Google Smart Shopping Campaigns: How to Use for Your eCommerce Business

Kathrynn Wardby Kathrynn Ward

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As far as product research and discovery are concerned, Amazon and Google assert almost complete control.

As it currently stands, 66 percent of searches start on Amazon, and 20 percent begin on Google, leaving a mere 14 percent for all other online portals.

This dynamic is quite a problem for many sellers as Amazon’s lack of data sharing makes it virtually impossible for brands to build relationships and establish brand loyalty through the platform.

That said, Google is the right avenue for retailers to utilize to further these goals. Moreover, even though only 20 percent of product searches start on Google, that still equates to many millions of queries since Google search statistics show the engine processing 3.5 billion searches per day.

As it stands, Google Shopping campaigns have been a boon for online retailers, accounting for over 76 percent of U.S. retail search ad spending and more than 85 percent of all Google Ads clicks.

However, as Google continues to push into the realm of automation and machine learning, the dominance wielded by profitable Google Shopping ads is poised to change as technology continues to take over the manual work of advertisers.

Launched in mid-2018, Google Smart Shopping campaigns integrate the most contemporary automation and machine learning technologies into Shopping campaigns. With this new campaign type, Google is in the driver’s seat.

With that said, let’s take a deep dive into what Smart Shopping ads are and how to leverage them for greater awareness and sales.

What Are Google Smart Shopping Campaigns?

Google Smart Shopping ads are different from their more traditional counterparts in a variety of ways.

Firstly, Smart Shopping campaigns utilize machine learning and algorithms to automate advertiser bids and ad placements, thereby making the adverts perfect for smaller retailers who do not have the resources to manage and optimize Google Shopping campaigns.

In addition to automating placement, Smart Shopping ads have access to a broader array of locations. Google Smart Shopping campaigns can surface on YouTube, Gmail and across the entirety of the Google Display Network.

The best part of Smart Shopping automation is that they seem to work. According to Google, early tests of these ads drove 20 percent more conversions than the manually managed Shopping adverts. Moreover, as Google stated earlier this year:

“Customers have seen great results in the year since Smart Shopping campaigns launched… 80 percent of advertisers who have tried both Standard and Smart Shopping campaigns, now use Smart Shopping campaigns for the majority of their Shopping ad investment in the last year.”

Part of what makes Google Smart Shopping campaigns excellent is that this ad type utilizes a retailer’s existing product feed to generate ads. Therefore, those who are already running Shopping campaigns don’t have to put in any extra effort to work with the automated version.

Using the content in a merchant’s feed, Smart ads are automatically generated. From there, Google employs machine learning technology to optimize the ads for peak performance. According to Google, the entire process takes approximately 15 days, at which point the system possesses the necessary data to maximize campaign ROI.

That said, there are some requirements that merchants must meet before getting started with Google Smart Shopping campaigns.

Google Smart Shopping Campaign Prerequisites

What follows is all pretty standard stuff for getting started with Google Shopping campaigns. However, for those who have never launched such an initiative, the requirements are as follows.

To run Google Smart Shopping campaigns, sellers must possess a Google Ads account, a Google Merchant Center account and must have a product feed uploaded to the Merchant Center.

Image from Google

Moreover, it is necessary for retailers to have a conversion tracking pixel installed on their site and actively track transaction-specific conversion values. In addition to this, retailers must also have a remarketing global site tag installed alongside a dynamic remarketing tag.

Finally, merchants must have earned at least 20 Shopping campaign conversions over the past 45 days and have an audience list with a minimum of 100 users. Of course, sellers must also meet Google’s requirements for Shopping campaigns.

Got all that? Great.

Now let’s dive into setting up a Google Smart Shopping campaign and budgeting details.

Smart Shopping Campaign Creation and Budgeting

Given that Smart Shopping campaigns combine Standard Shopping and display remarketing, retailers who are running either of these efforts should pause them prior to initiating a Smart Shopping push with the same products. The reason for this is that Smart Shopping ads will trump the previously mentioned campaign types.

To maximize campaign performance (and streamline efforts), Google advises that sellers target all of their available products within a single campaign. There is a reason for this suggestion, which we will get to in a moment.To establish a Smart Shopping campaign, simply head to Google Ads and create a new campaign by clicking “Shopping” as the ad type. Next, select the appropriate Merchant Center account and click “Smart Shopping campaign” for the campaign subtype.

Next, retailers are asked to set their budgets. When it comes to budgeting for Google Smart Shopping campaigns, those just starting out should mirror the combined daily spend of traditional Shopping and display remarketing budgets. Approaching Smart Shopping campaigns in this way will enable sellers to objectively compare the success of each campaign type and determine which produces the best ROAS, thereby conserving PPC budgets.

Afterward, sellers will select their product group and upload creative assets. By default, the items that are listed in the merchant’s product feed will be included in the campaign, unless retailers specify differently. Google advises that retailers preserve the default setting as the company delivers ads via the Display Network based on the products that consumers have viewed on a retailer’s website, thereby serving them the appropriate remarketing materials.

After launching the campaign, Google will automatically test out different permutations of images and text for each product to achieve maximum conversions.

Smart Shopping Optimization Tips

While Smart Shopping campaigns handle the bulk of the optimization efforts, there are some tactics that retailers can employ to optimize these PPC campaigns and ensure prosperous performance.

Firstly, for retailers who wish to just dip their toes into the Smart Shopping waters by testing only a portion of their product feed, it is crucial to keep the rest of the display marketing and Shopping campaign products that will not be utilized in the Smart effort running.

As has been mentioned, Google Smart Shopping campaigns take approximately 15 days to optimize performance. Be sure not to stop a campaign short because performance is not stellar from the jump.

However, for those who just aren’t meeting their conversion goals, it is wise to alter bidding tactics. Improving PPC ROAS by targeting that metric might be a better option for merchandise that possesses comparable profit margins. If products have divergent ROAS targets, then it might be a good idea to place them into separate campaigns.

Finally, just like with standard Shopping campaigns, retailers should take the time to optimize their product feeds to achieve peak relevance for specific types of queries.

Smart Shopping Campaign Reporting

With Google Smart Shopping campaigns, all the typical reporting metrics (clicks, conversions, etc.) are available at the campaign, ad group, product group, product level and device type in the Reports tab.

Unfortunately, advertisers cannot access placement performance reports, meaning that the most prosperous networks cannot be established. Given this inaccessibility of information, retailers should not make a direct one-to-one comparison of the performance of Smart Shopping campaigns with those of their traditional counterparts.

The reason for this is that sellers might see a lower conversion rate and think that Google Smart Shopping campaigns are inferior. However, what they are failing to recognize is that Smart campaigns show across the Display Network, meaning that a lower conversion rate is likely given the number of impressions.

Therefore, when analyzing performance, advertisers should compare the collective performance of both Shopping campaigns and display remarketing efforts.

Sellers can also analyze their Smart Shopping campaign performance by location. Previously, users did not have access to location options. However, location targeting became available for Smart Shopping campaigns recently, thereby enabling a more refined campaign. As Search Engine Land explains:

“Smart Shopping campaigns used to target all countries and territories. Now, if you go to the Settings tab within a Smart Shopping campaign, you’ll have the option to narrow that targeting, including the ability to set radius targeting from the Advanced search link. You can exclude specific locations as well.”

Thanks to this update, merchants can click on the Geographic Report tab to analyze Smart Shopping campaign performance by the locations for which ads were shown. Similar to standard Shopping campaigns, this data is reported at the country level. Simply click on a country to get more specific information.

By analyzing data, advertisers can refine their campaign performance by adjusting the location targeting of Google Smart Shopping campaigns.

The Downsides of Smart Shopping Campaigns

While there are tons of perks provided by Google Smart Shopping campaigns, there are a handful of drawbacks to consider as well.

One of the most significant concerns that retailers must tangle with is the complete lack of control that advertisers have over these campaigns. The fact is that many advertisers struggle with handing over the reins to automation, as doing so essentially means that owners must give Google control over how an ad budget is spent.

This relinquishment of campaign oversight can be quite concerning to many sellers, given that Smart Shopping adverts do not allow for adjusting bids by device, changing ad scheduling, the inclusion of negative keywords or modifying audience attributes outside of locations.

For businesses that have the resources to analyze and optimize campaigns manually, this is a massive impediment. Making matters worse, Google Smart Shopping campaigns lock advertisers out of reviewing or harvesting audience data, search term information and through which of Google’s channels (YouTube, Gmail, the Display Network, standard SERPs) advertisements were shown.

If this weren’t problematic enough, merchants also do not have access to information regarding how much of an ad budget was used on retargeting adverts.

As a result, retailers cannot gather the necessary data for improving other types of Google Ad campaigns, search engine optimization efforts or other marketing initiatives.

While this might not be so troublesome for smaller merchants who do not have the means to review data and apply actionable campaign insights manually, those who do are out of luck in many ways.

With that on the table, let’s explore some of the effective ways that retailers can deploy Google Smart Shopping campaigns.

Effective Smart Shopping Use Cases

While Smart Shopping ads are clearly not for everyone all the time, there are specific scenarios in which these adverts can be ideal.

For instance, retailers can split their most profitable products off into a standard Shopping campaign while placing less lucrative items into a Smart Shopping campaign for Google to optimize. Through this approach, retailers can maintain control of their most important campaigns and put most of their attention on those efforts while allowing Google to automate the optimization process for all other items.

Another approach that makes sense for Smart Shopping campaigns relates to location-based targeting. Thanks to the new ability to exclude specific locations and set geographic boundaries on a campaign’s targeting, when expanding into new countries where sellers do not know what kind of traffic or conversion rate to expect or which search terms would be most beneficial, Smart Shopping ads can do the heavy lifting.

Finally, as has been mentioned, smaller merchants who lack the resources to optimize adverts manually will also find Smart Shopping ads to be extremely useful.

For many retailers, Google Smart Shopping campaigns will have their place in a brand’s advertising portfolio. While there are certainly drawbacks to consider when employing these ads, as Google’s optimization practices continue to grow increasingly refined, there will come a tipping point where machine learning outpaces human intelligence in ad targeting and development practices.

Moreover, the time that Smart Shopping campaigns save retailers will allow them to focus their attention on more profitable pursuits, thereby aiding eCommerce businesses to scale to greater heights.

That said, removing the human element can be a profoundly uncomfortable thing for retailers who want to make sure that every penny of their advertising budget is well spent. If you are wary of the black box that is Google Smart Shopping campaigns but still want to optimize your ad dollars, reach out to Visiture’s Google Shopping management gurus, and we can help elevate your company’s Shopping adverts to the next level of profitability.


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