Most eCommerce retailers are probably aware of the product search statistics that have been floating around the internet for a while now:
- 66 percent of shoppers start their searches on Amazon
- 20 percent of consumers begin product searches on Google
While Google used to be the preferred product research method for online buyers, Amazon now dominates the item investigation starting point.
Therefore, retailers should focus most of their efforts on Amazon, right?
When broken down in terms of sales, a 2018 Jumpshot study showed that Google actually converts prospects into purchasers faster than Amazon.
As was revealed, 35 percent of Google product searches results in a transaction within five days, whereas only 20 percent of Amazon searchers took the plunge in that same period. Moreover, the average window between a search and a purchase on Google was 20 days, compared to Amazon’s 26 days.
The fact is that Google, while playing second fiddle in the product research department, is still an incredibly influential channel for eCommerce retail transactions. More specifically, optimized Google Shopping campaigns are often the crème de la crème of eCommerce advertising methods.
In 2018, Google Shopping ads accounted for more than 76 percent of U.S. retail search ad spending. Moreover, these adverts drove over 85 percent of all Google Ads clicks.
Given this dynamic, retailers can create profitable Google Shopping campaigns as the leads that view their ads (which display the product and price) are shown to qualified prospects before they ever click-through.
The way these ads surface is that when a user enters a query, Google’s advertising algorithm crawls the data available in a merchant’s product feed to display the most relevant Shopping ad for the search.
Therefore, the effectiveness of a campaign is reliant upon the level of optimization of the retailer’s product feed.
What Is a Product Feed?
Effectively, a product feed is a spreadsheet that organizes and specifies a seller’s product catalog in a manner in which Google is able to crawl and comprehend.
(example product feed from Store Growers)
The reason a product feed is necessary is that Shopping ads do not work in the same way as standard campaigns. Whereas a regular search campaign requires advertisers to bid on specific keywords for triggering adverts, with Shopping campaigns, advertisers have no control over which queries will cause their ads to show.
Instead, Google crawls the retailer’s product feed to establish which ads are relevant for the search. Therefore, the relevance of the ads in relation to the entered query is entirely dependent upon how well merchants have optimized their product feeds.
That said, this shouldn’t seem like too foreign of a concept for sellers as product feed optimization is extremely similar to implementing eCommerce SEO best practices.
Because of how Google Shopping ads decide to surface specific adverts, it is critical for sellers to supply as much information as possible in the product feed. Those who take the time to optimize their feed accordingly will likely improve their PPC ROAS.
However, retailers who fail to optimize their product feeds are subject to:
- Not surfacing for relevant queries
- Losing SERP real estate to competitors
- Minimized visibility could lead to overspend
For instance, if a merchant sells smart watches but neglects including the manufacturer, model or color, then it is extremely likely that those sellers’ ads won’t show for high intent queries they should have been able to capture.
Moreover, if the merchant does end up showing for a related query, they are likely to pay much more for the ad than a similar purveyor who surfaced as a result of an optimized product feed, thereby failing to conserve their PPC budget.
With all that said, let’s dive into the exact steps that sellers must take to ensure their product feed is optimized correctly.
How to Optimize Product Feeds for Better Campaign Results
When creating a product feed, the bottom line is that there is no such thing as too much information. While this does not mean that keyword stuffing is an acceptable strategy (because it never is), it does mean that retailers should take the time to describe products in great amounts of detail so as to increase their ad’s relevance.
The categories that merchants must optimize include:
The product title will ultimately show as the blue hyperlinked text for the Shopping ad.
This real estate is a seller’s top priority as the product title is comparable to the page title on a website, meaning that it is an important destination and one of the first places that Google will analyze.
While retailers should not stuff keywords here or anywhere else in their product feed, it is essential to be as detailed as possible.
Given that product research trends have skewed toward long-tail keywords (particularly when a buyer is close to making a purchase), these phrases are of considerable importance to include.
Moreover, by listing an item’s manufacturer, model or style, color, size, gender and all other pertinent details, retailers stand a better chance of speaking to commercial intent.
No matter if one is talking about optimizing a site for visual search or creating Shopping campaigns that generate conversions, the rule remains the same: Any time that retailers are showing off their goods, it is vital to utilize stunning product images that sell.
Product images are a crucial component of any sales effort. Therefore, utilizing professional photos is a necessity–pure and simple.
The reason for this is that the product images are less about conveying relevance to Google than it is about providing shoppers with some serious eye candy that they can’t help but click.
Moreover, the product images that a merchant employs are essentially a proxy that communicates the level of professionalism for a given brand. Poor images relay a message of carelessness. Great photos portray a polished purveyor.
Select your best product photos to put your best foot forward.
Naturally, the product description is text that lives below the product title (or to the right of the image) in the Shopping ad.
In this section, it is vital to take the time to write product descriptions that sell. That said, this is not an opportunity to dust off your creative writing skills from college and craft some verbose, bombastic, but ultimately frivolous description.
The fact is that when Google crawls a product feed, it is doing so in search of relevant keywords. Therefore, this section is an excellent opportunity to utilize primary and secondary keywords, along with keyword variants that will enhance the potential for an ad to surface.
As is the case with the product title, try to include the most relevant keywords as close to the beginning as possible.
While the information entered into the product category section is not customer-facing, it is required, nonetheless.
To make a product eligible for Google Shopping campaigns, it is mandatory for retailers to select a category from Google’s Product Taxonomy. The company supplies retailers with over 6,000 categories and subcategories to choose from, so be sure to select the most relevant one to the item. The more targeted a retailer is with their categories, the more significant the chance of the appropriate ad surfacing for a related search.
For instance, if a retailer sells Kindle cases, don’t merely categorize an item as Electronics > Electronics Accessories.
Instead, get extremely specific, labeling the product as:
Electronics > Electronics Accessories > Computer Accessories > Handheld Device Accessories > E-Book Reader Accessories > E-Book Reader Cases
Product types, unlike the category section, are optional (but not really). Here, retailers are given the added opportunity to provide Google with more information that will help the engine to determine a product’s relevance for a given search.
While Google’s Product Taxonomy certainly helps to categorize an item, there is a good chance that it is not as precise as some wish. In these instances, the product type section is a merchant’s chance to add the extra information required for exact categorization.
Moreover, by utilizing this section to the fullest, retailers that sell niche items can help to get their ads in front of audiences that might not see a product that is merely categorized by Product Taxonomy.
Miscellaneous Product Information
In this field, sellers will list all the pertinent details of an item that helps to move merchandise, but don’t have a dedicated section.
For instance, this is where retailers will enter a product’s price–a requirement for Shopping ads.
Moreover, resellers must include the brand of the items in their product catalog. For those who sell things like apparel, it is also necessary to include details such as gender, color, size, availability, condition (new or used) and similarly vital information.
Furthermore, when Google goes to populate Shopping ads for searchers, the company groups together merchants who are selling products with the same Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), a unique number that is assigned to all products. Therefore, this identifier must also be included in this section.
Fortunately for those who are unfamiliar with this number, finding a product’s GTIN is a simple process.
Admittedly, this portion is less about optimizing a product feed for relevance and more about bidding on Google Shopping campaigns. While retailers do not bid on keywords like traditional search campaigns, they do still need to set limits on what they are willing to pay-per-click.
However, not all products are created equal in their ability to generate revenue. Therefore, when building out Shopping campaigns, it is advisable to create custom labels, based on how a product catalog is segmented. By generating specific labels for each bucket, retailers can assign bids to each, bidding higher on their best-selling products and lower on those that pull in fewer profits.
With all this information uploaded to the Google Merchant Center, retailers must review for any potential errors that could cause problems with their Shopping campaigns.
Understanding the Google Merchant Center
When using text ads with Google, the company provides retailers with a Quality Score. However, Google Shopping campaigns are not the same in this regard. Instead, sellers are supplied with the Google Merchant Center.
(Image from Google)
This platform is not only where retailers enter all their product feed data, but it is also where merchants can gain insights into any potential problems with their feed, denoted by errors (most serious), warnings and notifications.
This can essentially be considered as analogous to a Quality Score in that Google will still show Shopping ads for particular searches, but it will end up costing advertisers more than those who have a fully optimized product feed.
Therefore, when such messages surface in the Merchant Center, it is vital to address them as soon as possible. The potential issues that sellers might encounter include:
Account-level warnings can potentially result in more significant problems such as Google closing a seller’s Merchant Center. If an Account-level warning like a verification issue arises, users should fix the problem immediately so as to continue running Shopping ads.
Feed warnings indicate that something is incorrect in the product feed. As Google notes:
“This section lists data feeds that have an overarching issue that prevents Google from processing an entire feed, such as upload issues, fetch errors, and expired feeds. For a full list of your feed processing issues, use the reporting available on the Feeds section.”
These types of issues are at the product level and indicate that something is wrong with an individual item, be it data quality, policy violations, feed processing or similar problems.
Item issues account for the majority of Merchant Center issues that require a seller’s attention.
It doesn’t matter if a merchant sells the best products available on the market if they can’t get those items in front of consumers.
Optimizing product feeds is critical when it comes to Google Shopping campaign visibility, and visibility is vital to sales. The bottom line here is that the amount of value that retailers get out of their product feeds directly correlates with the amount of effort sunk into their optimization.
That said, not all merchants have the time or resources to optimize their product feeds appropriately. But this doesn’t mean that Shopping campaigns have to suffer as a result.
Instead, reach out to Visiture’s Google Shopping Management experts for a free consultation to see how we can help increase your product’s relevance, visibility and campaign conversion rates.