Pinterest Ads vs Google Ads in 2022

Isaac Hayward
Isaac Hayward
HK Digital Co-Founder
8th December 2022

When it comes to the world of online advertising, everyone almost immediately thinks of Meta and Google. Then you might think of TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, and even Snapchat (especially if the US is a major market for you). 

So how does Pinterest fall into the mix? You might be thinking that I have a profound level of audacity for even considering the comparison of Pinterest Ads vs Google Ads: they are playing entirely different games!

Or are they?

The Common Denominator - Search Intent

Let me explain myself a little better by potentially bridging the gap between Pinterest and Google, and their ad platforms.

When you compare both sites, at first glance, Pinterest and Google aren't anything alike. With Google, you type your keyword into a search bar and a page full of links to related websites pops up. On Pinterest, you type whatever you are interested in at the time into the search bar and you are immediately shown a collage of related linked images.

Perhaps my use of bolding was a bit deceptive here, but if we look at what was just explained, there is a link between the two sites: the use of the search bar.

Both of these platforms are search engines! Obviously, there are quite a few more noticeable differences here than similarities, but the fact that they are both raking in data on user searches that show some sort of search intent should bring about some serious curiosity.

Why is Search Intent so Important?

Search intent is something that only platforms that get high use out of their search bars can offer marketers as a targeting parameter, and this is something that can either help you source quality leads or target people with the intent to purchase.

This is pretty important for any marketing strategy, so let's break this down a bit more.

When someone enters a keyword on Google, they are going to have one of two goals (as far as marketers are concerned):

  1. Getting information about some kind of goal or idea of theirs
  2. Finding the product or service that helps them bring their goal or idea to fruition

While these two categories do cover all searches, there is a middle ground that includes the intent to find their way to a website or brand, and we can't rule out that factor when doing keyword research. The reason being that, with Google, you want to ensure that you are only paying for ads that convert sales.

With social media advertisements, you are targeting users who have shown previous interest, which is also great for conversions, however, where can you find those users who have shown previous intent?

One of the best ways to do so is by pulling people who have searched for something related to your business's products or services to your site and sending your user segment data to your social channels to create custom or lookalike audiences.

The main idea with purchase intent searches is that you can guarantee that most of the clicks that come through are going to be from your ideal audience member: those who want to purchase products or services like yours, and you can use their data to improve your targeting elsewhere.

But What About Pinterest?

If you have read our article on the Pinterest audience, then you know that Pinterest users are high average order value (AOV) customers who like to use the app to get ideas for their own personal projects, across a seemingly endless plethora of interests.

These can range from home improvement (a large reason for Pinterest's surge during the pandemic) to self-improvement, to social activities – people have their interests that they hold dear to them, and they come alive on Pinterest.

What you end up with are user profiles that are largely based on users' highest interests in making positive changes in their lives. Congruently, you have user profiles that have a high chance of converting. To put it into perspective, 85% of Pinterest users who have interacted with a brand's post have made a purchase.

So, even if a user views pins based on their interests within the Pinterest algorithm, there is a lot of intent behind their viewing of that content. The above statistic says it all.

What Does all This Mean When it Comes to Pinterest Ads vs Google Ads?

This means that you can view Pinterest as somewhere in between a search engine and a social media platform in the sense that users browse, but are there solely for interests related to their development – not just zoning out on suggested or followed "entertaining" content.

The platform really is an image-driven search engine at the core, but its UX and audience wildly differentiates Pinterest from Google, which is probably no surprise to you – rarely do I ever hear the two brought up in tandem.

This also spills into the advertising platforms that they offer, where you start to notice that these platforms have almost opposing strengths and weaknesses. The perfect duo?

Let's deep dive into each site's advertising platform and define the differences.

Google - The King of Search

Google is the largest search engine in the world, with 9 of 10 global internet users preferring Google over its competitors. What this results in is 8.5 billion Google searches occurring per day, with the average user running roughly 3-4 daily searches. Do the math and you are looking at 2.5 billion users searching Google every single day!

I could tell you to try and find a site that has further reach than this, but I'd be sending you on a wild goose chase, and which search engine would you use to find this information...? 

The Benefits of Advertising on Google

There are many benefits to advertising on Google. Google Ads can help you reach a large audience with your targeted keywords. You can also use Google Ads to target specific demographics, interests, and even locations. Additionally, Google Ads can be customized to match the look and feel of your website. 

However, if we hold the value of targeting by search intent constant as it is, after all, available on both platforms, it becomes clear that Google's biggest advantage is the overall audience size.

Again, when we are talking about over 30% of the global population using this platform each day, it makes this platform impossible to ignore: if your target audience member cannot be found here, good luck finding them elsewhere.

As a consequence of the platform's vast reach in terms of both businesses and consumers, Google has an immense amount of data to work with in order to improve all of its algorithms and the UX across its array of solutions, and that can be seen in the wide offer that Google has for advertisers.

As a result of their scale, Google Ads is able to offer 11 unique ways to set up a campaign so that you can optimize around a more specific target. 

All in all, Google's platform cannot be ignored because of its scale. Advertisers simply cannot gain access to this many highly-relevant users anywhere else on the internet, making it the ideal place to build out your audiences for campaigns across all other channels while guaranteeing that you are targeting users who want what you sell.

Google's Advertising Limitations

While Google's impressive reach makes it a wonderful platform for both finding leads and generating mass conversions, the platform does have two things that bring advertisers heads out of the clouds and back down to reality:

  1. Campaign setup and management
  2. The cost

The Campaign Setup and Management of Google Ads

Now, if we consider the fact that you have 11 different ways to set up a campaign, deciding on which advertisements to run and test first is already going to eat into your time and, therefore, your budget.

But can't we just try them all?

Sure you can! However, depending on whether you are using a search campaign, display campaign, shopping campaign, or using any of the other methods of placing advertisements, you are burdened with even more options when it comes to the sizing of your creative! Just have a look at how Responsive Display Ads work when it comes to creative.

Lovely that it chooses how to display your assets and copy for you, but is that the best for testing? Even if you want to retain more control over your creative, you still need to produce assets across 12 separate image sizes in order to be able to test all of the different available placements: it is going to be a time-consuming hassle regardless of how you look at this.

And now we can dive into the financials of advertising on Google.

The Cost of Advertising on Google

While Google's cost per click (CPC) still sits lower than Instagram's or Youtube's, the average cost per action (CPA) for ecommerce brands is around $45 for Search Ads and a whopping $66 for Display Ads.

This is significantly higher than most other platforms, with LinkedIn being the only one that comes to mind that can drive up costs faster. Now, it should be mentioned that this can vary greatly depending on your ad creative, your campaign strategy and, most importantly, the competition.

That's right, the reason why you will end up paying so dearly for these advertisements is because every company wants a piece of the platform. Is that something that you can justify missing out on, purely on the high CPA...?

Pinterest - The Image-Centric Little Step-Cousin

Pinterest is one of those social platforms (yes, it is a social media platform first) basically just screaming for e-commerce to commence. With 433 million MAUs who tend to spend more than 2X as much as users of other platforms, you can guarantee that Pinterest has users that can boost your revenue, assuming that your target audience is in line with the specific users that PInterest attracts.

60% of PInterest's global user base is composed of women, and you might be surprised to find out that a whopping 45% of people in US households with incomes over $100K are on the app.

Pinterest is also extremely popular in the US: around half of the users on the app are in the US!

Essentially, while the site isn't as widely popular as some of the big guys on the market, they seem to have a special appeal to people in the US who make over $100K per year, which sounds like quite the opportunity.

How Pinterest's Ads Provide Their own Unique Value

If you ask Pinterest, they will tell you that Pinterest is a great advertising platform because it consistently turns out 2X the ROAS for retail brands, and and overall 2.3X lower cost per conversion in comparison with social media platforms

Their Ads Manager helps you build and organize your campaigns, as well as set up your audience targeting parameters, and they have simplified the process to the point where you can even create your ad from your mobile phone!

With campaign performance at their quoted average and the simplicity of the platform, Pinterest makes for a great additional advertising channel that won't require a ton of time or expertise to manage.

One of the things that makes Pinterest stand out from Google is that it is an image-centric platform, which can be a great place for your creative development to really get its worth.

The reason being: we are programmed to process imagery for the sake of survival. Imagine trying to navigate through a jungle where the plants and animals are represented by words in the same color font and trying not to get mutilated by...name a predator.

When it comes to displaying your high-end creative, Pinterest also offers a plethora of ad formats that work specifically on their platform; so you don't have to worry about dealing with endless sizing requirements and campaign setups!

Pinterest Ads Formats

While working the back end of Google Ads might feel more like programming the world's next hypercomputer, Pinterest offers the simplicity of your general social media ad formats:

Promoted Pins - The most basic type of Pinterest ad, it's a regular Pin with a small “Sponsored” label at the top. Promoted Pins can be used to promote any kind of product or service.

Carousels - Similar to Promoted Pins, carousels allow you to include multiple images in a single ad, just as in any other carousel ad. This can be used to showcase different products, or to tell a story about your brand.

Videos - Short video ads that play automatically when users scroll through their feed. They can be up to 30 seconds long, and can be used to promote products, services, or even just brand awareness.

However, Pinterest takes it a step further and is keeping up with Meta in offering a few other formats that can be very enticing to marketers:

Collections - Showcases your products in a mixture of video and imagery, in a favorable layout, allotting for clicks on any of the individual pieces of content.

Idea - A multi-page canvas where you can mix different media, much like in Collections ads.

You can also convert all of your Pins into advertisements and turn your company's page into a sort of Pinterest storefront!

If you were concerned with being able to showcase your brand in more creative ways, there's no question that Pinterest is keeping up with the trends that similar channels are developing.

The Limitations of Pinterest's Search Intent and Reach

As a visual search engine and social media platform, Pinterest is extremely popular with people who are looking for ideas and inspiration. This is great for businesses that are trying to target consumers with ads for products or services that are related to creativity, home improvement, fashion, etc.

While businesses can target consumers with ads based on their specific search intent, the intent on this platform is likely going to lean more towards an information-seeking intent, which might send them off on a Google search for your brand in the future.

However, this isn't a major issue because there are many interest-based parameters that you can set in your audience targeting, and these work very well because of how Pinterest allows users to modify their profiles to fit their preferences.

Where Pinterest clearly falls short is in the arena of reach.

Back to my closing remarks on Google Ads, the competition is so high for advertising on the platform because of the fact that so many brands rely on it. Why is that?

Perhaps it is the fact that search is by far the main source of traffic for most companies around the world, with Google driving more than 8X the site traffic of all social platforms combined

Conversely, Pinterest is the 15th largest network in the world; not bad, but not enough to utilize Pinterest as your sole source of traffic, making the battle of Pinterest Ads vs Google Ads more like a quick fight between a ninja and a planet.

Sure, Pinterest's sleek and agile creative 'sword swinging' works well for targeting and slaying little sections of the market (largely the US), but Google is the planet in this situation, and its deep access to the global market is going to win every time.

Pinterest Ads vs Google Ads - Apples Fighting Oranges

We all know that Google is the big player when it comes to search engines. And we also know that Pinterest is a social media powerhouse. So, what happens when you pit these two against each other in the world of online ads?

You shouldn't!

Without a doubt, mastering Google Ads should take precedence over squeezing every last drop out of your Pinterest campaigns. However, there isn't any reason why you couldn't pair these platforms in a synergistic manner.

The much lower CPA and campaign development requirements of Pinterest might make it the ideal place to start raking in the revenue that you need to build and run successful Google Ads campaigns, especially if you are specifically targeting the US market!

However you decide to go about building out your channel mix, just remember that you're not deciding between the two; you are deciding if and when to run Pinterest Ads and should have already decided that Google Ads will undoubtedly be in that mix at some point.

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