BlogGoogle Smart Shopping vs Google Shopping Ads – Which Should I Use?

July 20, 2021

When it comes to getting your products out there, you want to give your business the best chance. But what’s the best way to capture the attention of customers?

You know that Google is probably the way to go, seeing as it is the most used search engine with over 90% of the market in Australia. Not to mention the fact that Aussies are shopping more online now than ever: a recent PWC report found that more than half of Aussie consumers have increased their online shopping habits across a number of product categories. But what type of campaign will get you the most value?

Today, we’re demystifying the difference between Google Shopping Ads and Smart Shopping, helping you decide which is best for your business goals.

What are Google Shopping Ads?

If you’re been poking around the digital marketing realm, chances are you already know what standard Google Shopping Ads are. For those of you who need a little refresher, these visual ads use your Google Merchant Center product data, rather than keywords, to determine their placement.

Say you’re looking to buy a new set of headphones. Most consumers will do a little product research before they decide on one that they like. And where else to start but Google?

When a customer searches for ‘headphones’, Google will give them a few product images from different eCommerce sites. This includes information like the price, the seller, and reviews. If the customer wants to browse between the different offerings, they can then click on the ‘Shopping’ tab.

These ads are far more effective than text ads, as a customer who is actively searching for your product can take a look at the image and decide if it matches their requirements. This results in more qualified leads who are ready to spend, maximising your return.

Shopping Ad campaigns are manually run and boast a number of features, including:

  • Search term reports (what search terms led to the products being shown)
  • Product ad groups and tiers
  • A number of bidding strategies
  • Scheduling
  • Location and audience targeting

What is Google Smart Shopping?

Google Smart Shopping was first introduced back in 2018 as an alternative to Google Shopping Ads. Google describes Smart Shopping as a “campaign subtype [which] combines standard Shopping and display remarketing campaigns and uses automated bidding and ad placement to promote your products and business across networks.”

In other words? Google automates your Shopping Ad campaign according to a few specifications and attempts to maximise return while working within your budget. All you have to do is nominate:

  • The products you want to include in your campaign
  • The country you wish to target (Australia, etc.)
  • The budget and target ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend)

Once you’ve done this, Google will get to work and show your ads to the most relevant users. It does this by utilising “a wide range of auction-time signals including device, location, time of day, remarketing list, language, and operating system to capture the unique context of every search”.

What’s the difference between Smart Shopping and Shopping Ads?

You might be thinking, ‘Smart Shopping must be better. Surely Google’s algorithm knows how to best display my ads?” And while Smart Shopping is a fantastic solution for many businesses, it is not the end-all you might expect.

We’ve compiled a quick guide to both Shopping Ads and Smart Shopping below so that you can see the benefits and drawbacks for yourself.

Google Shopping Ad

Essentially, with Shopping Ads, you get full control over your ads and can tailor your campaign to meet your business goals. However, for beginners and business owners who are managing their ads in-house, it can be incredibly difficult to manage.


Pros Cons
Full control over every aspect of your ad campaign Manual and time-consuming
Full control over location and device targeting Complicated for beginners
Ability to create tiers (high, medium, and low priority, etc.)
Ability to use negative keywords to ensure ads are more relevant
Ability to adjust bids and schedule

Google Smart Shopping

Google Smart Shopping is the most convenient method of implementing ad campaigns. It is beginner-friendly and can provide quick results. However, you will sacrifice the control you get with Google Shopping Ads, which can leave some business owners feeling frustrated.


Pros Cons
Quick and easy to set up No bid adjustments or device targeting
Access to various Google networks (Google Search Network, Display Network, YouTube, Gmail) Limited location targeting (you can choose a country, but can’t narrow it down to a specific region or city)
Automatically uses display remarketing and dynamic products For best results, historical data is required (Google recommends having more than 100 active users/visitors within the last month
Fewer decisions need to be made over the duration of your campaign – you can leave it to Google and save time No search term report, audience report or product group analytics
Saves time for business owners No negative keywords

So which is better: Smart Shopping or Shopping Ads?

Both have their uses and, depending on your campaign, either can be useful. At the end of the day, it comes down to two major factors: time and control. If you want to run ads but don’t have the time to manage your campaign, Smart Shopping can be a lifesaver. This is great for those who are newer to digital marketing and small businesses.

On the other hand, if you want to take full control of your ad campaign, determine your cost per click and target specific audiences or locations, traditional Shopping Ads are probably more your style. You’ll need the knowledge and experience to manually manage your campaign – or find someone who does.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. You might want to incorporate both into your strategy. High-priority or time-sensitive ad campaigns may benefit from a little extra attention, whereas it might be a good idea to automate the process and leverage Google’s network for other products. You could also start out with a manual campaign and later transition to an automated one once you’ve optimised it and worked out all the kinks.

It is important to note that Smart Shopping campaigns will override Shopping Ad campaigns for the same product or product group. Make sure to plan and test your campaigns carefully to ensure you aren’t doubling up and wasting your ad spend.

If you want full control of your Google Shopping Ads but don’t have the time or expertise, hiring an expert digital marketer can be a good solution. The team at Search Marketing Group regularly work with businesses across Australia to maximise their ROAS and achieve their business goals.

Got questions about Shopping Ads or Smart Shopping that aren’t answered here? Make sure to leave a comment below!

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