Amazon vs. Google: Dominating the World’s Largest Players in eCommerce

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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There’s a lot of talk about the current Amazon vs. Google rivalry taking place.

For quite some time, the digital ad market was wholly controlled by Google and Facebook. However, as of 2018, Amazon became the third largest ad platform online. Moreover, the company continues to increase its market share in the advertising realm.

In addition to this usurpation, significantly more product searches begin on Amazon today than any other digital destination, generating 66 percent of all new item inquiries. While Google used to reign supreme in this area, the company now only receives about 20 percent of new product searches.

That said, 20 percent still equates to many millions of searches, which is why eCommerce retailers find Google Shopping campaigns so profitable. Additionally, as one might expect, Google isn’t taking Amazon’s encroachment lying down.

At Google’s 2019 Marketing Live keynote, company representatives made some significant announcements pertaining to Shopping campaigns, including an expansion of Showcase Shopping ads and the ability to buy directly from the Shopping interface, thereby reducing friction.

While these two technology titans are busy duking it out, retailers across the web are cheering each side on as both destinations are a sales goldmine.

Given the profitability and ever-expanding sales features of these destinations, now seems like a great time to explore the Amazon vs. Google dichotomy so that sellers can understand how to leverage each to the fullest.

Amazon vs. Google: Ranking Algorithms

At their core, both Amazon and Google are search engines. This means that there are some considerable similarities and differences between the two.

The Google Algorithm

Google’s sophisticated algorithm combs through over 130 trillion pages (as of 2016) to deliver the most relevant and useful results to its users.

While the company regularly makes changes to its algorithm, Google utilizes over 200 differently weighted ranking factors to determine how to arrange pages in its SERPs for each query.

The core of serving up useful search results to users is to understand the intent of their query. Google uses an array of AI and machine learning language models to comprehend user motivations and objectives and deliver the most valuable content possible. Recently, Google’s BERT algorithm update enabled the engine to understand user intent to a greater degree through advances in the previously mentioned technologies.

google logo with bert lettering

When a search is conducted, Google’s algorithm goes to work analyzing pages for keywords, technical indicators, signs of authority and a variety of other signals to determine the usefulness of a page for the user’s intention. Many of these factors are what retailers target with their eCommerce SEO strategies.

With search engines like Google, there are typically three types of queries:

  • Navigational: The user wishes to get to a specific site or page
  • Informational: Searchers are seeking to obtain a piece of knowledge
  • Transactional: The user is looking to conduct a transaction, like making a purchase

This is one of the central Amazon vs. Google differentiators, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Amazon’s A9 Algorithm

Amazon’s algorithm, dubbed A9, is a similar system that works to organically rank products based on various indicators and signals such as keyword relevance. That said, Amazon’s algorithm is far less sophisticated than Google’s, given that it is far more specialized than the latter.

 

Because of the way this engine is structured, there is a variety of Amazon SEO best practices that retailers employ to get their products found by consumers.

While Amazon does work to provide users with the most relevant results to their query, the company supposedly made controversial changes to its algorithm, which boosts proprietary products over those of other sellers. As those who claim to have worked on the effort told The Wall Street Journal:

“Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search—as it had for more than a decade—the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company.”

Amazon has disputed these claims in a statement to Ars Technica, explaining:

“We feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners.”

Regardless of the veracity of these allegations, sellers can optimize their product listings on Amazon to match potential user queries, thereby increasing their chances of surfacing for a given search and earning a sale.

Algorithm Similarities

With the basics covered, there are various similarities between the two systems, including:

  • Retailers can optimize for rankings: Sellers can use eCommerce SEO tactics to optimize their pages and product listings to rank higher in the respective SERPs.
  • Higher rankings equate to more traffic and sales: The higher a retailer ranks in each engine, the more likely they are to generate increased amounts of clicks and conversions.
  • Each uses organic and paid listings: Each search engine features organic and paid results. More on paid ads momentarily.
  • Success requires patience: To rank well on both Google and Amazon, retailers require patience as search engine optimization is a long-term strategy.

That said, there are also some considerable differences that retailers must account for when optimizing for each engine.

Algorithm Divergences

As mentioned previously, Amazon and Google are both search engines. However, each has a different focus, given that Google is a universal engine, whereas Amazon is a specialized engine aimed exclusively at products.

Therefore, each targets a different stage of the sales funnel and requires different optimization techniques.

On Amazon, sellers must optimize their product pages with careful keyword placement and alluring descriptions. Moreover, Amazon takes factors such as sales velocity, product availability and similar elements into account when ranking products.

 

With Google, there are far more facets to optimize as merchants must also target keywords, but creating valuable content is a prime tactic for ranking for such terms. Moreover, Google looks at a site’s load times, domain authority and age, bounce rates, backlink profiles, technical optimization, site security, mobile optimization, user experience and a multitude of other components to establish how well (or not) a site ranks.

However, because of the lack of limitations that retailers have in designing better user experiences, creating long-form content, implementing technical SEO components and the like, sellers have far more optimization freedom when working with Google.

When looking to Amazon, there are explicit constraints for sellers to work within as product detail pages have a predetermined number of fields, conditions on the number of characters and predefined templates that narrow the number of optimization possibilities. That said, some may find these limitations easier to work with, as the boundless nature of Google optimization can be dizzying to some.

While employing tactics for ranking on Amazon and Google requires a much different approach, each poses its own challenges, given the immense competition present on both.

Amazon vs. Google: Advertising Options

Moving on to the Amazon vs. Google advertising dichotomy, as with the two company’s algorithms, both have PPC platforms that enable advertisers to increase the visibility for their offerings. As such, there are once again comparisons and discrepancies to explore.

Types of Google Ads

Given how long Google has been around, the engine has had the opportunity to develop a variety of ad formats for retailers to take advantage of including:

spanx leggings results

  • Text ads: Text-based ads are one of Google’s most used forms, providing advertisers with a headline, description, URL and ability to add extensions, callouts and snippets to enhance performance. These ads show at the top and bottom of the SERPs.
  • Responsive ads: This ad type hands much of the control over to Google as the company will modify an ad to fit in the available space. However, the engine does enable advertisers to create ads with multiple headlines to best achieve campaign goals.
  • Shopping ads: These adverts comprise the majority of the company’s ad revenue as their effectiveness for retailers is unparalleled in Google ads. Shopping ads (and Smart Shopping ads) showcase item titles, descriptions, prices and images at the tippy-top of the SERPs, even above text ads. With this ad type, retailers can compellingly promote products to increase sales.
  • Showcase Shopping ads: This ad type is like traditional Shopping ads in that it shows a product’s name, description and image in the SERPs. However, when users click on the advert, it expands to show a catalog of relevant products. Additionally, these Shopping ads show for broad, non-branded, commercial searches.

While there are other Google ad types that merchants can utilize (like remarketing, display, YouTube, etc.), these are some of the most common ads for eCommerce stores to leverage.

Types of Amazon Ads

Amazon, being much newer to the advertising game, has far fewer ad types than Google. That said, when exploring Amazon advertising statistics, the average Amazon ad conversion rate is 9.47 percent, as opposed to Google’s average of 3.17 percent. This discrepancy is likely attributable to the fact that Amazon users are often actively looking to buy.

 

The main ad types that Amazon offers include:

  • Sponsored Products: Amazon Sponsored Products are a keyword-targeted advert that surfaces above or below the product SERPs, in addition to on product details pages. Recently, Amazon enabled these adverts to also target specific products and categories, much like Product Display ads.
  • Sponsored Brands: These ads display as a headline banner across the top of the product SERPs. Also, a keyword-targeted PPC advert, Sponsored Brands enable merchants to showcase three or more products simultaneously.
  • Product Display: This ad type shows in the sidebar beneath the “Add to Cart” button and at the bottom of various product details pages. Product Display ads are targeted based on selecting specific products, categories or consumer interests. Using this ad format, sellers can surface ads on competitor product pages, or on their own listings to help upsell and cross-sell.

Advertising Similarities

While Amazon and Google have different ad types that meet different needs for advertisers, each shares a common set of similarities. Across Amazon and Google, each platform leverages ads that:

  • Uses a cost-per-click model
  • Target various keyword match types (broad, phrase, exact, negative)
  • Feature automated services
  • Are organized by ad group
  • Display above and below the organic SERPs

However, their basic elements are essentially where the similarities between the adverts end.

Advertising Differences

While each ad service can be utilized to promote merchant products, Amazon and Google Ads have distinct capabilities and features that differentiate the two platforms substantially.

Firstly, because Amazon shoppers are naturally lower in the sales funnel, the main objective of Amazon ads is to convert consumers directly. Moreover, these ads are contained in that they never lead consumers to a different website.

Speaking to Google ads, these promotions send users to an advertiser’s dedicated website. As a result, Google tends to prioritize click-through rates by developing adverts that grab a consumer’s attention.

While both platforms utilize different keyword match types, Google also features modified broad match. This match type toes the line between broad match and phrase match by allowing broad match to become more specific through enabling ads to surface for word abbreviations, acronyms in singular and plural forms, as well as misspellings.

 

Similar to this, but still different, Amazon recently introduced new targeting options for Sponsored Products, which allows merchants to target closely and loosely related search terms, in addition to complementary and substitute products.

When speaking to the analytics components of the platforms, Google provides retailers with much more in-depth information as the ads often send users to the merchant’s website. Because of this, sellers can track user data like geographic location, demographic metrics, on-site behaviors and tons of other relevant information that Amazon does not provide its sellers access.

With Amazon, retailers are limited to data such as purchase history, returns, conversion data and the like. However, this information can only be collected if the user converts. The same cannot be said of Google.

Even though both are search engines that feature a PPC platform, the Amazon vs. Google dichotomy is a stark one as each destination has specific aims.

With Google’s universal engine, there is much more to account for in terms of optimization and advertising efforts. Through Amazon, the limitations implemented on sellers can make it difficult to compete and stand out among the ocean of other sellers.

Yet, despite their various differences and similarities, both are essential components to attaining success in the highly-competitive eCommerce arena.

Because of how ferocious the online sales industry has become, merchants need all the advantages they can possibly procure. If your brand is looking to gain the edge in either of these search engines, reach out to Visiture’s paid advertising and eCommerce SEO professionals to develop a strategy for generating more clicks and conversions–no matter the platform.

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