My background in Google Shopping

When I first started in online advertising, Google Shopping traffic was still free and part of the organic search engine results listings. Crazy right? In those days, the biggest challenge in Google Shopping management was related to product data feeds. You see, eCommerce marketing had not yet matured, and stores had product data that was all over the place and not easily formulated into a format accepted by Google. So we made massive amounts of money, or I should say our 3rd party platform that formatted our data feeds made massive amounts of money formatting data feeds in a way that was acceptable product data feed standards.

But was this acceptable? Yes, because it drive a lot of money for the eCommerce company using it. Google shopping is hands down the best way for eCommerce sites to make money outside of possibly Amazon. Why is that? Glad you asked, and it’s simple really.

By the time that someone starts using Google Shopping, many people have already decided to buy – they’ve done the research, read the reviews, decided what they need, and all they need is a party to sell at the right price. This is also why price and shipping costs are probably the most important factors to selling through Google Shopping.

Anyway, let’s get to it!

What is a Google Shopping Ad?

So you understand the value of doing Google Shopping campaigns, but exactly are Google Shopping Ads? When consumers search for products on Google, they see two types of search results. One is the basic Google search engine results page (SERP) with text ads, and the other is Google Shopping ads, appearing either above or to the right of the main listings in grids showing images and short descriptions or promotional text. Google also offers the option of clicking the “Shopping” link at the top of search results to see listings of products from merchants around the web. Both of those are Google Shopping Ads.

So you want your products to show in one or both of these two places. Which is better? It depends on your goals and profitability. If your trying to rank in the SERP for shopping, it get you more traffic, but it’s more expensive. So depending on your conversion rate and margins, you might bid higher or lower to get a profitable placement and position.

To get started, you need 3 things – a product data feed, a Google merchant center, an Adwords account, and a budget (so many don’t address this part). We’ll cover set up, some basic Google Shopping management tactics, and bid strategies.

Setting Up Google Shopping Ads

Merchant Center

You need a merchant center account. Then you need to get your site verified, which can be accomplished in a few different ways. The easiest is probably to add an HTML tag to the site header or upload a file to your website. From there you can link your Google Merchant Center (GMC) and AdWords account.

Datafeed

You’ll then want to get your products in there, and there are a number of ways to make that happen. Here are a few examples:

  • Using a data feed service (we have one)
  • Download your products from your eCommerce platform and reformat them based on Google specs, then upload them either into Google Sheets or Directly into Merchant Center
  • If you’re using Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, or another eCommerce platform there are usually plugins that will allow you to export your feed to GMC

At bare minimum you must provide all the necessary attributes and fields that Google requires. See specs sheet here. And below are some of the most important fields to have in your Google Shopping feed:

  • id – a unique product identifier for your product.
  • title – the product title. 150 character limit, but only 70 characters will be displayed
  • description – the product description. 5,000 character limit, but 500-1000 characters recommended.
  • google_product_category – the category of the product according to the Google Shopping taxonomy.
  • product_type – your internal category for the product
  • link – product page link
  • image_link – image URL link
  • condition – the product’s condition, new, refurbished, or used
  • availability – the product’s availability, with the following options: preorder, in stock, or out of stock
  • price – product’s price
  • sale_price – sale price of the product
  • gtin – UPC code that is required if you are selling products that other merchants are selling
  • mpn – the manufacturer part number of the product
  • brand – product’s brand
  • item_group_id – the parent level id
  • color – product’s color
  • gender – the gender this product is intended for
  • age_group – age group the product is intended for
  • material – material of this product
  • pattern – pattern of this product
  • size – size of product
  • shipping_weight – weight of product
  • custom_label(s) – Custom labels are ways to segment bids

Other tips:

  • Some of these attributes, if left empty, will result in your products being disapproved on Google Shopping altogether.
  • Nothing from Google’s list of prohibited products may be sold using the Shopping platform, so make sure your merchandise qualifies before going through the work of creating a Google Shopping data feed.
  • Provide Google with tax and shipping details to ensure all prices are accurate when customers see your listings and click on your ads.
  • Titles, description, price, and shipping are the most important conversion rate factors on Google Shopping.

Shopping Campaigns

Once your Google Shopping data feed has been uploaded and any necessary additional information added, you’re ready to start your first ad campaign. Go into “settings” in your Merchant Center account, and choose “AdWords.” From here, click the button to link the two accounts.

After linking, click the “+Campaign” button in AdWords. Choose “Shopping” as the type, and assign a name to your campaign. Google will ask for additional details to complete the setup:

  • Country associated with the campaign
  • Networks where you want your ads to appear
  • Limits on products to appear in ads
  • Location or local inventory listing
  • Optional negative keywords

You can also choose whether to feature a single product in your ads or show several using a “showcase” model. This gives you the option of displaying more of your catalog at once when you want to increase visibility for a particular product line or category.

How To Manage Google Shopping Campaigns

Instead of using a keyword bidding model like AdWords text ads, instead you set bids on product groups. How you define those products groups is crucial. But, before we get into that, let me say that Google Shopping relies on keyword-rich product titles and descriptions along with a robust data feed to help the search engine determine which products are relevant to a customer’s query. The combination of relevance, images and product or promotional information has more power to generate conversions than text alone. Merchants are beginning to recognize this, which is evident in that Google Shopping ads generated 85.3% of all clicks on AdWords and Google Shopping campaign ads.

Going back to product groups, how you create your product groups is extremely crucial. Let’s take an example, let’s say you’ve segmented your product groups out by brand, say Nike, you set the bid at $0.50, and you realize two weeks in that you’ve got 12 conversions at a CPA of $80 on an average order value of $70. From a pure ROAS model, this isn’t acceptable. But it’s not as though you’re not getting value out of Google Shopping Ads – you’ve got 12 conversions. So what do you do? You could break out Nike by product category or custom label based on product price.

So let’s say you break it out by product category and now you’ve got Nike > Shoes, Nike > Socks, Nike > Shorts, and you notice that all of your conversions are coming from shoes while all of your cost is coming from shorts. Because you’ve broken it down another level, you can decrease your bids on Nike >Shorts and increase your bids on Nike > Shoes (depending on performance). The same would go for any way you would further break these down.

Now why don’t you just break these out by ID? Good question. That can work, but we’ve also seen it chokehold traction by being so granular. The whole reason there’s product groups in the first place is to allow you to optimize more quickly, see data consolidated at a higher level, and allow Google’s algorithm to best match your product data to search queries. But again, it works in some cases, not in others.

A Summary of the Benefits of Google Shopping Ads

With over 54 percent of search engine marketing already taking place on Google, it makes sense to integrate the Shopping platform into your e-commerce strategy. Because Google Shopping ads are so visual, they have the potential to generate 26 percent higher conversion rates than text ads while costing you 23 percent less per click. The resulting improvement in ROI means you get more back for every product you sell through a Shopping ad compared to your other search marketing efforts.

Putting your products in the Google Shopping platform can also:

  • Increase visibility into new markets beyond your online storefront
  • Improve the quality of your leads, resulting in more conversions
  • Show customers a wider range of products per search than text ads
  • Boost sales by connecting customers directly with product pages instead of requiring them to perform a separate search on your site
  • Give your business greater credibility among consumers by displaying your store alongside well-known brands
  • Bring more local customers to your brick-and-mortar location

It takes time to get your Google Shopping feed set up and learn how to master the bidding process, but it’s time well spent if you’re looking to increase product visibility, reach more customers and boost sales.

By balancing placement in product search results with special ad campaigns, you can catch the eye of potential customers who aren’t yet familiar with your brand but are ready to purchase the types of products you offer. Make Google Shopping part of your strategy to connect with new markets, and start seeing a greater return from your advertising budget.