Google Shopping vs Google Ads: The differences you need to know

Thinking about the difference between Google Shopping vs Google Ads sends me back to school, more specifically my primary school maths lessons, where among a whole list of things that I’ve largely forgotten, we had the pleasure of learning about the “Part-Whole Model”.

The Part-Whole Model, if you’ve understandably forgotten, helps explain the relationship between the “whole” and the different components that come together to help form the parts of that whole.

The reason why this topic sends me back 20+ years is because Google Ads and Google Shopping, albeit a little more loosely, fit this concept pretty well.

Google Ads is formed by a variety of different networks that allow you to advertise your business to your desired audiences through a variety of different mediums. This includes the search network, display network, video network, app network, and yes, the shopping network.

On the other hand, Google Shopping is a network within Google Ads that allows you to advertise your products via Google while giving users a preview of your price, product visual, and delivery/returns policy among other factors that would influence a buyer’s decision making.

So while Google Shopping and Google Ads can sometimes be used interchangeably, the two are primarily distinguished by the multifaceted, all-encompassing nature of Google Ads itself.

At Embryo, we have successfully run campaigns for our clients across all of these networks.

The best starting point for selecting the networks you want to advertise on is gaining a true audience of who you are and understanding their habits. Where they are browsing the internet from, what sort of lifestyle they fit, how they’ll likely be browsing the internet, where they fit demographically, and so on.

If you’d like to learn about how we can apply our award-winning strategies for your business, why not speak to a member of our team?

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What is Google Ads?

Google Ads is Google’s golden egg.

It allows users all over the world to advertise their businesses all across the world via the digital sphere. Within this ability to advertise across the world are different modes by which advertisers can choose to showcase their offerings.

This can come via video content which can be shown on YouTube; Search ads that feature on Google’s SERPs and allow you to give textual information on your business; Display ads that feature on websites across the internet and advertise your business using image assets; and the Shopping network, where you can advertise your products via Google’s shopping carousel.

It is effective because it gives you the option to capitalise on the 3.8 billion searches that happen on Google every minute to get your business in front of the eyes of your target audience.

To begin the process of getting your ads in front of the eyeballs of your desired audience, you will need to create campaigns that help direct users towards your website, whether that’s via imagery, keywords that you target, shopping products, or other available mediums.

The type(s) of networks that you choose to advertise your business on depends on a variety of factors, such as your industry, the size of your business, your product/service offerings, your competitors, and more.

Different networks serve different purposes and help reach different audiences.

If you need help deciding the network(s) that are optimal for your business and want them to be set up in an award-winning way, feel free to drop a message.


  • For those in search of a snappier answer… Google Ads is a unified platform where you can target a variety of networks and manage a variety of campaigns via one singular hub.

So, what about Google Shopping?

Placing our magnifying glass over the Google Ads platform, we can view in a little more detail something called Google Shopping.

Google Shopping is a network that allows businesses to advertise their products directly via Google’s SERPs. You can show visuals of your products, along with their prices, review ratings, expected delivery dates, returns policies, product names, and website name.

This helps give users a glimpse of your offerings before they’ve even reached your website, which is beneficial as it gives your business exposure without spending a penny.

This preview means that you are helping reduce wasted spend by simultaneously deterring those that are not interested in your product aesthetics or that are put off by your price point, while also enticing the types of users that are.

Google Shopping is managed through the merchant centre, which is essentially the hub that facilitates all of your product data ready for them to be pulled into your Google Ads account and then advertised to the world.

Due to the ingredients inherent within Google Shopping, it means that the platform is ideal for ecommerce businesses, and especially beneficial for fashion retailers, home & garden suppliers, and any other business that stocks products where the visual element of the products are important to the consumer.

We have successfully scaled countless ecommerce campaigns with businesses of all sizes that operate within a multitude of different industries due to our bespoke strategies.

  •  Google Shopping is a network within Google Ads that advertises physical products with key product information and visuals immediately available to the user.

Key differences

The key differences between Google Ads (as a platform) and Google Shopping (as a network) chiefly revolve around the scope and overall functionality.

The Google Ads platform will allow you to operate campaigns across multiple different networks and integrate them together to form a fully-fledged strategy, targeting audiences across the internet who are at different stages of the marketing funnel.

On the other hand, Google Shopping is a component within Google Ads that places a special focus on physical products and the visual elements that accompany them. This means the network is more focused on bottom-of-funnel users who are in-market to buy products related to all the attributes that compose the products you’re advertising.

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