Google Ads is a digital advertising platform that allows advertisers to display their ads on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), Google’s Display Network, and other partner websites.
On the other hand, programmatic advertising is a method of buying and selling digital ad inventory using advanced technology and automation.
Here are some of the main differences between Google Ads and programmatic advertising:
Ad Inventory Sources
Google Ads only provides access to ad inventory on Google’s own platforms, such as the search engine results pages (SERPs) and Google’s Display Network. Advertisers can also use Google Ads to place ads on partner websites, but the inventory is still limited to Google’s network of partner sites. Programmatic advertising, on the other hand, provides access to a wider range of ad inventory sources, including various ad exchanges, ad networks, and supply-side platforms (SSPs).
Example: An e-commerce company selling clothing might use Google Ads to target people searching for specific keywords related to clothing on Google’s SERPs. The company could also use programmatic advertising to target people browsing partner websites that feature fashion-related content, as well as users on other ad exchanges who have shown an interest in buying clothing online.
Google Ads offers a range of targeting options, including keywords, demographics, interests, and location, but these options are limited to Google’s own platforms. Programmatic advertising offers a wider range of targeting options, including audience targeting based on third-party data, such as browsing history and purchase behavior.
Example: A local car dealership might use Google Ads to target people searching for “car dealerships near me” in Google’s search engine. The dealership could also use programmatic advertising to target people who have recently searched for car insurance or have visited competitor dealerships.
Google Ads allows advertisers to set up and manage campaigns manually, but programmatic advertising relies on automation and advanced algorithms to manage and optimize ad campaigns. Programmatic advertising uses real-time bidding (RTB) to automatically bid on ad inventory and serve ads to the right audience.
Example: A travel company might use Google Ads to manually set up and manage ad campaigns promoting vacation packages. The company could also use programmatic advertising to automatically bid on ad inventory across multiple ad exchanges and target users who have recently searched for travel-related content.
Google Ads provides advertisers with detailed reports on ad performance and audience insights, but these reports only cover Google’s own platforms. Programmatic advertising platforms like Display & Video 360 offer more transparency into ad placement, ad inventory sources, and audience targeting.
Example: A financial services company might use Google Ads to target people searching for “financial planning” on Google’s search engine. The company could also use programmatic advertising to target users on various ad exchanges who have recently visited financial planning websites or have shown an interest in personal finance.
Bottom line, Google Ads and programmatic advertising are related but different concepts.
Google Ads provides access to ad inventory on Google’s own platforms, while programmatic advertising allows access to a wider range of ad inventory sources and offers more advanced targeting and automation capabilities.
While both advertising methods have their advantages, the best approach depends on your specific goals and needs.
Ivan is a professional advertiser and digital content marketer who writes about (and answer questions related to) digital advertising and content marketing for search engine visibility, presence, and authority.
He also provides agency friendly / white-label SEO copywriting, content briefs, content plans, Google Ads setup / management, citations, and authority links for traffic and top rankings.