Unless you have lots of money, you’re probably picky about where you spend your advertising dollars. Three popular online advertising programs are Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Facebook Ads. Figuring out which is best for you is like solving a Rubik’s Cube: there are many sides and angles to consider. Understanding how these advertising programs are similar and different will help you make the best decision for your business.

The Similarities

Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Facebook Ads are all similar in that they reach online and mobile users with targeted advertising campaigns. Each provides tools to measure the success of your campaigns with analytics and conversion tracking. Beyond that, Google and Bing offer similar search-based advertising campaigns, while Facebook’s offerings are in-app.

Google AdWords and Bing Ads

Google AdWords and Bing Ads offer ads targeted to customers who are already in the process of searching for a product they want. When they type in certain search terms or keywords, ads for related businesses show up in the search results. So if a user searches “essential oils in Seattle,” essential oil businesses in Seattle that have paid for an ad campaign will show up somewhere on the search results page (the exact location depends on the amount spent on your keywords).

What’s great about this is it’s targeted specifically to customers who are already looking for something related to your business. You know the results will be relevant to them because they had to actively search for something in Google or Bing, so you’re not spending money reaching people who might not care about how lavender oil relieves pain.

Where Google and Bing differ is in their cost and market share, and here’s where you should consider your priorities. Google has on average a higher cost per click (CPC, one way of billing for advertising) but has a wider reach. According to Hello Spark, Google controls the majority of the market share at 67%, but in some sectors, the CPC can cost up to 70% higher than on Bing. If you want to reach a wider number of people and have the money to do so, Google is the place to go.

But because Bing has a smaller market share, you’re competing with fewer companies for attention. You may get fewer impressions in total, but you’re sharing those impressions with fewer competitors and paying less to do so. Bing also allows for optimized ad scheduling strategies, so you can set different campaigns to reach different time zones, and it offers more robust mobile targeting for customers who may prefer to use mobile devices. Another advantage Bing has over Google is that it allows for setting a monthly budget for a campaign, whereas Google only allows a daily budget.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads function differently from Google AdWords and Bing Ads because they don’t require the viewer to do an online search to find your company. You can choose specific groups to deploy targeted ads—say, Facebook users who are fans of the Seattle Mariners, or Facebook users who live in Los Angeles. Because your ad simply pops up for them without the need for a search, Facebook Ads are great for generating brand awareness. People might not be thinking about stationery at the time the ad shows up, but if they see the ad enough they’ll remember it later, or they’ll visit your Facebook page and follow you so they can remain up to date on your business.

Another factor to keep in mind is that Facebook sessions tend to last longer than Google search sessions, and people often to go back to their own Facebook pages multiple times in a day. Even if they don’t notice your ad the first time, they’ll be more likely to notice it when it shows up more than once.

However, the most important thing to remember is that a person has to be a Facebook user to see your ads. This means if your customers aren’t on Facebook, they won’t see your ads.

The Best Paid Search Platform for You

Ideally, you could afford all three advertising platforms and use them to complement each other. But if you can’t, consider who your main audience is (are they active on Facebook? do they prefer using Google or Bing for online searches?), what your needs are and what your budget is when deciding which platform to go with. You can always change your approach—keep a close eye on the traffic that results from your campaign to ensure you’re using the platform that’s right for your business.

Barb Dittert is a Volume Nine SEO contributor to the Connectivity blog.