eCommerce Marketing Agency | Visiture

In Part 1 of the PLA Series we jumped right into the nuts & bolts of creating product level ad groups within your Product Listing Ads campaign. For this installation we’re going to take a step back, and address some Google Merchant Center basics. Specifically, we’ll discuss how to check for problems in your Google Shopping feed.

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If you’ve been working with product feeds in the Google Merchant Center, then chances are you’ve encountered some issues. Don’t worry, we all have.  Errors, warnings, suggestions… what do we make of all this? Well, we’re going to give a basic rundown, so at least the next time you encounter issues, you’ll be able to quickly understand what they mean.

Dashboard

Let’s start with how to get around.  When you sign into the Google Merchant Center, you’ll arrive at the dashboard. Here you’ll see a graph illustrating how many products in your shopping feed are approved/disapproved.

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Data Feeds

To understand the disapproved products in your data feed, click on ‘Data Feeds’ in the left sidebar.

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Once on the Data Feeds tab, click on ‘view warnings’ next to the feed you’re using for PLA’s

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Here you’ll see errors and warnings pointing out problem areas in your feed.

First off, lets distinguish the difference between Errors vs. Warnings.

Warnings- These are suggestions from Google, letting you know that a line item could be improved. However, it shouldn’t be the type of issue that would prevent that particular product from showing up in Google search results as a product listing ad.

Errors- These are more serious and could mean that a particular product is actually disapproved & won’t show up in Product Listing ads. In some cases a whole feed could be shut down. Usually a line item is missing a required attribute.

*Special Note: Our Google Rep has informed me that sometimes errors show up as warnings. So I wouldn’t necessarily assume that just because it’s a warning it’s not ‘serious.’

Ok, so once you’re looking at errors & warnings, you can see what Google doesn’t like.  You can even click on examples of the problem and see what the line item looks like.

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 4.55.44 PMYou’ll get a pop-up window where you can scroll down to the attribute highlighted in red.

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This is a great way to get a quick understanding of what you may need to change in your data feed.

 

Products

Another way to shed some light on which products aren’t working properly is to click into the ‘Products’ tab.

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This tab shows which products are showing on Google Shopping, and alludes to which products may have problems in the feed – namely, the ones with a red circle/backslash symbol.

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 5.02.25 PMThe products tab is not as revealing as other tabs in the Merchant Center, but I sometimes jump in there to take a quick look. It’s also a way to see a newly uploaded feed as it processes.

 

Data Quality

The Data Quality tab is yet another place to see problems and how to fix them. In the account below you can see there’s a critical error involving 11% of the feed. So approximately 139 out of 1232 items have landing pages that Google cannot find.

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 5.16.44 PMThis is a critical problem, and Google has disapproved these products from showing in Product Listing Ads.  You can even click the download button to get a spreadsheet of the disapproved products. Also, you can click on the arrow left of “Product pages cannot be accessed” to get a drop down with further explanation.

Below the critical errors, you’ll see suggested optimizations. As implied, these aren’t serious, and are simply opportunities to improve data quality.

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 5.22.39 PMIn this example, Google is letting us know that 12 products have a title longer than the recommended 70 characters.

So that’s a basic run down of Google Merchant Center data feed trouble-shooting! There’s obviously much more to know about the Merchant Center and creating effective data feeds for your Product Listing Ad campaigns, but hopefully this helps provide some basic guidance. For more info, you can refer to Google Merchant Center Help. Please feel free to send questions and feedback our way.

Last Tuesday, Google announced a change to their AdWords algorithm. To many, this came as a shock as Google has relied on their ranking system for years now. That said, over the past few months, Google has been “shaking things up”. On the heels of enhanced campaigns, sitelink upgrades, and mobile required inclusion, we at Visiture have developed a thicker skin to announcements such as these.

What’s changing?

In the past, ad rank has been determined by the following equation:

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The new algorithm will take into account the expected impact from extensions and ad formats.

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In their release, Google used the example that if an two ads with the same bid & quality score were competing for a top position, Google would then rank the ad with the extensions most likely enhance a searcher’s experience higher.

What does “Extension Experience” Mean?

Per Google, to achieve a “positive expectant impact from extensions” said extensions must:

1) Have a Good CTR

2) Be Relevant

2) Hold Prominence in Search Results Pages

Given the fact that extensions are only available to ads with position 1 and 2, we foresee necessary bid increases to compete in this new market. To counter this obvious impact, Google states:

“You may see lower or higher average CPCs in your account. You may see lower CPCs if your extensions and formats are highly relevant, and we expect a large positive performance impact relative to other competitors in the auction. In other cases, you may see higher CPCs because of an improvement in ad position or increased competition from other ads with a high expected impact from formats.” 

What Next?

Give your ad extensions the attention they deserve.  Extensions offer more “real estate” for ad copy, which is, as we all know, a hot commodity. Note that with the algorithm change, Google will show extensions with the best performance and in the best combination to heed positive results.  No longer will PPC managers be able to select and order in which their extensions appear.  While the tedious task is gone, remain aware that Google could potentially optimize out of an important sitelink.

Also, make sure you are utilizing call extensions as well. To several of our clients, a call is solid gold. Google recognizes this and now is rewarding those who do too.

Now, get to it! Thank goodness the new editor makes it somewhat easier to bulk edit extensions!

As we mentioned in our last blog post, Product Listing Ads (aka PLA’s), are becoming more and more important in the e-commerce PPC world. And despite being around for a little while now, the best approach to managing them is still a debated topic. Even PPC experts are still honing their skills when it comes to managing PLA campaigns. With more and more advertisers getting in the product listing ad game, we’ve decided to do a blog series focusing on this powerful form of advertising.

google_pla_example For the first installment of the product listing ad series, we’ll discuss a structuring strategy for PLA campaigns that every PPC manager should have in their toolkit. We’re talking about segmenting AD Groups down to the product level. The default setting for PLA auto targets is ‘All Products.’ While it’s important to include an Ad Group targeting ‘All Products,’ there’s much more room to incorporate different targeting strategies as well.

google_pla_auto_target_choices

One way to segment ad groups is to have a separate ad group for every product in your Google Shopping feed. This may sound daunting as some businesses may sell hundreds or thousands of products, but don’t worry – there’s a way to generate these ad groups in minutes! Follow the Steps below…

*How to Create Product Level Ad Groups for Your Entire Inventory in Minutes*

Step 1: Download Google Merchant feed & Create worksheet You’ll need to download your Google Shopping Feed from the Google Merchant Center, and open it into excel or csv format.  I prefer to save it in xlsx format. Then copy and paste the entire contents of the feed into a new tab within your workbook. In the new tab, delete all the columns except for product title & id.  You should have a unique id for each product in your feed. There may already be a column for id in your feed. If not, you can use sku or any unique product identifying number. Just know that you’ll be segmenting by the id auto target in Adwords. Step 2: Configure the worksheet for Import into Adwords Editor Now you’ll want to add a column for ‘Product Target Condition 1’ between the product title and id columns. The cells in this new column will all contain “id” (you can double-click on the bottom right corner of the top cell containing “id” to quickly copy down to the end of the data). Next change the ‘id’ column heading from ‘id’ to ‘Product Target Value 1’. And change the product title column heading to “Ad Group”.  Lastly, add a column in front of all others titled “Campaign”. If you already have a PLA campaign in your Adwords account, simply fill all the cells in this column with the exact name of your PLA campaign. When you’re done it should look like this. pla_auto_target_import_spreadsheet

You can download this blank PLA Segmentation Template if you like. Note that it contains columns for 3 product targets. You can delete columns for product target conditions/values 2 & 3 if you’re only going to target by id as illustrated in this article.

Step 3: Import into Adwords Editor Select the entire contents of your excel spreadsheet. Copy the selection before proceeding. Now open Google Adwords Editor, and select the Targeting tab >> and beneath that, the Products tab. Then click on Make Multiple Campain Changes >> Add/Update Multiple product targets.

adwords_editor_add_pla_auto_targets

When the next window pops open, select the box in the upper left corner indicating your info contains column headings for campaign & ad group.

pla_import_column_setting

Now paste the contents that you copied from excel into the main box of this window, and select “Process.” Step 4: Check Your Work Check to see that all the ad groups were added with their new auto targets. If you already had a PLA campaign, check to make sure your import didn’t accidentally create a new campaign. If it did, then check the name you entered into excel to make sure it’s an exact match with what’s in Adwords. Otherwise, if everything looks good, click Accept Changes, and then post to Adwords. When you re-load your Adwords account all the new ad groups and auto targets should be there.  Click into auto targets and spot check a few to validate them. If you get a green check you’re good! And as your new segmentation is product level granular, these should only match one product in the feed. google_product_listing_ad_target_validation

And that’s a wrap! You’re now up and running with each product individually represented by an ad group. Furthermore, all the ad groups are named according to the product advertised.

*Structure Notes: *You should continue to incorporate an ad group with the auto target All Products.  Generally speaking, you should bid this ad group lower than all the others. *Product level ad groups for product listing ads are just one piece of the PLA puzzle. You may want to organize your PLA campaign(s) into various buckets such as Top Performers, Categories, Brand, Price Point/Margin, Seasonal items, Gender etc. Some ecommerce retailers may not want to segment so granularly. However, we think it’s important to know how to incorporate product level ad groups should it make sense in your account. Once you start to gather data you can see which products perform and which ones don’t. From there you can optimize your ad groups with maximum transparency. Adjusting ad group level bids, adding ad group level negative keywords, and various other optimizations will now be available to the account manager.

Product Listing Ads (PLA) have become ohh so important for all our online retailers. In many of our accounts, PLA represents over 1/2 of the budget & conversions. Visiture’s been busy generating new and advanced tactics to optimize PLA spend such as segmenting by top sellers, tracking at the SKU level, building product level targets, etc. That’s why this most recent announcement from Google is so important to the PPC geeks here at Visiture.

This week Google launched a new way to manage your product listing ads. The key takeaway is that now you will see your shopping feed data inside of Adwords (what a nightmare it’s been toggling between Merchant Center and Adwords).

View by Product Group
Google Shopping Campaigns

View Product Level Performance in the Grid
Google Shopping Campaigns allow product level performance

Now you can View Competitive Metrics
View Competitive Metrics

According to Google, shopping campaigns are only available to some advertisers at this time. “…will be rolling out gradually in the US, with full global availability by early next year. API support will come in 2014 as well.”

Recently Google Analytics introduced a new “Acquisitions” tab that replaced the original “Traffic Sources”.

acquisitions

The tab offers a handy new way to view channels (like Email and Social) and segment reports, but unfortunately the data only goes back to July 25th, 2013. This is bad news if you like to compare and benchmark data based on channel (organic, paid, direct, referral).

july25th

Fortunately, there’s a way to find that old channel data. Follow these instructions to find your long-lost analytics:

  1. Select the All Traffic option under Acquisitions.
  2. Click the advanced search link.
  3. Update [Include] [Source / Medium] [Containing] to organic (note: “cpc” can be applied to filter older pay-per-click data) and Apply the filter.

organic-search

 

This filter should report all organic data from when tracking was first installed, but it’s still important to review the sources. If a referring URL contains the keyword “organic”, it will pull in this report and skew your data. For example, we have a client who sells organic beauty products; you can see several referring sites that contain organic in the URL.

organic-referrer

For 100% accurate reporting data we would have to exclude keywords that contain “referral”.

referral

 

Excluding the “organic” referral keyword isn’t necessary for all accounts, but we always believe it’s best to take the that extra step to ensure accurate reporting.