What is the Difference Between Google Ads and Google Shopping?

Updated: March 13, 2023
What is the Difference Between Google Ads and Google Shopping?

Interested in paid online advertising opportunities? If you’re new to the Google Ads world, you may be lost for choice among the different ad types, campaigns, and tools available to you. Fortunately, like most other digital marketing strategies, there are clear and obvious benefits of knowing the difference between each so you can leverage finite marketing dollars to the campaign type that will give you the best ROI.

Whether you’re signing up for a Google Merchant Center Account for the first time or you’re an expert Google Text Ads copywriter, there’s always more to know about the ins and outs of every digital marketing campaign type. Read on to learn more about the difference between Google Ads and Google Shopping Ads and how to decide which strategy will work best for you.

The Basics of Google Ads and Google Shopping Ads

Find the whole Google platform overwhelming? Not to worry–the Edge Marketing team are an official Google Partner and our experts know the ins and outs of the organic and paid marketing opportunities available to businesses of every size.

Among the more popular terms you’ll see discussed in the digital marketing space, there are:

Google Search Console:

While ‘search engine’ specifically references any online search engine where users can go to find information, product ads, content, and businesses, Google Search Console specifically refers to one of Google’s platforms that website owners and marketers can user to check their website’s search engine performance, SEO, and leverage key factors to boost their online traffic.

Google Ads:

Google Ads is an umbrella term that refers to Google’s online paid advertising platform where marketers can pay for targeted advertising campaigns including text-based ads, video and rich-mage display ads, and more. The key thing to know here is that your Google Ads account and Google Ads dashboard is your access to all of the paid Google Display Ads opportunities–but some additional further paid marketing opportunities (like Google Shopping Ads) will need another account to manage. (More on your Google Merchant Center below.)

Google Analytics:

Yet another platform, Google Analytics lets you deep-dive into all of the information, search engine users, and website visitor behaviour that Google can collect about your business, online presence, and website. A pivotal data set that can help better define all of your marketing efforts, most Google Analytics features can be used for free (like the Keyword Planning tool!) whereas large-scale agencies and businesses can opt for a premium, paid plan.

Google Shopping Ads:

 A fantastic paid marketing opportunity for eCommerce businesses, accessing and running Google Shopping Ad campaigns requires a Google Merchant Account. If you’re running an online shop and have the capability to convert leads to paying customers on your site, you can advertise specific products right on the Google search results page (including product images!) without requiring users to click-through to your site. More on this below–but it’s an effective way to convert warm leads already engaged with your brand online.

Now that you’re familiar with the most common Google terms marketers use in the online space, let’s deep dive into the difference between Google Ad campaigns and Google Shopping campaigns.

When To Prioritise Google Ads

Feel safer trying out Google Ads first? We should mention that Google Ads is often an umbrella term for all of the paid advertising opportunities the Google search engine and platform have to offer. Among the many types of marketing campaigns you can choose from there are: Google search ads, display ads, Google Shopping Ads, and more. For our purposes here, we’ll review text-based Google search ads–the top search engine results that commonly reads ‘sponsored’ when a user searches for your product, industry, or key terms.

  1. Text-based Google search ads:

In short, text-based Google search ads consist of (shockingly) words only. This means that marketers are, ideally, very aware of the keywords that drive interest in their industry or that best describe their products and services as they are searched by target users. For those unfamiliar with ‘text-based ads’ it simply means leveraging Google Ads via a competitive bidding strategy for key terms that will have your business showing as the top search engine result on a relevant page. This top search engine result will read “Ad” or “Sponsored” when it was gained via paid advertising efforts, as opposed to organic SEO. Lastly, it should be noted that unlike Shopping Ads, marketers won’t have the opportunity to add visuals to support their campaign. (At least–not on the search result pages.)

  1. Highly localised product or service:

So when do text-based Google Ads campaigns make sense for marketing teams? If your business, product, or service offering is highly localised, this is a good strategy for you. (Much like Google My Business pages.) Further to that, digital products who have less visual elements to their eCommerce pages who can accurately describe their offer through words are highly suited to text-based campaigns. Beyond that, businesses and websites not interested in setting up a full eCommerce website or managing a Google Merchant Center can opt for this paid marketing opportunity.

  1. Need for high volume search traffic:

Need to drive high amounts of search volume, fast? Google text-based ads is the way to go. By getting your ads up and running ASAP, you can gain meaningful data from real-time search engines users that can then inform more detailed campaigns. From learning which keywords are actually searched by targeted users to find or describe your brand to learning which words best convert leads to click-throughs and click-throughs to sales, you can then better define complementary paid advertising opportunities for a higher return on ad spend–Google Shopping campaigns.

  1. Targeting top-of-funnel leads:

Trying to find, engage, and connect with new target audience members? Google text-based ads is the way to go. Because Google is in the business of connecting search engine users with content, websites, and products that are most relevant to their problems and interests, text-based ads help Google understand what your business and brand are about–and then offer your website as a solution or potential opportunity. While warm leads who are already familiar with your brand, products, and services may convert to paying customers with other marketing strategies, text-based search campaigns can help cast a wider net with potential new leads among an entire online pool of your target market population.

When to Rely On a Google Shopping Ad

Think your products would be better suited running Shopping Ads? Here are a few of the top benefits gained and reasons why you might be better suited to make Google Shopping Ads work when you need to decide between the two.

  1. eCommerce stores, visual products and services:

Are you Insta-famous? Brands that have physical products (including those in the eCommerce space) do incredibly well with Google Shopping Ads because of their visual component–potential buyers can see your product ads without ever having to click on an ad or visit your website. A great way to position your product among a sea of competitors, warm leads who are already looking for what you have to offer can compare available purchases via Google Shopping Ads–and the images included with your product ads can help make you stand out.

  1. Drive sales conversion:

Interested in driving sales? For marketers whose top goal is to convert to increased sales, Google Shopping Ads is one of the most effective strategies to make this happen. Because search engine users are looking for specific products to solve their problem, brands running Google Shopping Ads with specific offers are explicitly offering a solution to a warm buyer lead. While some marketing goals include driving more top-level leads into the sales and engagement funnel, Google Shopping Ad campaigns are designed to convert existing (or warm) leads at the bottom of the funnel to paying customers.

  1. Targeting warm sales leads:

Like we said above–this is a go-to marketing strategy when you want to get very warm leads over the sales line. Because you offer potential buyers a way to view and compare similar products without having to ‘click-through’ your text based ad to glean more information about your offer, they can quickly scan a number of viable solutions that fit their needs. By eliminating the step for search engine users to have to navigate multiple brand websites to scour for products that fit their needs, you cut of the ‘navigating’ middle man step and directly position your targeted product offer on their screen/

  1. Test key terms before running a Google Ads campaign:

Interested in running multiple or consecutive campaigns? If you want more real-time insight into the key terms and products that are driving customers to convert, testing the market with Google Shopping Ads and warm leads is a great way to do it. While gaining meaningful data can take slightly longer than your traditional Google text-based or Google Ads campaign, you will gain live feedback from warm leads and (ideally) eventually paying customers about what converts bottom-of-the-funnel leads. This same data can then inform additional paid advertising efforts (like a Google search ad campaign) with keywords and product offers to attract new leads that you know have eventually converted to sales.

Can you begin to see the difference between the two marketing strategies? Read on to learn how you can leverage both to boost your effectiveness of both Google Ads and Shopping campaigns.

Bringing It Together: Designing Google Shopping and Search Ads

Deciding between one platform or the other? Fortunately, you can leverage one type of Google campaign over the other if you’re working with a limited budget. Here’s how:

  1. For new brands and businesses (or marketers who need more real-time data about their target market to better define their campaigns) Google text-based ads can show huge amounts of search volume about your audience in a short amount of time. By collecting this real-time insight about your ideal user’s online behaviour and keyword use, you can measure which key terms, calls-to-action (CTAs), and marketing offers most effectively resonate with your audience. Further still–text-based ads are a great way to collect leads and get them into your funnel–even if they’re newbies and sitting at the top.
  2. Once you have informed data about your  target market and sufficient leads in the funnel, we recommend creating Google Shopping Ads when you know what key terms, products, and marketing offers best convert your already-engaged (read: warm) leads to real sales. Because it can take more time to gain traction with a Google Shopping campaign, your best bet is to spend money on these campaigns once you know will result in a genuine return on ad spend.

In short: text-based Google Ads are a great way to collect real information about your marketing ideas and target audience; Google Shopping Ads can help you publish highly targeted ads (with the aforementioned data) to warm up leads and convert to sales.

Convert with Google Ads and the Edge Marketing Team

Our Edge Marketing experts are some of Australia’s best when it comes to all things Google, Google Ads, Google Analytics, and more. Helping our clients drive more sales, find better online traffic, and build a solid brand authority status each day, we have the knowledge and experience to work with businesses and brands of every size.

Whether you’re ready to outsource your marketing efforts to an experienced team or need to hack your own marketing efforts with a zero dollar budget, the Edge Marketing team has something for you. Publishing blogs each week that deep dive into popular digital marketing topics like search engine optimisation, PPC campaigns, and Google search engine algorithm best practices, we’re making it easier than ever for every brand to develop, anchor, and boost their presence online.


Mira -

Head of Paid Media

1300 558 659 - www.edgeonline.com.au

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