Google shopping or Product Listing Ads can be very powerful for online retailers. Studies show you can get 26% higher conversion rates and 23% lower cost per click (CPC) vs. text ads. These numbers may be linked to the opportunity to get better-qualified leads than with text ads. Potential buyers can see images and detailed information about products before clicking on a shopping ad, which allows them to make a more informed decision than with search ads, thus, leading to less wasted clicks and more qualified leads.
Another benefit Product Listing Ads can offer is the visual power you can get over your competitors. With better images and content, you can visually outrank the competition and leave a lasting impression on a potential buyer.
Although shopping ads offer various benefits, they also represent a new challenge. As opposed to text ads, they don’t rely on keywords to be triggered. Therefore, Google decides what to show based on product feeds, which can be very time-consuming to create. In addition, you have to learn a whole new set of rules and best practices, which can also be time-consuming. Luckily, we have done the hard work for you by compiling a full list of key information in this guide.
What Is Google Shopping and How Does It Work?
Google Shopping or Product Listing ads (used interchangeably in this guide) enable businesses to set up campaigns that display product images, descriptions, and titles to potential buyers. This kind of display allows buyers to preview products before clicking on ads and being sent to a website.
Google Shopping campaigns require the setup of Google Merchant Center and product data feeds to display ads.
Things to Consider Before Investing in Google Shopping Campaigns
There’s no doubt that Shopping campaigns can be beneficial for eCommerce businesses, but it’s not quite as easy to get started as it is with text ads. If you’re lacking resources and time or you’re working with a tight budget, you may need to decide between abandoning these types of campaigns entirely or solely focusing on them in order to produce the best results.
One of the first things you need to consider is that your product data feed has to be constantly updated. If you’re not working with a third party company or integration, this means you’ll have to manually send up-to-date product data at least every 30 days, which can be time-consuming.
In addition, if you’re looking to target multiple countries around the world, you’ll have to create different data feeds with the corresponding official language and currency of the target country.
Also, you’ll need to have high-quality images in all your ads. At the very least, they need to have a white background and no logos or watermarks. However, you may want to make your images even more attractive to win over the competition. This may require an additional investment in time, money, and resources to shoot and edit the photos.
Last, if you have a big inventory, you may need to consider a data feed management company, which represents an additional expense.
Go on to the next section to get more details about how to set up campaigns and find out about more requirements.
How to Launch Your First Campaign
Details About the Merchant Center and How to Set It Up
The Google Merchant Center is a tool that helps offline and online merchants upload and manage product details. Online merchants submit their products to the Merchant Center as product data feeds to be able to create product listing ads. In turn, these ads take potential buyers to the merchant’s eCommerce store. On the other hand, offline merchants submit local product inventory feeds to create local inventory ads and drive traffic to their brick and mortar store.
In any case, the Merchant Center is required to create local inventory ads or Shopping ads. It also allows businesses to create reports and sync their AdWords account, among other things.
Before Setting Up Your Merchant Account
Before creating a Merchant Center account, you need to make sure you follow the following guidelines:
Promote only products available for direct purchase. This means you’re not allowed to promote affiliate links, only products available in your store.
Use an official language. You have to use the official language and currency of the country you are trying to target. This means you’ll have to submit different product feeds for different target countries.
Tell customers about your return and refund policy.This policy must be clear and easy to find. If you don’t offer refunds, just state it in your policy.
Collect user information responsibly and securely. Basically, don’t sell your customers information and only collect personal information, such as credit cards, in SSL-protected pages.
Follow the Google Shopping policies.Go over the full list here.
Verify and claim your website URL.Claim and verify your domain in Search Console.
Website requirements. The basic requirements are the following: accurate contact information, secure checkout process, clear return policy, clear billing terms and conditions, and complete checkout process.
Fit your product data into the Google Shopping feed specification.Make sure your product data meets Google’s feed specifications. Don’t worry; we’ll cover this point in more detail below.
Sign in to your Merchant Center account regularly.Sign in to your account at least once every 14 months to keep your account active.
Setting Up Your Google Merchant Center Account
Your merchant center account is linked to your Google account, so make sure you have one set up already—it can just be a Gmail account. If you don’t have one, create one by going to accounts.google.com and clicking on “Create Account.”
Now, go to merchants.google.com and sign in to get started. You’ll be asked to enter basic business information like your address and website URL. It will also show you the terms and conditions and make you verify and claim your website’s URL. This last step is required before uploading product data. It’s for your own protection, to prevent another business from submitting your information without your consent.
Congratulations! Your Google Merchant Center account has been created. Now you can create and upload your product data. See the next section.
Details About Product Feeds and How to Create Them
A feed is a file that contains information about your products. It uses groupings of attributes to describe products and allow potential customers to find your items. Remember that Shopping or Product Listing Ads are not triggered by keywords; they just use your product feed as a foundation to find products that are relevant to the user’s search. Therefore, feeds are vital to the performance of your campaigns, so make sure you take the time to create and maintain them properly.
Another way to submit your products to the Merchant Center is through Google Content API for Shopping or by importing your product data from a supported eCommerce platform. Unless you are comfortable using API, Google recommends you use feeds or import from your eCommerce platform. The eCommerce platforms that offer this capability are BigCommerce, Magento, and PrestaShop.
In this section, we’ll talk about how to create a feed, register it, and upload it to the Google Merchant Center.
How to Create a Product Data Feed
Let’s start by discussing file formats. Google supports data feed in text (.txt) and XML (.xml) format. For small merchants, it recommends using a .txt file with a spreadsheet editor or using Google Sheets and uploading it with the Merchant Center add-on.
Know the following definitions specified by Google before delving into data feed specification details:
Product. Word that describes the actual product that your potential customers would be searching for on Google.
Item. Word that describes a product once it’s been added to your product data, either in a text feed, XML feed, or API. For example, an item is one line in your text feed.
Variant. Word that describes a product that comes in different variations. For example, a shirt that comes in different sizes has size variants.
We won’t go over the whole long list of attributes necessary to create the data feed, but we’ll go over the basic required ones. Discover best data feed practices toward the end of the guide.
Product Title. This is one of the most important pieces of information in your data feed. It’s the key to attracting potential customers and is also vital to let Google know when to show your ads. Include relevant keywords you’d like your products to show up for, such as name of product, brand, size, and any other relevant information that will help potential buyers know your product is a good fit for their needs. Just make sure to put the most important information first to make the biggest impact. Also, avoid keyword stuffing your title, in order to make it more legible to a potential customer.
Product Description. It’s not as important as the product title because it usually gets cut off; however, it’s the way to let Google know what keywords should trigger your ads. Similar to the product title, make sure it includes relevant keywords in an easy to read format—no keyword stuffing. Also, put all the important information at the beginning of the description and give important details about your product, such as fabric type, size, product uses, etc.
Image.An image can discourage or encourage a user to click on your ad. Therefore, you need to have images that make your products look their best. In addition, good-looking images can differentiate your business from the competition and make it stand out. Note that Google requires businesses to use images that are visible as a thumbnail, which have a white background, and that have no logos or watermarks.
Below, you can see an example of a well-created shopping or Product Listing ad. The image is attractive and shows both sides of the product, and the title has enough information to help potential buyers make an educated decision. Also, the description is concise and to the point, which makes it easy to read.
Register Your Feed
Every new feed has to be registered once, and then you can upload and update it as you please. To register your feed, just go to “Products” and select “Feeds” from the menu. Then, click the plus button, fill out the information, and complete the registration.
How to Upload a Data Feed
Google recommends that a full data feed should be submitted at least every 30 days, but, if your products change often, you can submit the feed up to 4 times per day. You can upload your feed through direct upload, FTP, SFTP upload, or scheduled fetches.
Link Your Accounts
We are in the final step in creating the Merchant Center process, which consists of linking this account to your AdWords account. This will allow you to create shopping ads and dynamic remarketing campaigns on AdWords. All you need to do is request to link and approve the request.
Now you’re ready to go to AdWords and start creating Product Listing Ads! In the next section, we’ll go over best practices for your campaigns.
Tips to Get the Most Return from Your Google Shopping Campaigns
Select your bids based on product ROI.
Not all your products have the same profit margin, so you shouldn’t bid the same amount across all your products. Select your bids wisely, according to profit and competitors’ pricing. Choose a bid that you can afford, but which is also competitive in your industry. Setting up individual or group bids can be very daunting if you have a large inventory. In that case, hiring a PPC management agency would be the smartest choice to save time.
Use SEO techniques to optimize your data feed.
Since Google has control over which ads get triggered at any particular moment, it’s imperative that you optimize your feed with SEO techniques that allow Google to know specifically which ads to trigger. The keywords in your title and product description should have the keywords for which you’re looking to rank.
Use conversational language in your data feed.
Your feed should be SEO-friendly, but that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to look like a nonsense list of strategically placed keywords. Make your product title and description informative but easy to read and attractive to potential buyers. It will help you get more clicks and higher conversion rates.
Retarget potential customers.
As with other PPC campaigns, use remarketing or retargeting to increase your conversions. This type of campaigns would target previous website visitors.
Build a negative keywords list.
Similar to regular search campaigns, AdWords lets you build a negative keyword list to prevent your ads from showing for certain keywords. It works as a filter so you don’t waste money on unwanted clicks. For example, if you sell men’s jeans but not women’s jeans, you should add women’s jeans as a negative keyword to avoid showing your ads to people who search for women’s jeans.
Summing It Up
Google shopping or Product Listing Ads can be more cost-effective than regular search campaigns. This is partly due to the higher pre-qualification of leads that occurs by delivering more information up front in the form of product images, titles, and descriptions.
This type of campaign may require more maintenance than regular text campaigns, depending on your store’s inventory volume.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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