Google Shopping vs Google Search Ads: Key Differences

Some of you might be wondering which is better between Google Shopping and Google text ads. The short answer is, neither. In fact, both campaign types can run at the same time. One doesn't exclude the other. 


It all comes down to your business and what products or services you sell. We’ll go over the differences between the two, unique advantages they offer, and secret option number 3 - using both at the same time! 





Table of Content


What’s the difference between Shopping ads and text ads?

Using Shopping ads and text ads together 

Pros and cons of Shopping ads and text ads



What are the differences between Shopping and text ads?


While you’ll see both ads when making a search on Google, there are some important differences between the two. 


Text ad basics


Google text ads allow you to advertise both your products and services as search results. These are the ads you see without images, but offer additional ad extensions. This allows the advertiser to show more content and more chances to call out potential promotions and unique sales points. 


Using the location extension gives shoppers information that Shopping ads can’t, like your physical location and opening hours. 


Unlike Shopping ads, you’re able to choose when you want your listing to show by bidding on keywords. Depending on which keywords you choose, you can target shoppers who are closer to the deciding stage of the buyer’s journey since they’re looking for something specific. 


They’ll typically show right above and below the organic results. Often there will be 3 or 4 grouped together, but this can vary depending on the search.


Shopping ad basics


Google Shopping ads are the ones you see showing images. They appear most commonly at the top of the SERP and also have a dedicated tab. As we mentioned, you won’t be able to bid on specific keywords, but by submitting optimized feed with detailed & accurate titles descriptions, and a negative keywords list you can still influence who is finding your ads. 


Google shows up to 30 Shopping Ads (formerly product listing ads) on desktop and up to 15 on mobile. Now, while your products can appear as Shopping ads more than once, only one search ad per advertiser can show up at a time. This means that you can show multiple results in Google Shopping, but only one in search.


How do Shopping ads perform in comparison to text ads?


A study by Merkle in 2018 showed (sign up required) that Shopping ads were dominating compared to other search ads. At that time, Shopping ads amounted to 60% of all clicks for Google paid advertising. And in their most recent study, they’ve found that this number has basically stayed the same.





However, another study by Clutch found that 49% of the people they polled were more likely to click on a text. In comparison, 31% would click on a Shopping ad instead (the other 16% went to video ads).


Back to the Top or Learn more on How to Build Successful Search Campaigns

Using Shopping ads and Search ads together


In a lot of cases, you don’t even need to choose between the two. Instead, maximize your visibility by combining Google Shopping and text ads. The interesting thing for you, as said, is that text ads can show up alongside Shopping ads. 


In fact, Google ran a study showing that shoppers who viewed both shopping ads and text ads from a retailer are 90% more likely to go to their website. So, imagine your products showing up multiple times in Shopping plus as a text ad, all at the same time. Well, you would really be the king of the SERP! 




In the image above, you can see that Nearly Natural appears 3 times on the SERP (search engine result page). They have 2 Shopping ads and one search ad. Showing for both makes the advertiser’s message stronger and more prominent than the others. 


In the case of the screenshot above, you can see that some ad extensions are showing alongside the search ad. Potential customers can see at a glance what other artificial plants the advertiser is selling. If they had a physical store location that would also be really important to show here as well. 


As you can see there are many reasons why you would want to advertise with both Google Shopping and text Ads. Let's recap them:


  • Greater exposure and visibility
  • Give competitors less space on the SERP
  • Reinforce your branding message and image
  • Strengthen your promotional message. More text to use, more content to show
  • Use ad extensions to add relevant information and call out other products, promotions, and more 


In order to really get the most out of Google Shopping and Search Ads combined together, we recommend you implement feed-driven text ads. We covered the topic extensively in our previous posts.


Back to the Top or Learn how to place free product ads on Google

Google Shopping or Google Text Ads?


There are certain circumstances when you can't (or shouldn’t) advertise on both. Let's take a look at each type of ad. 


When you should choose text ads:


If you advertise anything else other than physical products available to buy online, you can't advertise on Google Shopping (there are a few exceptions like software subscriptions and mobile contracts). Think of services like lawn care and moving companies. 


In fact, Google Shopping is designed for online retailers, not for services. If you only sell flights or hotel rooms, you can't advertise on Google Shopping. You might want to check out Google Hotel Ads instead.


If you sell yoga lessons or language classes, unfortunately, Google Shopping is not for you either. Also, keep in mind that Google Shopping shows images as well as text. Therefore, additional policies apply.


In fact, Google doesn't accept images showing shocking content, nudity or violence. It is the case of book covers for instance. Although books are allowed to be advertised on Google Shopping, if the cover image doesn't comply with the policies, unfortunately, that specific book can't be advertised.


If this sounds like an issue you might run into, you can advertise it on search as the cover image wouldn't show.


Text ads will also benefit you if most of your business is run through a physical shop. You’ll be able to advertise your phone number, opening hours, and even stop your text ads from showing at times when you’re closed. That way you won’t be wasting any of your budget on unnecessary clicks.  

Case Study: Increase Your Conversions by 610% with Automated Search Ads

So, to sum it up, choose text ads when:


  • You’re selling services rather than physical products
  • You’re selling lessons or tickets 
  • The images related don’t comply with Google’s policies



When you should choose Shopping ads:



The previous instances were mainly about policies and things you can't do as you wouldn't be allowed by Google rules. But if none of those policies apply to the products you want to list then Google Shopping could be right for you. 


In fact, there isn't really any case where you can advertise on Google Shopping and you can't on Search. There are instances however where you advertise on Google Shopping but we simply wouldn’t recommend advertising on Search as well (although you would be allowed to do so). 



That would be times when advertisers are selling niche products that probably won’t generate a ton of searches. It also includes products that have long and complex names that shoppers aren’t going to remember, or even be searching for, to begin with. 


Back to the Top or Learn more on How to Build Successful Search Campaigns

Pros and Cons of Search Ads and Google Shopping


That being said, let's go over all the pros and cons of text ads vs Google Shopping and vice-versa.


Pros of using text ads


  • Prominent on the search engine result page
  • Great visibility
  • More text and more content
  • Your ad might be bigger than your competitor's if you use all the lines and ad extensions
  • Ad extensions
  • Give more chances to get a clickthrough


Cons of text ads


  • Not suitable for products with long and complex names
  • More complex to implement than Google Shopping
  • CPC might be more expensive than Shopping


Pros of Google Shopping


  • Easier to implement for a high number of products
  • No need for keywords, potentially more chances to show your products
  • Usually, Shopping ads are more engaging than search ads as they show an image as well
  • CPC can be relatively cheap compared to search


Cons of Google Shopping


  • Only suitable for online retail businesses
  • Strict policies around image content
  • Ads show limited content
  • All ads are of the same size. Hard to stand out from competitors


Back to the Top or Learn how to place free product ads on Google



Both Google Shopping and Text Ads have their pros and cons. The first step for you to master these two ad types is to be aware of their benefits and limitations. 


Our recommendation is to always use both whenever you can. If for any of the reasons explained above, you are not able to take full advantage of the two combined, make sure you use at least one at its best.

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