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Youtube Ads vs. Facebook Ads: What’s Better for Your Business?

youtube ads vs facebook ads

“Be seen where everyone is watching.”

That’s the main headline on Youtube’s marketing page for its advertising service.

And it’s true ‒ Youtube is the second most-visited website on the planet, with more than 2 billion monthly users spending a daily average of 8 minutes and 55 seconds on the site. If you advertise on YouTube, you’re putting your product or service in front of the entire world.

The only real competitor to Youtube in terms of reach and accessibility is Facebook, which is the fourth most-visited website on Earth.

With 2.4 billion monthly users who spend an average of 11 minutes and 53 seconds on the site, Facebook’s overall traffic and engagement numbers make it seem like the better advertising platform on the surface... but is this really the case?

This article will answer that question with a deep-dive comparison between YouTube ads and Facebook ads.

Which is better? Here’s the short answer

Before we get into the specifics, I want to give a direct answer to the question you came to this article: are Youtube ads or Facebook ads better for your business?

While I wish I could say the answer was simple, it isn’t.

YouTube and Facebook are both excellent advertising platforms with enormous reach.

Deciding which is best for your business is a choice that depends on a bunch of factors. The answer will change depending on your industry, your marketing budget, the size of your business, your target market, and many other factors.

That being said, I do think Facebook ads are better for small businesses than YouTube ads. 

First of all, Facebook has sharper microtargeting options than YouTube. You can choose to show your ad to more exact age ranges and more exact geographical locations. It also makes retargeting audiences easier, which is vital for experienced marketers.

Facebook is also a social network, where YouTube is a video aggregation site. Seeing an ad for a local business on Facebook feels more natural than seeing an ad for a local business on YouTube. The inclusion of Business Pages on Facebook also makes it easy for local ad viewers to connect with your business within the familiar ecosystem of Facebook. There’s no need for them go off-site when they can follow your page instead.

connect with your business

Facebook’s advertising platform also offers a variety of ad formats that are optimized for certain marketing objectives. If you’re looking to generate leads, build awareness for your brand, encourage a direct purchase, or something else, Facebook has an ad format designed specifically for that purpose.

To cap it off, a study by SocialBakers found that Facebook videos get 40% more engagement than YouTube videos do. If you want your video to get likes or clicks through to your website, Facebook will be more effective than YouTube.

So if you’re just starting out, I recommend trying Facebook ads first.

However, you shouldn’t count YouTube ads out. Despite my position in the last few paragraphs, YouTube ads are the better option for a number of industries and marketing goals.

Here’s my final advice before we dive into the comparison:

Try both.

You won’t know which advertising platform will work best for your business until you try it out.

So give both Facebook and YouTube a try, and prioritize whichever generates a higher ROI.

How are they similar?

Now that my initial recommendation is out of the way, I want to talk about the similarities between the two advertising platforms.

Both have massive reach

Both YouTube and Facebook have over 2 billion unique monthly users. These users also spend an enormous amount of time on each site. No matter where you’re located or what you’re selling, both platforms have plenty of extremely engaged users who will be interested in your product or service.

Both allow for microtargeting

Microtargeting is an essential feature of any modern advertising platform. To generate the highest ROI possible, your ads should be directed at your target market ‒ and only your target market.

For example, if a chiropractor in SmallTown, Kansas is running a promotion offering discount treatments to seniors, they will only want to pay for ads that are shown to seniors who live near SmallTown, Kansas.

age and location of the people who see the ad

Anyone who isn’t a senior living near SmallTown, Kansas won’t be interested in the ad. To save money, the chiropractor will want to use microtargeting to finetune the age and location of the people who see the ad.

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook’s microtargeting options are better than YouTube’s. This is one of the biggest reasons I recommend marketing on Facebook over YouTube. YouTube still has great microtargeting capabilities though.

Both have a variety of ad formats

Both YouTube and Facebook have a few different ad formats to choose from, each of which involves different types of media and serves a different purpose.

The types of ads you’ll be running will depend on your budget and available creative resources. No matter where you’re at in your business’s marketing journey, both YouTube and Facebook have you covered.

Both let you tailor ads to your goals

While all ads are created to inspire people to buy something, there are different sub-goals within that overarching objective.

Some ads are created to generate leads. Others are made to send traffic to your website. And others still are designed to increase awareness of a brand.

Whatever the end goal of your ad is, both YouTube and Facebook let you optimize your ad campaign for that goal.

Neither platform has high intent to purchaseLooking to accelerate your Facebook marketing?

Why do people use YouTube or Facebook?

The answer will change depending on who you ask ‒ but the majority of users go to these platforms to be entertained. They want to escape from their current surroundings for a bit and watch a funny video or see what their friends have been up to.

Most people aren’t going to these platforms to find a service or buy a product.

This means the intent to purchase on YouTube or Facebook will be lower than, say, ads that target certain Google keyword searches.

It’s true that some people go to YouTube to find video guides on how to do something. The intent to purchase might be higher if your ad helps the viewer solve a problem they’re actively looking for a solution to.

A situation like this is an exception though ‒ most ads on YouTube won’t help solve a problem the viewer is presently having, so intent to purchase will remain quite low.

Both have extensive analytics dashboards

If you want deep insights into how your ads are performing, both Facebook and YouTube have you covered. They’ll tell you everything you need to know:

  • How many views your ads have.
  • How much you’re paying per click/view.
  • Which demographics are engaging the most.
  • What your clickthrough rate (CTR) is (if applicable).
  • How much of a video a viewer watched before clicking off.

So if you’re a data-hungry business owner, don’t worry. Both platforms will give you all of the necessary metrics.

The Benefits of Youtube Ads

Now that we’ve discussed the similarities between the two platforms, I want to talk about what each platform does best. We’ll start with YouTube.

You don’t pay for video ads that aren’t watched

As much as you might like your video ad, most people YouTube shows it to would rather not watch it. The vast majority are going to skip it as soon as possible, and only a fraction will end up viewing the whole thing.

YouTube is aware that those marketing on their platform don’t want to pay for these skipped ad “views” that aren’t really viewed at all. To compensate for this, YouTube only charges you for an ad when a viewer shows interest.

What does it mean for a viewer to “show interest”?

According to YouTube, there are three ways a viewer can show interest:

  • Clicking on your ad.
  • Watching the entirety of a video ad that is less than 30 seconds long.
  • Watching at least 30 seconds of a longer video ad.

This leniency on YouTube’s part ensures you only pay for ad content that actually gets watched.

content that gets watched


Credit: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/youtube-logo-red-2672571/

More people watch Youtube with the sound on

If sound is an important part of your video ad, Youtube is the better option.

Because people on YouTube are watching videos, almost all of them will have their sound enabled. Whatever sounds you’ve included in your video ad ‒ whether it be talking, music, or something else ‒ will reach the viewer’s ears.

On the flip side, people on Facebook aren’t usually watching videos. They’re typically scrolling through their news feeds ‒ often in public settings ‒ and many won’t want to turn their sound on to hear a video. If you run a video ad on Facebook, it’s a good idea to add subtitles at the bottom so viewers who watch without sound can still digest your message.

Some YouTube ads are unskippable

If you have a short video ad that you really want people to see, you can opt to run it as an unskippable ad.

Viewers will have to watch your ad before YouTube shows them their video. Because YouTube viewers want to watch their video, they’re highly motivated to sit through your short 5-15 second ad to get there.

This is a good option for brand awareness, as short and unskippable ads are great for providing passive information without asking the viewer to take a specific action.

The Benefits of Facebook Ads

Facebook owns Instagram

When you advertise on Facebook, you also get the chance to advertise on Instagram.

This is huge ‒ Instagram has the highest engagement rates of all social media platforms, and it’s only growing in popularity. The image-and-video-friendly format also makes video advertising on the platform extremely attractive.

This isn’t just my opinion either. The marketing industry as a whole is quickly catching on to how effective video ads on Instagram are.

advertise with Instagram


Credit: https://www.needpix.com/photo/701872/instagram-symbol-logo-photo

According to Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing 2019 report, 51% of video marketers have used Instagram video as an advertising channel ‒ this is up substantially from the 41% that used it in 2018. And of those marketers, 88% said their marketing efforts were successful.

I don’t know about you, but when 88% of professional marketers say something is working for them, I tend to listen.

Video marketers find more success on Facebook.

According to Wyzowl, 87% of video marketers advertised on Youtube in 2019. This is slightly more than the 84% that advertised on Facebook in 2019.

Here’s the kicker though ‒ 85% of video marketers who used Facebook says it’s been successful for them. This is slightly higher than the 80% who said their YouTube advertising efforts brought them success. And remember, Facebook ads include Instagram ads, where 88% found success in their video marketing efforts.

Facebook offers more ad format varietyWant to learn how Dr. Shalabi was able to gain 77 new patients?

Facebook has nine different ad formats to choose from, while YouTube only has six. Some of these ad formats ‒ like lead ads or dynamic ads ‒ are designed specifically for things like lead generation or targeting a prospect who is pretty far along the sales funnel.

While YouTube’s ad formats can certainly be used for these purposes too, they aren’t specifically designed for them. This can make advertising on Facebook better if you’re doing performance marketing (where you’re actively trying to get leads or purchases) instead of brand awareness.

Facebook optimizes video ad bidding options based on view time

When you set up a video ad on Facebook, you’ll have three ad delivery optimization choices to choose from:

  • ThruPlay: This option shows your video to people who are more likely to watch the entire clip.
  • 10-second view: This option shows your video to people who usually watch at least 10 seconds of a video.
  • 2-second view: This option shows your video to people who usually watch at least 2 seconds of a video.

Depending on your video length and marketing goals, you’ll want to choose different delivery optimization options for different ads. An ad that is under 10 seconds long should probably get the 2-second view. If you want viewers to watch the whole video, ThruPlay is your best best.

Youtube Ads: A Brief Overview

Advertising on YouTube is pretty simple. This section will provide a brief overview of the advertising process.

YouTube has three basic ad formats to choose from: video ads, card ads, and banner ads. These formats can be further broken down into six distinct ad types:

  • TrueView Instream Ads. A TrueView Instream ad is an ad that plays before a viewer watches a video. These can be skipped by viewers, but you’ll only pay for a view when a user shows interest.                                                                                                                  TrueView Instream Ads
  • TrueView Discovery Ads. A TrueView Discovery ad appears in the YouTube search results and in the right-hand sidebar of suggested videos. These look just like normal video search results, except for the small “Ad” banner that appears next to the title.


TrueView Discovery Ads

  • Non-Skippable Instream Ad. These are video ads shown before a video starts ‒ just like the TrueView Instream ad. The only difference is that viewers can’t skip these.
  • Bumper Ad. A bumper ad is a shorter non-skippable video that appears before a video starts. These can be a maximum of six seconds long.
  • Sponsored Card Ad. A sponsored card ad is an unobtrusive pop-up that expands into a small call to action card.
  • Overlay Ad. An overlay ad is a banner ad that appears at the bottom of a video.
  • Display Ad. A display ad is an image-based ad that appears above the suggested videos list in the right-hand sidebar.

Once you’ve decided on an ad type and created the ad, you can upload the ad to Youtube.

From here, you’ll need to choose your campaign type ‒ you’ll be selecting the Video campaign if you want to advertise on YouTube. You’ll then need to refine your campaign with a few criteria, like the campaign goal, daily budget, and the date range your ad should run.

Once your basic campaign structure has been fleshed out, you’ll need to choose the network in which your ad appears. Many advertisers stick to the YouTube search results and YouTube videos, though branching out to Google’s display network video partners can also provide favorable results. You’ll then need to choose between a few bid type options.

After choosing your networks and configuring the bid type, you’ll need to tell YouTube a bit more about your target market. To ensure you only show ads to interested viewers, YouTube needs to know the following information:

  • The language your customers speak.
  • The countries your target market lives in.
  • Personal information like gender, age group, parental status, and household income.
  • Their favorite hobbies.
  • What they’re searching for online.
  • How they have interacted with your business in the past.

Now that you’ve defined your target market, YouTube needs to know some information about your ad preferences ‒ which search terms you want it to show up for, whether you want it showing before graphic or violent content, and whether you want it excluded from embedded videos, streaming videos, or games.

And that’s the YouTube advertising process in a nutshell. It’s pretty straightforward ‒ as long as you have a clear vision of your target customer, using YouTube’s interface to hone in on your target market is quick and easy.

Facebook Ads: A Brief Overview

Advertising on Facebook is also pretty simple, although the larger number of advertising options can make things a bit more confusing at the start.

There are nine ad types on Facebook to choose from.

  • Photo ads. This is the simplest ad to create on Facebook ‒ just use a photo from your page and add a bit of text.
  • Video ads. Video ads appear in the news feed as users are scrolling.
  • Carousel ads. A carousel ad uses up to 10 videos or images. They are typically used to highlight different features of one product or different products in a set.
  • Slideshow ads. Slideshow ads are a unique combination of video ads and image ads ‒ you can take a collection of photos and string them together in a video slideshow.
  • Collection ads. These ads are only available on mobile devices. They show a collection of products that users can buy.
  • Instant experience. This is basically an image or video ad that takes up the whole page, though it has a variety of ways to customize it to your end goal.
  • Lead ads. A lead ad is another mobile-only ad. Consisting of an image and a signup button, these help you generate leads by asking for names and email addresses.
  • Dynamic ads. A dynamic ad is an image-based ad that targets users who are especially likely to be interested in a product.
  • Messenger ads. A Messenger ad is a photo, video, carousel, or dynamic ad that is placed in the Facebook Messenger app instead of the main newsfeed.

Once you choose your ad type and create the ad, it’s time to set up the campaign.

The first thing Facebook wants to know is what your marketing objective is. This could be brand awareness, website traffic, conversions, or something else. Facebook will use this information to help structure your entire campaign, so make sure you have a clear vision of what you want from your ad before starting.

The way you structure the campaign is dependent on the goal you choose, so I’m not going to go into too much depth on how the individual goal configurations work here.

After you choose your goal, you’ll need to tell Facebook what your target market is. Just like YouTube, you can fine-tune who will see your ad based on location, age, gender, hobbies, and more.

Once your target market has been defined, you’ll need to tell Facebook which devices and apps you want your ad to show up on. Here are your options:

  • Device type: Desktop, mobile, or both.
  • Platform: Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Audience Network.
  • Ad placement: Decide where the ad should display on each platform ‒ news feed, Stories, right column, etc.
  • Mobile device operating systems: Android, iOS, or both.

After this, it’s pretty smooth sailing. You’ll select your daily budget and schedule, fine-tune your bid strategy, and upload your ad media. Once you hit the Confirm button, your ad will be sent to Facebook for approval. After it’s approved, it will begin showing to users.

Video advertising tips

No matter which video advertising platform you go with, there are some universal fundamentals you should follow when planning and shooting your video.

Keep it short

Whether you’re advertising on Facebook or YouTube, you’re going to be competing with all of the other content, competing for the user’s attention. And remember, this is an advertisement ‒ most users would prefer your content wasn’t in front of them at all.

hold a viewer’s attention

Because of the competition and how unwanted your content is, you’ve got a short window of time to grab and hold a viewer’s attention.

The data backs this up. According to MarketingLand, clickthrough rates were higher on videos that were shorter than 30 seconds than on videos longer than 30 seconds.

So keep the video short.

Get in, make your point, and get out. The viewer will appreciate you condensing your message into an easy to digest format, and you’ll be able to relay the information you want before the viewer gets bored and clicks out of your ad.

Optimize for vertical mobile viewing

A significant portion of Facebook and YouTube users access these platforms on their smartphones. Most of these mobile viewers hold their phones vertically, so you should optimize your video for vertical mobile viewing.


Facebook and YouTube are both terrific advertising platforms. They each have a number of similarities that make them great places to launch an advertising campaign:

  • Both have a reach of more than 2 billion monthly users.
  • Both allow for microtargeting.
  • Both have a variety of ad formats.
  • Both let you tailor ads to your goals.
  • Neither platform has high intent to purchase

Facebook does have some perks that make it a better advertising platform for small businesses. Advertising on YouTube can still bring some terrific results though.

If you’re new to this and don’t know what to do, here’s my final recommendation: start with Facebook, move on to YouTube, and prioritize whichever brings the higher ROI.

final shawn
Shawn Manaher
Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of Ignite Marketing. He's one part local business growth specialist, one part campaign strategizing ninja, and two parts leader of an awesome nerd pack. He won't eat pancakes unless you call them flat waffles.
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