Google Ads vs Criteo [9+ Comparison Points]

Google Ads vs Criteo

E-commerce is booming! It commands trillions of dollars in market value all over the world. Especially during the last two years, the online business has grown rapidly.

A lot of people stuck in lockdown turned to online shopping. Therefore, it soon became a necessity and a hobby at the same time.

Experts predict that this trend is only likely to continue. The reasons are obvious. E-commerce is convenient and quick.

Moreover, it grants you access to a huge inventory at your fingertips. Besides, it often comes with serious discounts. Fast shipping and good customer service further complete the picture.

E-commerce is super competitive. Paid ad campaigns rule the roost. Major players include Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Re-targeting also plays a vital role.

To implement that you can choose specialist services such as Criteo.

In this article, we will explore the differences between Google ads and Criteo and which one can be a better option in the specific areas of marketing.

So, without further ado let’s get started.

1. Customer journey

Google Ads account for all levels of the customer journey. You can use it to raise brand awareness to introduce new customers. You can use its robust analytical tools to fine-tune your campaign at all levels.

All in all, it is one of the most powerful tools to drive traffic (not organic though at first).

It also has a separate retargeting API. You will have to install the remarketing code on your website. Once done, you can use it to target people who have previously visited your site or have used your app.


Criteo specializes in retargeting. It works by installing coded cookies on your browser to chart your online footprint. Then, it uses this information to retarget users. Criteo cannot help in raising brand awareness.

2. Keyword strategy

You will need a robust keyword strategy for Google ads, especially in manual mode.

One can also choose the smart campaign mode where Google does all the work. Choose a few keyword themes and leave the rest to Google.

However, most advertisers still prefer manual management because it allows greater control.

However, Criteo does not depend on your choice of keywords. It relies on tracking your digital footprint to deliver relevant ads.

3. Learning curve

Both Google Ads and Criteo have fairly steep learning curves. In the manual mode of Google Ads, you need to be familiar with a lot of variables to design a proper campaign.

It usually takes some time. In fact, it is not unusual for marketers to spend a lot of marketing dollars at first before getting a grip on how it works.

Criteo also has a separate learning curve of its own. You need to have basic technical knowledge on how to set up tracking pixels.

However, initial results (ROI) on Criteo can be better. This is because it only shows ads to people who already showed interest in your site.

It is a highly effective tool because it targets users who have already displayed purchase intent.

Google Ads has a host of resources on how to get it right. Besides, it is also one of the most discussed platform in online marketing, and you can find a lot of organic insights on it.

Criteo also has a blog section, but the features may not be as robust as Google Ads. Both sites claim to have an expert customer support segment.

4. Versatility and creativity

Google Ads is definitely more versatile. Campaign types include:

  • Search ads (text-based ads appearing along with organic results)
  • Shopping ads (image-based ads appearing along with organic results)
  • Display ads (image-based ads appearing on the Google Display Network)
  • App ads
  • Local listings (shown on Google Maps even when you don’t have a website)
  • Video ads (on YouTube)

Criteo shows rich media ads (images and videos) when you visit a site. However, its results never appear on SERPs like search ads and shopping ads.

Some marketers agree that Criteo allows a greater degree of creativity in its display ads. You can sort the slides and transitions, and so on.

Creative options include:

  • videos
  • 360-degree product videos
  • rotating cube
  • mosaic
  • slider
  • showcase etc.

5. Effective Re-targeting

Since Criteo specializes in retargeting, it has options for a more nuanced approach. It will show users not only the products they have seen, but also those abandoned in the cart. It can also suggest similar products that the users have not yet seen, based on behavior patterns of similar users.

Google Ads can target the same types of audience groups as Criteo ads. It can also run dynamic remarketing campaigns to track more advanced customer behaviour and show your customers more customized ads.


As for their differences in creating remarketing campaigns, most people think Criteo remarketing ads are easier to create compared to Google ads.

6. Audience outreach

Most people would naturally assume that no one can match Google’s outreach. After all, the search engine registers billions of queries every month! Its algorithm is among the most powerful automated sorting systems of the digital world.

Google may lead in driving traffic through search ads, shopping ads, and video ads. But, Criteo clearly leads in the re-targeting game.

For example, data shows 24.21% of the top 10K sites use Criteo compared to a mere 4.32% using Google. Except for a few niches like heavy industry and engineering, most others prefer Criteo over Google.

Also, Criteo is the re-targeting leader in more than 130 countries.

7. Facebook integration

Google and Facebook are heavy competitors in the digital ads niche. Marketers either have to choose between Google Ads and Facebook Ads or develop unique strategies for both.

However, Criteo partners with Facebook and Instagram to show retargeting ads to relevant users.

Partnering with FB also allows it to access a rich cache of user data. This is crucial to develop personalized campaigns. You will only have to allow Criteo access to your FB Business Manager account.

8. Analytics

One of the biggest drawbacks of Criteo is its lack of analytics. Marketers have no option but to stay in the dark regarding the performance metrics of their campaigns.

You don’t have much info on the locations where the ads appear. You even don’t have the data of what kind of users show a better conversion rate.

Google Ads combines the power of Google Analytics. It can provide highly detailed insights. You can derive clear insights into all possible metrics.


9. Bidding methods

Both Google Ads and Criteo require a bidding strategy. In Google Ads, the system is largely manual. It may take some time to set the right bid amount, but it is worth it once the results start coming in.

Bidding on Google is regulated by different factors. In the end, it will assign a quality score based on your bid, which will eventually decide if and where your site will be visible.

However, Google also has an optional smart bidding mode where Google chooses the right bid for you. Nevertheless, most advertisers prefer the manual system as it offers greater control.

The bidding protocol on Criteo is limited to Predictive and Automated bidding. Both systems rely on Criteo AI.

There is also a significant lack of transparency in bid management and there is very little scope for manual bidding in Criteo.

10. Control over campaigns

The usual manual mode of Google Ads is popular because of the control it allows. Advertisers can fine-tune the campaign according to diverse metrics. This includes geo-location targeting and putting a maximum frequency limit on the ads.

Criteo does not allow such nuanced control over campaigns. It follows more of a general approach where Criteo retains most of the control.


Google Ads is one of the most important platforms for paid ad campaigns. However, in the re-targeting sub-niche, Criteo holds a lot of potentials. Despite having several drawbacks, it is still a highly popular tool for such campaigns.

We suggest having an inclusive marketing strategy with both platforms. This is especially true for e-commerce websites. Re-targeting minimizes loss from cart abandonment and helps drive sales of new products.

As always if you need any help with your Google ads account management, you can contact me anytime and I am always ready to help.

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