Millennial gardeners are the customers of the future, so it’s crucial to understand their needs.

So, you want to advertise online after realizing that newspaper ads aren’t working. It’s overwhelming when you first look at it, so let’s break it down.

There are two dominant platforms: Facebook ads (also known as “paid social”) and Adwords (the ads that appear when you enter search terms on Google). They operate completely differently.

Here’s the key difference: Facebook ads are based on who people are, while Google Adwords are based on what people are looking for.

The basics


These are monsters. Facebook has 2 billion members or “monthly active users.” Google boasts billions of searches a day.

Cost-per-click (CPC): This is the standard currency of online ads, sometimes known as pay-per-click. Facebook’s CPC averages $0.45 for the retail industry. Google’s CPC is usually a few bucks depending on the demand for the word. One of the most expensive terms, “insurance,” can cost about $50 per click.

Purpose: Google ads are best for immediate sales, often from an online store. Facebook is better suited for brand awareness and expanding your customer base.

Comparison #1 — Set Up:

If your garden center has a Facebook page (if you don’t have one, stop reading now and make one), you’re set up for one of the most basic forms of Facebook advertising, “boosting.” Here’s what to do:

Click the blue BOOST button to the bottom right of the post.

Build an audience. Choose gender, age (remember that Facebook is a slightly younger audience that , and region (you can pinpoint it exactly).

Add demographics (ex. parents of school aged children, aged 6-8), interests (ex. organic gardening,) and behavior. The depth of the data here depends on your country (U.S. advertisers have access to more information).

Set a budget, lifetime of the ad, and off you go.

You’ll be able to check metrics by clicking under the ad. Warning: Facebook ads are addictive. They also work, and as you see results, $10 per ad will turn to $100 to $500. Make a monthly budget reflective of your projected sales and stick to it.

Google Adwords is a more complex set-up. I’m not going to get into it because, unless you have in-house tech talent, it’s not DIY.

If you want Adwords, there will be an SEO agency down the block wanting to work with you. For most garden centers, unless you have a large e-commerce store, I don’t recommend it.

Comparison #2 — Targeting:

If you want to buy a pair of shoes online, you’re likely to Google “sneakers size 11” or “men’s shoes good for jogging.” These search terms will yield products that match exactly, because companies have lined up thousands of search terms in anticipation of your search.

On Facebook, that same shoe company might target men, aged 16-30, who like sports and live in certain geographical areas. But they can’t target specifics, so Adwords is the better match.


Comparison #3 — Cost:

Adwords is priced based on supply and demand, like I mentioned earlier, and can be expensive. Garden center websites are focused on contact information, education, and thought leadership. E-commerce is picking up steam, but it’s still not the industry’s driving force.

Cost-per-click to drive people to your site from a Facebook ad is a fraction of the cost of adwords, as little as a dime if your post is engaging enough. If you’re telling people about a sale, asking them to sign up for a workshop, or just inviting them to read a blog so they sign up for your email list, Facebook is your platform.

The bottom line for garden centers:

It’s not cost-effective to drive customers to your product pages via Adwords just to look at them. You’re paying per click (usually a few bucks), so unless you have a solid e-commerce strategy in place, avoid getting into the weeds.

You need to be in Google’s good-books, but that’s a story more about local search engine optimization (SEO) strategy than Adwords, and another article.

In my opinion, Facebook is the best place to invest your advertising dollars. Boost your most engaging posts (they’ll have the best ROI), and target people in your sales area interested in gardening.

Start small, with $10 and $30 posts. I typically target women aged 27 and up within 15 miles of my garden center. Be consistent, stay within your budget, and you’ll be playing Facebook like a videogame in no time!

Rob is co-owner of Salisbury Greenhouse, an independent garden center based in Alberta, Canada, and founder of Craft Marketing, a lean digital agency specializing in content marketing for independent businesses.