How Google Shopping Ads are different from Search and Display Ads

The basics

It’s 2019 so I will assume you have probably used Google’s “Shopping” engine to buy a physical product online. If you want a complete guide to help you to figure out what Google Shopping Ads (GSAs) are, their benefits and basic setup, I’d recommend visiting Neil Patel’s blog.

Here I’m going to focus on the main pain points you’ll need to keep in mind before getting your hands dirty.

How they work, in a nutshell

Your products live in some sort of an eCommerce platform. These are passed onto your Google Merchant Center account in the form of a Product Feed. Then, from your Google Ads account, you create a new “Shopping Campaign” that pulls the information from your Google Merchant Center and displays your Ad in the form of a “product” (with image).

Please note:

  • Product Feed: This is basically a catalogue that contains all your products’ information such as Title, Image URL, Price, Description, Category, Rating, etc. It can be manually downloaded from your eCommerce platform as a CSV and then uploaded to Google Merchant Center, but ideally, you want to set up an automatic process.

  • Google Merchant Center: Just another Google service that stores your product feed and makes it trustworthy by linking it to formal business.

  • One of the two main challenges when setting up Google Shopping Ads is handling the following process:

eCommerce platform -> Product Feed -> Google Merchant Center

Choose your eCommerce platform wisely

Different eCommerce platforms will handle the previous process in different ways. On one end you have modern platforms like Shopify where you can skip the whole process by connecting your shop directly to the Google API. Pretty cool, right? On the other end, you have less sophisticated platforms such as WooCommerce for WordPress where you will have to install a compatible plugin and then map the Categories accordingly. Pretty painful, right?


How they are different from normal ads

Extra Layer in structure

Probably one of the most obvious (but no less important) areas in which GSAs are different from Search Ads is the way they are organised. As you probably already know, a normal search campaign would have the following structure:

Campaign > Ad Group > Text Ad

In contrast, a Google Shopping Campaign’s structure will look like this:

Campaign > Ad Group > Product Group > Product ID

This extra layer in the depth of organisation comes in handy especially when you are promoting hundreds of products in the same account.

Product Groups are subdivisions created based on certain product properties like Brand, Category, Condition, and so on. Ultimately you want to subdivide at the Product ID level so that the bids are more precise (and effective).

Keywords and bidding

Below, in my opinion, is the second most challenging concept to grasp when setting up GSAs.

These are two important points that need to be addressed together. Firstly, in GSAs you cannot add keywords to your Ad Groups. Secondly - and consequentially - in GSAs you cannot bid on keywords.

Now the obvious questions:

  • So where do I add my keywords? In the product’s title (on your eCommerce platform).

  • What can I bid on? Ad Groups, Products Groups, and ultimately, Product IDs.

Negative keywords

Ok, I just lied to you - partially.


In fact, you can add Keywords to your Google Shopping Ad Groups, as long as they are Negative Keywords.

This is super helpful to come up with Grouping Strategies for Ads and Products and essentially to avoid wasting money while reaping all the benefits from Google Shopping Ads (stay tuned for the next blog about strategies).

Most important point

Google Shopping Ads require a bit of set up that could be avoided by choosing a modern eCommerce platform. After the setup, it is important to understand that Google Shopping Campaigns are different from normal campaigns in structure, keywords and bidding options, among others.