Google vs. Amazon Advertising: What's the Difference?

Isaak Roundy

October 16, 2020

For years Google Ads has been the flagship when it comes to paid search advertising. However, Amazon is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in its own right as its advertising capabilities continue to improve.

As a digital advertiser, marketing manager, or business owner you’ll likely be utilizing one or both of these platforms at some point in your career if you haven’t already. If you already have experience, you might be wondering if your knowledge of one platform will translate to the other.

The purpose of this article is not to persuade you that one platform is better than the other or to tell you which one should get the majority of your marketing and paid search advertising budget. Instead we’ll focus on the similarities and differences that you as an advertiser can expect to see when using either platform for the first time.

Ad types: Comparing Amazon to Google

Both Google and Amazon offer a variety of ad types each with their own unique advantages that can help you accomplish whatever advertising goals you may have.

Here are a few of the most common ad types used on each platform:

Amazon Google
Sponsored Products Search Ads
Sponsored Brands Shopping Ads
Sponsored Display Display Ads
DSP Video Ads (YouTube)

For the majority of this article we’ll focus on the similarities and differences between the two most commonly used ad types: Amazon’s Sponsored Products and Google’s Search Ads.

The ad auction, explained

Both Google and Amazon use an auction to determine which ads are eligible to appear when a search is performed and the cost an advertiser will pay for a click on their ad. The idea is the same but executed differently by each platform.

How Amazon’s ad auction works

Amazon uses a “second price auction” which means that instead of paying your bid amount when someone clicks your ad, you’ll pay an amount slightly higher than the second highest bid. So if you bid $2 and the next highest competitor’s bid was $1.50, you’ll pay $1.51 or an amount slightly higher than $1.50 for a click.

This is pretty straightforward, but it doesn’t mean you can simply win an ad placement 100% of the time by having the highest bid. Amazon also uses an algorithm to determine which ads are the most relevant to the search and eligible to display, but what that entails is a bit of mystery.

Here’s what we do know from Amazon: “Ads selected to compete in the auction must first have keywords that match the search and meet a minimum relevance criterion.”

How Google’s ad auction works

Google uses a similar model but is more transparent about how ad quality affects the auction process. Google uses a variety of signals and real-time data to determine Ad Rank, which is a measurement of the quality of your ad for a given search. Your bid amount, ad relevance and expected click-through rate, and even the user’s location and device are used to calculate Ad Rank.

It’s important to note that Ad Rank is factored in when calculating CPCs, so you don’t simply pay a slightly higher price than the next highest bid for a click. It’s possible to win a better ad placement and pay less per click than your competition if you have a high Ad Rank.

Learn more about Ad Rank here.

Keywords and targeting on Amazon vs. Google

Keyword targeting

Both Amazon and Google use keyword searches as the main way to target consumers. Both allow advertisers to utilize Exact, Phrase and Broad keyword match types—and definitions of both are virtually the same between the two advertisers.

Both also include close variants for exact match keywords, although Google is again more transparent when it comes to their definition of a close variant.

Product targeting

One of the unique benefits of Amazon Advertising is the ability to use products instead of keywords as targets for ads. Advertisers can target specific products, whole categories, or a list of products that you refine based on brand, star rating, and number of reviews.

Automatic targeting

Amazon again has a leg up on Google here with its unique automatic targeting capabilities. Advertisers can use automatic targeting for their Sponsored Products campaigns and let Amazon do keyword research for them.

With automatic targeting, Amazon matches ads with similar keywords and products. You can then view a list of search terms and products where your ad appeared, allowing you to gain valuable insight into what keywords and products you should use or avoid in your manual targeting campaigns.

Audience and demographic targeting

Google wins here, and it’s not even a close race. Google has a vast library of user data that advertisers can tap into to enhance their advertising campaigns. Data such as age, gender, household income, hobbies and interests, device, relationship status, and more can be used to target and exclude users from your campaigns.

You can also adjust bids by a set percentage for your audiences to be hyper-focused when it comes to keyword bidding. If you know that mothers between the age of 25-44 are more likely to buy your new running stroller, you can increase your bid for those demographics to ensure your ads are reaching your target audience as much as possible. Almost all of Google’s ad products allow you to utilize these capabilities, giving you quite a few options to play around with as you fine-tune your advertising strategy.

Amazon, however, only has similar targeting capabilities for DSP (Demand Side Platform), which is Amazon’s display network offering. Audience and demographic data is not supported by Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, or Sponsored Display campaigns.

Other Amazon vs. Google ad differences to consider

Conversion tracking

Conversion tracking is simple with Amazon: orders and revenue will automatically be tracked for any products you advertise.

Google Ads, on the other hand, requires you to create your own conversion actions for any event on your website that you want to track, whether it be a purchase or a lead form submission. This allows advertisers to track important events beyond just purchases, like when someone adds a product to their cart.

Conversion tracking setup can be a pain for first timers. Google offers thorough documentation to help you through it, and their customer support team can help you as well.

Automated bidding

Google Ads offers multiple fully automated bidding strategies that eliminate the tedious work that is bid optimization. When you use a bidding strategy like Target ROAS or Maximize Conversions, Google will automatically set keyword bids and make optimizations for you based on your goals and how your campaigns perform. This makes campaign management much more simple and eliminates the need to spend hours optimizing bids on a recurring basis.

Amazon does not offer fully-automated bidding strategies like Google, so you’ll need to manually set keyword bids yourself or use a software to manage bids for you, like Pattern’s Predict software. Amazon, however, does have two automated bid adjustment features that can dynamically increase and/or decrease bids for you based on the likelihood of a conversion.


Both Amazon Advertising and Google Ads are excellent advertising tools that can be an effective part of any online marketing strategy. While they certainly have their differences, they also share many similarities that make it easy to pick up one or the other, or even both if you’re just getting started with PPC advertising.

At Pattern we offer our advertising services to most brands at no additional cost. Find out more by contacting a Pattern representative here.

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