Google used to be the only go-to resource to find products or services online. This left businesses with no other choice but to try their best to make their website Google-friendly in the hopes of getting more visibility than the competition. Thus, “to be found online” represented mostly Google and optimizing for it.
Today, Google reigns supreme; however, social media platforms are becoming more business oriented, and Amazon is providing retailers other alternatives to get exposure. In turn, more visibility represents more opportunities to convert and drive sales.
Retailers love Amazon due to its low barrier to entry, flexibility, and scalability options without having to have a big team of developers or designers. Buyers love its fast and free shipping, user friendliness, and variety of products available in one place.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that Amazon is climbing their way to the top of the retail world. According to a survey, now 55% of people in the U.S. start their online shopping trips on Amazon—a 25% increase from last year’s survey.
Although it may be frustrating trying to learn different techniques for different platforms and struggling to figure out which is best, the competition between Amazon and Google is actually benefiting all businesses. Each player will feel the pressure to offer more affordable advertising options, more advanced features, or other innovations that can benefit retailers even more.
Optimally, using both Amazon and Google advertising would be best, but if you have to choose one, this guide will help you make an educated decision that suits your business and its stage. Here, we’ll explore their ad similarities, differences, and benefits to discover which may be right for different case situations. Let’s get started!
About Google Shopping Ads
Google shopping ads, or product listing ads, are Google’s paid shopping campaign program designed to showcase and promote products. As you can see below, they are located on top of paid search ads and organic listings. They show a product image, price, seller’s name, and other details such as shipping information.
If you keep scrolling to the right, you’ll stumble upon a “view all” link that takes you to a page like the one below. You can also find this view if you click on the “shopping” tab next to the images tab.
Here, you can filter your results according to different categories and get more information about each listing when you click on it to expand.
This expanded version looks a bit more similar to Amazon with the star rating. Like paid search ads, shopping ads are pay per click or PPC. In other words, advertisers pay every time a user clicks on an ad. After the user clicks on an ad, they are taken to the advertiser’s landing page. This detail may seem obvious, but it’s good to point out because, unlike shopping ads, Amazon ads don’t take users outside of Amazon.
Unlike paid search ads, shopping ads can’t be controlled with keywords. Google decides what to show based on information provided by the advertiser. This information is located in the product data feed submitted through the Merchant Center to create ads.
About Amazon Ads
Amazon offers its own advertising platform where Amazon sellers can promote their products and drive sales. It offers different types of ads, and not all of them are available to every seller. For this reason, it’s important to understand the difference between first party seller (vendor) and third party seller to make educated decisions.
First party sellers or vendors sell their supply in bulk to Amazon and use the Vendor Central instead of Seller Central to manage all their activities. In other words, the products go from being owned by the vendor to being owned by Amazon. You can only become a vendor by invitation.
On the other hand, third party sellers sell their inventory to Amazon customers through the platform and use the Seller Central. This means that products go from being owned by the seller to being owned by an Amazon customer (when purchased). In this case, Amazon doesn’t have ownership over the seller’s products, even in the case of Fulfillment by Amazon or FBA. The platform just works as an intermediary.
Now, let’s take a look at different ad formats and how they can be used. There are three main ad formats: Amazon Sponsored Products Ads, Amazon Headline Search Ads, and Amazon Product Ads (a.k.a. “Product Display Ads”).
Amazon Sponsored Products Ads
Ad Placement: These type of ads are located at the top, right side, and bottom of search result pages. They can also be found on detail pages.
As you can see in my research for headphones above, sponsored ads take up much of the results page, pushing down all the non-paid listings. They also cut the non-paid listing real estate by the end of the page (not shown here), where you can find a couple of sponsored listings. To the regular shopper’s eye, these ads seem native. Honestly, if I wasn’t helping other businesses sell on Amazon, I would have thought those were regular listings.
Ad Availability: Sponsored product ads are available for both third party sellers (3P) and vendors (1P).
Cost: They are pay per click or PPC. The minimum budget is $1 per day.
How they are triggered: These types of ads are triggered by keywords. Advertisers can choose between automatic or manual keyword targeting. With automatic targeting, Amazon’s algorithm does all the work for you to target relevant searches. With manual targeting, advertisers choose the keywords they see fit.
Similar to Google’s paid search ad, Amazon offers advanced match types such as phrase and exact match. In addition, you can add negative keywords to avoid showing your ad for certain phrases.
- Professional seller account.
- Ability to ship to all U.S. addresses.
- Products must be new.
- Listings are eligible for the Buy Box.
Amazon Headline Search Ads
Placement: Headline search ads appear across the top of search results.
As you can see above, headline ads appear above the sponsored ads and showcase products one next to the other. This is because these types of ads allow retailers to advertise multiple ASINs (Amazon Standard Identification Numbers) at once: three ASINs, to be exact.
Ad Availability: They’re only available to Amazon Vendors.
Cost: You have the option to set up an average daily budget (at a $1.00 minimum) or a campaign budget ($100.00 minimum).
How they are triggered: Headline ads are triggered by keywords. If you’re unsure which keywords to add, you can use the keyword traffic indicator to get ideas of potential keywords. This indicator works similarly to the Google Keyword Planner, in that it suggests keywords based on impression volume.
It also takes into consideration the relevance of ASINs selected for the campaign: high, medium, and low traffic. Amazon recommends choosing medium and low traffic keywords because they offer better chances of winning the competition than popular ones.
- AMS brand page
- Custom URL (made of three parent products)
- A best-selling product
Amazon Product Ads (a.k.a. “Product Display Ads”)
Ad Placement: They are not to be confused with the Sponsored Product Ads we discussed earlier. Product Display Ads are typically displayed on product detail pages below the Buy Box and the “other sellers” section.
Availability: Only available for vendors.
Cost: Minimum CPC is $0.02 and begins with a campaign budget as low as $100.
How they are triggered: Unlike sponsored product ads and headline search ads that are only triggered by keywords, this type of ad can be either product-targeted or interest-based and can live on your (or a competitor’s) product detail pages.
With product-targeting, you’ll want to target complementary or competitive product detail pages that shoppers may visit to purchase products. Using interest-based targeting, select shopper interest categories to reach a broader audience.
Requirements: Be a vendor.
How Google Shopping and Amazon Ads Are Similar
For simplicity, when referring to Amazon ads we’ll just focus on sponsored ads, which are one of the most popular types of ads used by sellers.
Google Shopping and Amazon ads have various similarities. To start, let’s talk about their ad display. They both allow sellers to display product images, pricing, description, shipping, and star rating. The last two features are more common on Amazon ads, but we can also find some shopping ads having stars and shipping information.
Next, let’s discuss pricing. They are both pay per click, or PPC, and allow you to advertise with small budgets. Also, they both usually show on top of organic listings and share the ad space with other competitors’ products. Finally, they both require some level of optimization using best practices to maintain visibility for the best cost.
How Google Shopping and Amazon Ads Differ & How to Determine Which Is Better
Now, let’s discuss how Google Shopping and Amazon ads differ. Let’s start by discussing user experience. With shopping ads, the user is taken to the advertiser’s site. Instead, with Amazon ads, the user is taken to the product detail page and never leaves Amazon.
There are several benefits of taking a user to your own website. First, it can help increase your website’s monthly traffic. Additionally, it can give you the opportunity to show other products in your store to the user, with the hope of increasing the value of the purchase. It can also provide brand awareness and give you the chance to capture the user’s information without a conversion. This can be accomplished with the help of a newsletter subscription pop-up.
On the other hand, with Amazon ads, if there’s no conversion, you won’t be able to capture the user’s information and the user will probably leave without knowing your brand. Thus, if you’re looking for brand awareness, Google shopping ads may be your best choice.
Other things to consider are the different levels of control each platform offers. With shopping ads, Google has most of the control by choosing what ads to trigger based on your product data feed. Instead, with Amazon ads, you’ll be able to use keyword targeting and advanced matching options to have a higher level of control about when your ads are shown.
Pricing is another important point to consider. On Amazon, price is king, so you may have to sell your products for a more affordable price than with Google shopping ads. Lowering your prices may be tough if you’re already working with a slim profit margin. In any case, make sure you can still be profitable using any platform.
Consider all these differences and similarities while taking your goals into consideration. In an ideal world, both are recommended so you can beat the competition in both platforms and get more exposure, but, if you have to choose one, take all this information into consideration to make an educated decision.