Sep 25 2018
Basis Technologies

Amazon Advertising or Google Ads: What’s Right for Your PPC Strategy?


For years, when it came to PPC, Google was effectively the only game in town. Sure, there were other ad networks, but none with Google’s massive reach. Amazon is a relative newcomer to the PPC advertising arena, but the company has made huge advances quite quickly. Last year, the Amazon advertising business passed the $1 billion mark between Seller Central Ads and Amazon Marketing Services (AMS).

As an advertiser, which of these options is now the better choice for your PPC marketing budget? The truth is that you should explore and continue to use both. Each one has benefits for specific products and circumstances. Choosing the right one at the right time can mean better results for your business and a better return on every PPC advertising dollar that you spend.

Exploring your options

Google offers a few different advertising opportunities. These include search ads that appear along with organic listings in Google's search results, display and text ads on third-party websites, and Google Shopping, which appears as a tab in search results for people who are looking for specific products to purchase.

Amazon advertising, by contrast, are those that appear on Amazon listings. When a user types a keyword into Amazon's search box, they are served organic results as well as Sponsored listings and Headline Search Ads. Amazon ads can also appear on specific product pages as Amazon display or product ads. For instance, if you go to Amazon and look at a product page for a specific bathing suit, you will also see suggested products below or beside the listing.

Amazon advertising vs. Google ads: Similarities and Differences

On the surface, Amazon advertising and Google ads do have a lot in common. They both operate on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. You will need to set budgets and watch them carefully to ensure that your advertising is well-optimized. Ad displays on both networks are triggered by keywords, which means that you need to carefully research what terms prospects use when they are seeking products like yours. Both are displayed before organic listings. Both are organized by ad groups and optimized for conversions.

Yet, despite the similarities, each of these ad networks has fundamental differences that will govern when you use them as part of a campaign. Google's ads can take your prospect directly to your website, while Amazon's take you only to your product page on Amazon. Unlike Google ads, Amazon ads do not retarget based on behavioral information from search, so you lose the ability to make a different, or better, impression on a potential buyer. In addition, Amazon ads are not available to every type of seller, rendering the decision between the two platforms moot for many digital marketers.

That said, if you are in a position to use both Amazon and Google, it's a great idea to keep them both in your repertoire. The key is using each one to its best effect and choosing the right strategy for each. Below are a few of the situations that will determine which network is best for your environment.

You are targeting the top of the sales funnel

Buyers, particularly those who are shopping for high ticket items, go through a series of phases before making a choice to purchase. The metaphor of the sales funnel captures this process. It starts with product awareness, then goes through the interest development, the consideration of other market options, and, finally, making a purchase.

It can take seven to 12 touches before someone is ready to make a purchase. AdWords makes it easier to catch people at each phase of their journey -- from the time they’re first aware of the product to the time they’re ready to purchase -- and create marketing content geared toward their specific needs at every phase. You can create an ad that leads to a product comparison landing page, or one that leads to a free report on the problem your prospect is facing and how your product can be the answer to their dilemma.

The bigger a commitment for a product, the more nurturing you will need to be in order for your lead to convert. Targeting and retargeting someone through a series of AdWords ads as they progress can help you ensure that you are the one who finally convinces and converts them.

Winner: Google ads.

You are targeting clients who are ready to buy

On the other end of the spectrum are people who have considered a purchase and are ready to buy, or those who will buy on a whim when they see a product that suits their needs. Amazon's targeting is all about that final conversion, making it the ideal place to put your ads for last-minute purchases.

With Amazon ads, you are dealing with people who are already looking to purchase. You are either promoting directly on Amazon through Sponsored Products or you are showing people ads for items for which they have already searched elsewhere. A quality display ad in either of these places can be the key to making someone decide to purchase the product that they have been considering.

Winner: Amazon advertising.

You are new to PPC advertising

If you are looking at pay-per-click (PPC) for the first time, Google's interface can be dizzying. There are numerous options available, each with the goal of honing your technique to give you the best return on your money. However, those who are new or inexperienced may find that it can be difficult to use this platform to their best advantage.

Amazon's interface is far simpler to navigate. There are far fewer options to master, as well as far less competition on this newer, more specialized network than on Google, which has had decades to mature. If you are new to PPC and want to learn the ropes without risking too much of your budget, Amazon can be a great place to get started.

The good news is that much of what you will learn will transfer well to AdWords when you are ready to dive in. Both platforms use match types as well as positive and negative keywords. Both use a bidding system to allow you to decide how much you wish to spend per click on your ad. By starting with the simpler platform, you can get the basics down and gradually move on to the more complex filtering that will serve you well once you feel ready to graduate to Google ads.

Winner: Amazon advertising.

You are trying to win market share from the competition

Say you are a company that offers high-end bluetooth speakers. This is a market where names like Bose and Sonos command large portions of the market. If you are going to get traction, you need to win people who might otherwise go straight for the big names and convince them to buy from you instead. So, wouldn't it make sense to capture the audience that searches for those names when they are looking for speakers?

When you advertise on Google, though, you have to be careful about using a competitor's product name among your keywords. You risk poor Quality Scores because their brand name is considered of low relevance to your product. A low Quality Score means that your ads will cost far more per click or will not be seen at all.

On Amazon, by contrast, you are able to target not just generic keywords that refer to bluetooth speakers, but also specific brand names and models. Amazon's quality scores do not take into account the same range of factors as Google's. On Amazon, you are competing purely on conversions. So, if adding a competitor's name to your keyword list causes prospects to visit your listings instead, you can gain conversions and increase your ranking on the site.

If you are able to advertise your products through Amazon's ads, you’ll definitely have an advantage when it comes to positioning your product and taking market share.

Winner: Amazon advertising.

You are testing the waters with a physical, consumer-oriented product

If you are looking to sell something new to a consumer audience, you may not be ready to launch a full website. However, selling and promoting your product on Amazon can be a great move -- over half of all online shopping trips begin on Amazon, more than 300 million people use the site, and it is estimated that 80 million Americans are Amazon Prime members.

Listing on Amazon and then promoting your item through Amazon ads can be a great way to see whether there is an audience out there for your new product. All it takes are great photos (a minimum of 1000 by 1000 pixels for zooming), a clear and compelling headline and a tightly-worded product description and you are in front of one of the largest available audiences of qualified buyers.

Even if you are selling products in brick and mortar locations or your own website, it makes sense these days to be on Amazon as well. A huge number of people go only to Amazon when they are making a purchase online. Listing on Amazon allows you to get access to this audience and borrow the trust associated with Amazon's name.

Winner: Amazon ads.

You wish to build a relationship with the buyer

As soon as someone buys your product on Amazon, the interaction ends. They may return when they need to buy a product like yours again, but there is no ongoing relationship.

In some niches, it makes far more sense for the seller to create an ongoing relationship that continues between purchases. Google ads allow you to target people with whom you wish to create a sustained buyer/seller relationship. Where Amazon just allows the marketing of a single product, Google allows you to advertise in a way that enables you to get website traffic, information in exchange for gated content or sign-ups for a newsletter.

An ongoing relationship can be a powerful thing for your company's revenue over months and years. It’s well established that it takes more money and effort to convert a new customer as opposed to retaining an old one. Retention is far easier when you have a way to keep your business near the top of your customers' minds.

For example, take a company that offers dog food, toys and treats. Through Amazon ads, the company can get a single purchase from a qualified prospect. The customer may or may not be back when they wish to purchase again. However, if this company wished to create an ongoing relationship and win many purchases throughout the year, they could launch a Google ad to sign up for a free newsletter, instead of spending on an ad for one product. This newsletter, which could be delivered weekly or monthly, could contain advice about pet care, pictures of client pets, ads for new products and maybe discount codes for future purchases.

While this is not a strategy for every product or every campaign, it is one that is far more possible with the flexibility of Google ads than with ads on Amazon.

Winner: Google ads.

You are building your website's traffic

Amazon ads have a high conversion rate and can get you plenty of profits. However, traffic from these clicks never leaves Amazon's domain. If you are building visitors to your website, this is largely a dead end. You would have to depend on someone Googling your product name or encountering you through organic surfing at some later time.

Google ads allow you to send people wherever you want to send them. If you have many products and services to sell, your own dedicated website remains the best way to create and maintain that audience.

Build traffic by sending people to specific products or to the front of your site to show a wide selection. Suggesting other products of yours below listings featured in your ads gives you opportunities for upselling and cross-selling as well. You can send people to one listing, but also give them the opportunity to see related products that may make a good additional purchase or a good purchase in place of the original product they considered.

Winner: Google ads.

Your price point is a big part of your unique value proposition

Do you have a supply line that allows you to make or purchase your product for less than your competition? Are you working on a strategy that involves making up through volume what you might lose on your net profit on every sale? Amazon ads can be a great tool for winning conversions.

On Amazon, price is one of the first things that your prospects will see. It appears in bold at the bottom of every ad. If you are in a position to offer a better price than your competition, Amazon can be the best place to be.

Amazon offers an additional advantage in the listing itself by allowing you to set a range of price points for different product variables. You have the option, for instance, of offering different prices on specific colors, models, sizes, and more. If you only offer a significantly lower price on one model, you can still benefit by competing on price in your Amazon ads.

Winner: Amazon advertising.

Your customers are using virtual assistants

Amazon's devices, which include the Echo and the Echo dot, occupy at least 8.2 million homes at last count. By contrast, Google Home is now in about half a million houses. Amazon reports that people who use their devices increase their spending on Amazon by about 10 percent. Google added purchasing options to its devices last year, but are still playing catch-up against Alexa and Amazon.

If you have the type of product that is eligible to be sold through an Amazon device, improving your visibility on the platform can pay off.

Winner: Amazon advertising.

Summing Up

The most important thing to consider when deciding between spending on Amazon or Google is what you want to accomplish. Using the right product at the right time allows you to leverage the benefits of each. Both Amazon and Google ads have extraordinary value to offer digital marketers. Take time to learn about both and develop campaigns and strategies tailored to each platform. Over time, you will find that you are able to extract the most value out of these powerful advertising platforms to give you a better return on your PPC marketing investment.