you to be more convincing, persuasive, and “win over” the prospect, and that’s a major advantage over Google Ads.

With that in mind, to succeed on Facebook a lot of things have to be almost perfect.

In large part, Facebook Ads are a game of copywriting and creative. Remember on Facebook, search intent isn’t present, so you have to be extremely convincing with your messaging.

You can turn a cold prospect into a buyer, but your offer, creative, audience targeting, and budgeting all need to be working together and done right. This usually requires testing and making many tweaks to your campaigns.

If just one of those things is off, it can tank the entire campaign, so if you are not a creative person, hire someone else to create your ads because that is the most important variable in your campaign — the offer, and persuasiveness of your creative.

facebook ads manager

Third, Facebook has a lot of different advertising options, or what they call “objectives”. You can run ads for traffic, conversions, video views, and much more.

There are a lot of ways to run ads, and, because Facebook owns Instagram, you can run ads on both platforms very easily from the same ads interface.

Fourth, and maybe most important to an insurance agency is you can qualify and disqualify prospects through your ad copy and offer.

Here’s what I mean — with SEO and/or Google Ads, as I mentioned earlier, you can’t control how many people are searching for what you sell, and as equally as important you can’t control the quality of the lead either.

Sure you might get some leads but what if they don’t fit what you want to write? What if they have DUIs or claims or they’re just not a good fit for your agency? You have no control over that.

In Facebook, you have slightly more control because you can disqualify people with your ads.

Sample headline: “Have you been claims free for 5 straight years? Call us today for a discounted claims-free rate on your insurance!”

What you did with that headline and call to action is you told people who are not claims free, not to call you. 

By doing this, you can in some ways manipulate the quality of leads you’re getting and thus, improve your overall profitability.

What Facebook doesn’t tell you

As I just mentioned, Facebook has many different ad objectives. This is both good, and bad — bad because if you don’t run the right objectives in the right order, you’re going to most likely fail on Facebook.

And of course, Facebook doesn’t tell you this, so inevitably what happens is you have people who try it out, fail, and assume it doesn’t work, and the never do it again. What they really didn’t know is, there’s a certain order you have to run the ads in so that you can use the Facebook marketing/retargeting pixel to do your dirty work for you.

Unless you are running Facebook Lead Ads (Leads Objective), which never takes the prospect off of Facebook to a landing page on your website, you should first run your ads for the Traffic Objective, optimized for Landing Page views.

This means you’ll be driving people back to a landing page, and just like with Google Ads, the landing page needs to be good. When you optimize for the Traffic Objective, you are telling Facebook to optimize for users who are likely to click your ad and go to your landing page — that’s it.

Once your Facebook pixel has enough data on it, and the ad frequency is around 3 (meaning people have seen your ad about 3 times in their feed since you started running it) you convert the ad to the Conversion Objective.

Converting the campaign to the Conversion Objective is when the magic starts to happen, as long as your creative and budgeting is good.

The Conversion objective tells Facebook to optimize for users who have historically clicked on an ad, and gone through the process of completing a lead form and ending up on a Thank You page.

(You need to have conversion tracking set up for this so it’s all tracked properly.)

ProTip: Be patient. It can take several weeks, if not a few months before you should convert the campaign to a Conversion Objective. You need to give Facebook time to gather data about the audience you’re marketing to.

This is where most people fail because they are impatient and they kill the campaign before the campaign is properly optimized.

By the way, the Facebook pixel is the heart, soul, and brain of Facebook advertising. This pixel tracks data, like website visits, and who interacts with your page and ads on Facebook.

It’s literally the brain of the entire operation, so make sure you create your pixel and get it installed on your website before you do any Facebook advertising.

Don’t be this guy on Facebook

A lot of times when I talk to clients who have failed at Facebook advertising, 99% of the time they fit this description:

  • they are extremely inpatient
  • they don’t know what they’re doing in Ads Manager
  • they’re afraid to spend/lose money
  • they aren’t creative

That’s a bad combination. Don’t be that guy.

If you think in your heart that you fit this description, Facebook advertising isn’t for you.

As a matter of fact, advertising in general might not be for you, and that’s a problem because surviving in a super competitive, volume driven, churn heavy market with word-of-mouth referrals only, where no one knows who you are besides your own personal network — is a slow death.

You are not going to reach the entire state of Texas with a $200/month budget. You’re not going to get 30 leads the first day of your campaign. You’re not going to get people to click your ad if your offer and creative is boring or the same as what everyone else is saying.

Running ads is exactly like going to the casino. You’re not going to win money unless you put money into the machine. If you go into a casino with no money, you’re going to leave with no money.

You have to be willing to risk financial loss to win. The good news is, if you know what you’re doing on Facebook your odds of winning are much higher than a casino’s.

The biggest mistake insurance agencies make with buying ad traffic

The biggest mistake I see business and agency owners making is three fold —

  1.  having the wrong mindset about buying traffic and leads
  2.  not knowing their numbers
  3. not thinking long term

Let me lay out a quick example of what I mean.

If you spend $2,000/mo on ads, that’s $24,000/yr.

How much commission do you need to make before you break even on $24k? Let’s say the average household commission in your market for a personal lines household is $350/yr.

24,000 / 350 = 68.5 households

You’d need to close 68.5 households per year, or 5.7 households per month. That’s not a lot to break even.

I can tell you I personally know several agencies who are closing far more than 5.7 households per month for far less than $2,000.

You need to look at traffic as an investment, not an expense.

An expense is something you never profit from.

Traffic is something that has proven to have a positive return, especially in a market where the clients’ revenue is recurring like insurance commissions. This makes traffic an investment in your business.

Do you think companies like Allstate, State Farm and Geico would spend what they spend in advertising each year if it wasn’t profitable?

A lot of business owners have the wrong mindset with when it comes to this. They want immediate returns for very little, if any money or advertising. That’s not how running a business works.

Let’s just say you broke even year one on your ad spend, guess what, your commission is recurring. You’re making your money the next year. You’re going to be profitable for years, especially if you have a strong up-sell/cross-sell plan in place for those new customers.

Know your numbers, do the math, and think long term when it comes to buying traffic.

Insurance marketing challenges

The challenge with advertising insurance is that in general, it’s a very saturated market. People have heard every insurance offer 12 different ways, to the point where they suffer from offer fatigue, and almost block it out completely.

You have to get creative, and be consistent if you’re running ads for insurance.

If you’re using a general call-to-action like “Get a Free Quote” or “Get a better rate here”, people have heard that a million times, and it’s not a good enough CTA to hook them.

It might work for people who are already problem-aware, but it’s not good enough for cold Facebook traffic.

Bottom line is you need to stand out like a sore thumb in this market, and that’s a combination of your brand (how you look), your messaging, and your offer.

Conclusion — which one should I do, Facebook or Google?

Both platforms want you to succeed so you keep coming back for more, but they’re both also okay with novice advertisers who don’t know what they’re doing spending a ton of money to figure things out too.

At the end of the day, because they serve the consumer at different points in their purchasing journey, you should do both.

There isn’t one that’s really better than the other one. It really depends on your market, and what you sell. You’re not going to sell canes and walkers on Instagram because the average age of the audience there is young. Make sense?

But with insurance, everyone of all ages needs it, so you use both platforms.

Bottom line, you need to catch the consumer when they are in a time of need, as well as disrupt them and turn them into buyers.

When you’re in sales, part of selling anything is doing just that — appealing to people who are not buyers in that moment and making them buyers. Converting cold traffic into cash.

You can’t sit back and wait for people to find you in a search engine when you’re in a  competitive market. You have to be willing to interrupt people and take your message to them.

Yes there are challenges with running ads, as there are with any advertising medium. Advertising and marketing is not a guarantee, but when done right, it can be extremely profitable, and is a necessity no matter what you sell.

There is a lot of talk in our industry about open APIs, automation, and a lot of other noise, but at the end of the day none of that matters if you can’t acquire customers.

Questions? Let us know on whatever social channel you found this on 🙂

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