Google Ads vs Google Shopping: Which One Should You Pick?

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Last Updated on: 7th May 2024, 09:46 pm

When I mention Google Ads, most people automatically think of text ads. But if you’re an eCommerce shop owner, don’t forget about Google Shopping – it’s rapidly rising and now makes up for 76% of retail search ad spend.

In this article, you’ll learn everything about Google Ads vs Google Shopping. How can each ad type help your business grow, and which should you choose?

Let’s take a look!

What’s the Difference Between Google Ads vs Google Shopping? [Comparison Table]

The primary difference is right there in the title – typical Google Ads contain ad copy and no images. On the other hand, Google Shopping highlights visuals.

Google AdsGoogle Shopping Ads
Ad TypeVarious formats, like text, display, videoProduct-specific listings with images and annotations
Audience TargetingKeywords, demographics, interestsBased on search intent
Ad PlacementDisplayed across Google’s networkGoogle Shopping results
Ad DisplayText, images, videosProduct images and details
Campaign GoalsBrand awareness, leads, salesProduct sales
Setup ComplexityCampaign creationYou have to set up your product feed
Keyword BiddingYesNo
CTR ExpectationsVaries by industryHigh because of search intent and all the visible details
Inventory updatesManual updatesAutomatic updates
Product InformationNoDetailed information with images

How Are Google Shopping Ads Displayed?

Google Shopping Ads (previously known as Product Listing Ads) are pretty simple. After signing up for the Google Merchant Centre, you’ll upload your product feed.

The Merchant Centre isn’t solely for Google Shopping ads. You can also use it organically, optimising your product and category pages to appear in the “Top Products” section:

When you advertise your products, Google Shopping ads displays:

  • Product name
  • Product image
  • Price
  • Brand name
  • Reviews
  • Special offer (if applicable)

Google is still testing different placement options for Shopping ads. You may find your ad on the standard search engine results pages, as well as in Google Images and on YouTube.

In contrast, the standard Google ads don’t support images. However, you can include reviews, i.e. Seller Rating ad extension, and other information with ad extensions.

Can You Target Keywords with Google Shopping?

No, Google Shopping doesn’t support keywords. Instead, it groups and serves your ads based on product groups.   

You have some control over which products you group together. Still, the targeting options are limited:

  • Product category levels
  • Product type levels
  • Brand
  • Condition
  • Product ID

In contrast, the primary way to target leads with Google Ads is through keywords. You have more control at the granular level.

How Much Do Google Shopping Ads Cost?

Your Google Shopping ad campaign cost depends on your industry and your competitors.

On average, you can expect to pay $0.66 per click on your Google Shopping ad. (The average CPC for Google Search ads is $1-$2.)

The Benefits of Google Shopping Ads

Google Shopping ads come with plenty of benefits if you need to grow a successful eCommerce business:

Google Shopping Ads Are Perfect for Physical Products

There’s no way around it: Google won’t let you bid on Google Shopping ads unless you have standardised product pictures. (There are even image quality guidelines to ensure Shopping ads look professional.)

In most cases, I wouldn’t recommend using Google Shopping if you offer services or non-tangible products (in fact, Google wouldn’t allow you to advertise these). On the other hand, Google Shopping ads are perfect for businesses selling physical products, like car dealerships.

Google Shopping vs Google Ads: Shopping Ads Give You More Visibility

The very nature of the Google Shopping display gives you more SERP real estate and higher visibility.

Since your products are listed in the search results, people can review the details in the SERP. They can click only when they’re highly interested (resulting in fewer wasted clicks and high-quality leads).

Google Shopping Ads Has a Few Disadvantages

You can’t optimise your Shopping ads the way you’d optimise Search ads, so the average conversion rate is 1.91% (as opposed to the Search ads’ 4.40% conversion rate).

I always tell my freelance PPC consultancy clients to put the conversion rate into the acquisition cost context.

Explanation of the Customer Acquisition Cost (total marketing spend divided by the number of new customers) and Cost Per Acquisition (total campaign spend divided by the number of campaign conversions) in pay-per-click advertising.
Source: Wordstream

If your product isn’t complex (e.g., you sell sandals – not medical products or therapy services), searchers will see the majority of information they need to convert right in the SERP.

You won’t get as many clicks, but you’ll get plenty of impressions and high-quality conversions, maximising your Return on Advertising Spend.

The Benefits of Google Search Ads over Google Shopping

Unlike Google Shopping ads, most businesses can use Google Search ads. Promote your physical products, sell your services, no matter if you want to get accounting leads or plumbing leads.. The list is endless.

Google Ads vs Google Shopping: Keyword Targeting

Keyword targeting is the key reason to choose traditional Google Ads over Google Shopping ads. You can create powerful campaigns if you have in-depth knowledge of your audience and their keyword journey.

In contrast, Google Shopping targets searchers based solely on your product information.

Note that your ads can appear both in Shopping ads, and Search ads at the same time, giving you double visibility on the search results page.

Google Search Ads Offer More Optimisation Opportunities

From setting up your basic Google Ads campaign with 15 different headline options to increasing your conversion rate with ad extensions, Google Ads offers plenty of opportunities to make the most of your performance.

An experienced Google Ads expert has the room to work wonders with Google Ads campaign optimisation and maximise your ROAS.

Higher Customisability

In the debate of Google Ads vs Google Shopping, Google Ads definitely wins the customisability argument.

With more room for your ad content, it’s easier to stand out against your competition.   

It’s likely that you will need both for an e-commerce website.

How to Use Google Shopping and Google Ads in Tandem

Since both Google Shopping and Google Ads offer unique features to help you attract high-value customers, consider using them in tandem:

Promote Your Bestsellers and Most Expensive Products with Google Shopping

Since Google Shopping CPC is often higher than the costs for traditional Search ads, identify your bestselling products with the highest margins. Then, use Google Shopping to promote them. On the other front, opt for Search campaigns for other products which don’t generate as much profit.

Maximise Your Visibility

Use standard Google Ads to attract and convince top and middle-of-the-funnel leads who are still researching products. Then, put Google Shopping to work for bottom-of-the-funnel prospects ready to buy with little persuasion, and make sure your Shopping ads emphasise how you’re better than your competitors.

Strengthen Your Brand

When you say trainers, I automatically think Nike. We’re taught to recall the brand – after all, they’ve been appearing in front of us for decades, becoming a household name.

Google Shopping ads and Google Ads can help you do something very similar.

If you appear in front of leads in different SERPs, you show them that you’re here to stay. Not to mention that you get more conversion opportunities!

More Retargeting Opportunities

Google Ads remarketing is powerful on its own. Still, when you add Google Shopping’s dynamic product retargeting, you can up-sell and cross-sell to your leads and customers at scale.

Google Ads vs Google Shopping Ads: Should You Choose One or Both?

Different ad types offer different opportunities. At a glance, here’s what I recommend:

Choose Google Search Ads when…

  • You’re not selling physical products
  • You can’t fully explain the benefits and value of your physical products through images and brief descriptions
  • You want to target audiences based on the funnel stages
  • You have a longer sales cycle or selling a high-ticket product

Choose Google Shopping Ads when…

  • To be fair, Google Shopping Ads work extremely well for most eCommerce purposes, so I recommend testing them!
  • You have a strong offer in comparison to your competitors (remember: you will be displayed side-by-side!)
  • Your product is too specific to generate searches for it

But for an eCommerce business, the real trick is knowing which strategy leads you to lower acquisition costs and higher conversion rates.

You’ll learn everything you need to know about profitable Google Search campaigns in my best-selling Google Ads book.

If your product’s appearance is your key differentiator, choose Google Shopping. But if you’re ready to generate maximum revenue from advertising, let Google Shopping work with Google Ads in tandem.

Do you want to make your Google Ads work faster? Get in touch with me. In the past 15 years, I’ve helped hundreds of eCommerce business owners grow their revenue with Google Ads.

It’s time to turn your leads into repeat customers!

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