The Ultimate Guide to Google Shopping for 2019

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Introduction

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Have you noticed that when you searched for a specific product on Google, you’d often see a listing with images and prices at the top or the upper right-hand side of the search results page?

Consumers love the convenience of this feature and they’re more likely to click on those links.

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Wouldn’t it be great to have your merchandise shown on that list to capture the attention of shoppers who are looking for the exact items you’re selling?

These Google Shopping ads not only appear at a prominent position on Google SERPs (search engine results pages) but they are also shown in the shopping tab on Google search results.

For many online merchants, Google Shopping ads are one of the leading traffic sources and they can give you an edge in a competitive market landscape if you set them up properly.

If you’re wondering whether adding Google Shopping Campaigns to your marketing mix will make a difference for your business, consider the results we have achieved for Arcadia Publishing, a client that hadn’t had much success with PPC until we added Google Shopping to their PPC portfolio:

  • 458 percent increase in ROAS
  • 102 percent increase in sales
  • 565 percent increase in impressions
  • 141 percent increase in conversions

In this ultimate guide, we’ll show you how to get the most out of Google Shopping Campaigns. You’ll learn what Google Shopping ads are, how to set your campaigns up for success, how to create and optimize your product data, how to design a bid strategy, how to use analytics to fine-tune your ads and our favorite ways to supercharge your campaigns.

Ready to sell more? Let’s go…

What’s Google Shopping?

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Formerly known as product listing ads (PLA), Google Shopping ads help consumers search for, view and compare products on SERPs. These listings are also shown in the Google Shopping tab and help increase the visibility of your products.

These ads are powered by Google Ads and Google Merchant Center:

Google Ads

Formerly known as Google AdWords, this is the PPC advertising platform on which you’ll set your budget, target your audience and manage your bids so your ads can be served to high-quality prospects that are most likely to convert.

You can also pull a variety of reports from your Google Ads dashboard to help evaluate how the ads are performing so you can fine-tune your campaigns and increase your ROI.

Google Merchant Center

This is where you’d upload and manage your product feed to ensure that the information displayed on your Google Shopping ads are up-to-date. (Google won’t show ads with outdated information.)

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Your product feed consists of the details of your merchandise organized in a format that Google can use to display the information on its SERPs and effectively highlight your items to users who are looking for them.

Set Yourself Up for Success with Google Shopping Ads

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In order to get the highest ROI from your Google Shopping ads, you should know your numbers and understand the market landscape.

Here’s some prep work you should do before setting up your campaigns so you have all the necessary information and critical pieces in place:

Goals

Setting realistic and measurable goals will keep you on track while giving you the flexibility to exercise your creativity and achieve your business objectives.

The most important goal is your target CPA (cost per acquisition).

Simply put, how much are you willing to pay to acquire a customer? How much can you pay for a customer and still make a profit?

In addition, you should consider your average customer lifetime value (CLV) to see if you’re comfortable with spending more to acquire new customers and bank on the fact that they’ll make recurring purchases so you can recuperate the initial acquisition cost.

For example, if your average margin for each order is $35, would you be willing to spend all that profit from the first order to close the deal and hope that the customer will come back?

If you don’t get many repeat customers, then it means you won’t be making a profit. However, if most of your buyers tend to make recurring purchases, then it may be worth the investment.

You have to understand your buyers’ behaviors and your numbers in order to set a maximum target budget that you’re comfortable with.

Buyer Intent

eCommerce Shopping on Laptop

Understanding the buyer intent will help you focus your ad dollars on keywords or phrases that will most likely attract searchers who are ready to make a purchase.

Typically, longer and more detailed searches correspond to a higher purchasing intent. For example:

  • Someone who enters “Nike” into the search box is likely to be just researching, killing time or a fan who can’t get enough of the brand.
  • A searcher who enters “Nike running shoes” is likely to be actively looking for a pair of running shoes and is researching his options.
  • A user who searches for “Black Nike Zoom Pegasus” is most likely ready to make a purchase because he’s searching for a specific product.

Keyword Research

Just like anything Google, you need to know what keywords to rank for so your ads can be shown to the right searchers with high purchase intent. Keyword research is the foundation of most online advertising strategies and it’s no different for Google Shopping ads.

There are many tools you can use for keyword research, such as:

  • Google Keyword Planner–It helps you find out what your competitors are ranking for and discover new keywords you can use to attract more visitors.
  • SEMRush–A robust SEO tool that helps you conduct SEO audit, track rank position, get competitive intelligence and, of course, conduct keyword research and analysis.
  • Ahrefs–Its keyword explorer shows you what keywords to rank for, analyze their ranking difficulty and calculate their traffic potential.
  • Moz–Its keyword explorer is a great tool for finding “lateral” keyword ideas. It gives you “out of the box” suggestions that you aren’t likely to find anywhere else.
  • Google Trends–This tool helps you stay on top of your competitors by analyzing trends and finding related keywords that are gaining popularity.

Competitive Analysis

In order to outrank your competitors, you need to know what they’re doing. There are many tools you can use to spy on your competitors:

Google

Yep, this is the “Keep It Simple Sunshine” route! You can manually search Google for your desired keywords and see what comes up in the shopping results. Take note of the products, titles, prices, images and retailers to see how the items are positioned.

Don’t underestimate this tactic–you’re looking at top-ranking ads so they must be doing something right. Why reinvent the wheel?

SEMRush and Other Tools

If you want to spy on your competitors more systematically, you can use tools such as SEMRush to get the intelligence that will help you outrank your competitors. For example, you can enter your competitors’ URLs into one of these tools to see their top Google Shopping Ad placements and what their ads look like.

Create and Optimize Your Google Shopping Ad Feed

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Your data feed consists of information on the merchandise to be listed, such as product data, product description, image and price, formatted for Google’s system.

Unlike Google Ads, you don’t pick keywords for targeting purposes. Instead, Google crawls your data feed and determines if your products are relevant to each search query.

As such, you need to structure the various elements of your feed so Google will show your products on relevant search queries.

Feed Structure

Setting up your product feed properly will help you show up in the right search queries and get more clicks while making ongoing optimization and management easier:

Building a Feed

There are two ways to build your Google Shopping product feed:

  • Manually create a spreadsheet with product information listed according to Google’s specifications.
  • Automatically pull and format data from your eCommerce site using an extension, plugin, app or service, such as the Google Shopping App for Shopify.

After you have built the product feed, you’ll need to upload the data. There are different methods you can use to do so, such as direct upload, FTP upload, SFTP upload, scheduled fetch and content API.

Understanding and Optimizing the Key Feed Elements

It’s important to understand the different elements in a product feed so you can optimize the information:

Product Title

This is the most important element of your feed. There’s a 150-character limit so make sure every word packs a punch!

Here’s what to include in the product title:

  • Top keywords you want the product to show up for.
  • The most commonly used name of your product.
  • Details such as color, brand, gender, materials and size so your item will be shown on detailed searches.
  • Important information should appear first in the title.
  • The model number and other descriptors.

In addition, make sure to avoid:

  • Keyword stuffing–only use a keyword once in the product title.
  • Promotional text.
  • Being too vague.
  • Using all caps.

Product Description

Google uses product descriptions to determine what keywords will trigger your ads.

Here’s how to optimize your product descriptions:

  • Describe the items concisely and accurately–don’t be vague or long-winded.
  • Provide the information consumers want to know when making a purchasing decision.
  • Include keywords but don’t overuse them.
  • Frontload important information.

Product Category

Google has an exhaustive list of categories and subcategories and you need to choose one that best fits your product.

If your product doesn’t neatly fit into a category, get as close as you can and then use the “product type” column to include additional information.

Product Type

It’s not a required field but it gives you the opportunity to add more information that can help Google deliver your ad to the most relevant queries.

Be as descriptive as possible and use your website’s taxonomy or category breadcrumbs to inform this content.

Brand

It’s important to include this information whether you’re listing your own brand or other brands.

Not only do many shoppers search by brand, but those who do also have higher purchase intent. Including this information can help Google deliver your ad to searchers who are more likely to convert.

Image

Posting appealing product images is the key to getting more shoppers to click on your ads.

Use high-resolution images and make sure they show the items clearly when displayed in thumbnail size. If you’re selling apparel, show the clothing on models to entice more clicks.

Google Product Images

Google requires all product images to have a white background and without any text, watermark or logo. Follow the latest guidelines to make sure your ads don’t get rejected.

Price

Most shoppers decide whether to click on an ad based on the price of the product. This is particularly important if you’re selling the exact products as other retailers or your customers are highly price sensitive.

Look at the listings from other sellers and make sure that your pricing is competitive. Google has recently introduced a new feature for advertisers to see what their competitors are charging for a particular product so they can adjust their pricing to attract more clicks.

In addition, you can add the “sale_price” code to your feed so the price drop tag will be included in your ad, which typically leads to more clicks:

google sales price highlight

Other Information

There is other information you need to provide in a product feed, such as:

  • Apparel categories–Google requires a few additional data points for apparel.
  • MPN (Manufacturer’s Product Number) & GTIN (Global Trade Item Numbers)–Google requires this information on all new in-store products to identify the exact product and brand being sold. This information can help increase your exposure because Google can find more details about your products.
  • Sales tax and shipping cost.
  • Availability and condition.
  • Custom labels–These aren’t used by Google but solely for reporting or structuring your Google Shopping campaigns. Adding the right custom labels (e.g., price range, profit margins, bestsellers) can help you segment your products for more efficient bid management and reporting.

Factors Affecting Your Ad Placement

In order to optimize your product feed, you need to take these factors into account:

  • Query volume: shows how competitive a keyword is. You should balance search volume with the level of competition to optimize your budget.
  • Query intent: the query (e.g., keywords used) reflects how likely a searcher is ready to make a purchase. For instance, searchers using long-tail keywords are often more ready to buy a product.
  • Competition: the number of retailers who are ranking for the same product or keywords affects how likely your ads will get seen.
  • Profit margin: shows how much you can spend on each click and still make a profit.
  • Search term performance: if a search term isn’t delivering the conversion you want, you should add it as a negative keyword.
  • Site performance: Google considers site performance such as load time in its ranking.
  • Audience: dialing in your segmentation helps deliver your ads to the right people in the right place at the right time to increase CTR and conversion rate.
  • Inventory: you can enable local inventory ad if you have a brick-and-mortar store to attract shoppers to your physical location.

[ Case Studies ] Optimizing Google Shopping Data Feed Increased ROAS  by 206 percent and Boosted Conversions by 985 percent

When we started working with Air Sea Containers, Google Shopping was already its biggest revenue generator. Our goal was to increase the efficiency of their ads, so we focused on optimizing its data feed.

We optimized its product data, ensured that all required attributes were represented and verified that the items are classified in the appropriate categories.

In addition, we made sure that the best-selling and most profitable products were getting maximum exposure.

By dialing in all the components in the product feed, we were able to achieve:

  • 206 percent increase in ROAS
  • 194 percent increase in revenue
  • 292 percent increase in impressions
  • 150 percent increase in conversions
  • 146 percent increase in clicks

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Another client, Achoo Allergy, struggled with increasing the effectiveness of their PPC campaigns. We strategically structured its Google Shopping Campaigns with a highly optimized feed, which also laid the groundwork for the brand’s future campaigns.

We ensured that all required attributes were represented and Google product categories were appropriately applied to all the products within the feed.

As a result of this effort, we achieved:

  • 397 percent increase in Shopping Campaign revenue
  • 985 percent increase in Shopping Campaign conversions
  • 69 percent increase in sales
  • 67 percent increase in revenue
  • 79 percent increase in ROAS

achoo allergy case study achievements graphic

Optimize Your Google Shopping Ad Bidding Strategy

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Your bid strategy plays a key role in determining what queries your ads will show up in and how profitable your campaigns will be.

Managing your bids can be quite a Goldilocks situation: If you bid too high, your ROI will suffer but if you bid too low, you won’t get prominent placement and gain the traction you need.

When you’re dialing in your bids, you can use Google’s Bid Simulator to see how different group bids can affect your traffic. The tool leverages data from the past seven days and shows you how an ad may perform at different bids.

Here’s how to get your bids just right:

Consider the Bidding Trifecta

These are the most important factors that will impact how you bid:

Product Price

Products with different prices should have different bids. Would you pay $20 to get a customer to purchase a $500 piece of equipment? Sure! Would you pay $20 to get someone to buy a $5 box of screws? Don’t think so!

Profit Margin

Going one step beyond product price is to consider how much you actually make from each sale (e.g., your average gross margin), so that ideally you’d be at least breaking even on your first sale.

eCommerce Conversion Rate

Understanding your conversion rates will help you get the right amount of clicks to optimize your ROI. Keep in mind that the conversion rate from paid search is often lower than your site average when in your analytics.

Here’s a handy formula for determining your initial maximum bid, from which you can scale down to increase your efficiency:

available profit callout

Install Programmatic Technologies

If you have a catalog with hundreds of products, it isn’t cost-efficient to manually analyze and optimize performance down to the SKU level.

Programmatic (automatic) bidding makes it possible to manage bids for a large number of items and take the guesswork out of the process.

There are two kinds of programmatic bidding:

  • Algorithm-based bidding: This hands-off approach is based on your ROAS (return on ad spending) goals. However, it takes up to 90 days for the machine learning technology to collect enough data so it can make meaningful adjustments to your campaigns. In addition, the algorithm may lower your bid to meet a short-term ROAS goal at the expense of long-term profitability. With lower ad spending, your ads may be shown to fewer users and your revenue could decline over time.
  • Rule-based bidding: This approach allows you to manage bids for a large number of products by setting automated rules so you can change the ad status, budget, bids, etc. based on data such as conversion rate, impression, ROI, trends and more. This hybrid approach allows you to combine automation with human oversight so you can scale up your Google Shopping Campaigns at the SKU-level to optimize results.

Our Most Effective Rule-Based Bidding Strategies

Rule-based bidding gives you more control without the burden of having to manage each SKU manually.

Unlike algorithmic bidding, which often uses a cookie-cutter application, rule-based bidding makes it possible to manage the bid for each SKU and customize your input to optimize short-term and long-term results.

Here are our best strategies to increase the effectiveness of rule-based bidding for your Google Shopping ads:

Pull Back on Wasted Spend

Any item that exceeds a certain spend threshold over a set number of days and yields zero conversion should be pulled from the feed.

This rule will help you reduce wasted ad spend so you can relocate the budget to higher-converting traffic that’s more profitable.

Implement Bid Increase Rules

When you have identified a high-converting item, you should increase the bids to boost its visibility. Not only can you boost the sales of that product but the visitors you attract to your site may also purchase other merchandise.

You can create a simple filter to look for repeat converters. For top converters (e.g., products with the highest ROAS), you can “stack” the rules to compound the effect of increasing your bid.

However, you also need to look out for “one-off” converters. A product may show a high conversion rate but if you look at the actual numbers, the sales volume is very low. You should not be increasing your bid aggressively for those ads.

Bump Up Products with No Impressions

This rule aims at driving incremental revenue by bumping up products that aren’t getting any impression over a set period of time (e.g., 30 days).

By driving more traffic to these items, you can get them “healthy” enough to compete in auctions and collect the necessary data to determine if they should be moved to another bid group.

Lower Bid on “Bleeders”

Bleeders are products that are getting conversion but not generating profits. Put another way, the cost of acquiring a customer is higher than what you make from selling the item.

In general, items with a ROAS less than 4 are likely to be bleeders. By lowering your bids on these products, you can improve your efficiency. Keep in mind that the sales volume may drop when you do so; however, your profit will likely increase.

Analyze Your Google Shopping Campaigns

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In order to optimize your results, you need to be constantly monitoring and fine-tuning your campaigns.

Not only do you want shoppers to be clicking your ads but you also need to make sure that these visitors are buying from you. Otherwise, you’d be paying for a lot of clicks with nothing to show for them!

Google’s reporting feature allows you to see how well each campaign performs by tracking user behaviors after they click on your Google Shopping Campaign ads. For instance, you can see which product categories or product types drive the most purchases.

These reports will also show you conversion rate and other metrics (e.g., clicks, impression, etc.) to help you figure out which segments are most profitable so you can adjust your bids accordingly.

In addition, set appropriate KPIs based on your business objectives so you can focus on analyzing metrics that matter most.

Google Webmaster view a report graph

Keep in mind that neither search term report nor paid and organic report includes data from your Shopping Campaigns. That means you won’t see the search terms that trigger your Shopping ads on those Google Ad reports.

4 Actionable Tips To Supercharge Your Google Shopping Campaigns

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Now that you understand the critical elements of Google Shopping ads, it’s time to take some actions and make your ads work harder for you.

Here are our top 4 tips to optimize your Google Shopping Campaigns for 2019:

1. Leverage Mobile Search Features

Google’s research shows that on average, each mobile search on Google Shopping triggers nearly two follow-up actions (e.g., making a purchase or visiting a local store). In addition, 55 percent of those actions happen within just 60 minutes.

With more shoppers searching for products on mobile devices, Google is rolling out new features and ad placements that are aimed at delivering a more engaging mobile user experience.

For example, Google is testing Showcase Shopping ads with a carousel feature designed to run on broad commercial queries.

In addition, Google is adding online-to-offline features to help local businesses drive more traffic to their stores:

  • Affiliate location extensions show which nearby retailers carry a particular product.
  • Local catalog ads allow shoppers to scroll through your product catalog and access information such as pricing and in-store availability.
  • Local inventory ads and local feeds partnership program take users to a Google-hosted landing page on which shoppers can see in-store product availability, store hours, directions and other information.

2. Use Auction Insights to Improve Your Bid Strategy

In order to stay competitive, you need to know what your competitors are doing. The auction insights report allows you to compare your performance to other advertisers who participated in the same auctions as you did.

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The data can help you estimate your competitors’ budget, understand strategy at the device level and spot trends that may impact your bids.

Here are a few key metrics to look at:

  • Impression share shows you how your major competitors are doing on Google Shopping. You can use it as a “radar” to monitor new entrants to the market or changes in your established competitors’ bidding strategies. However, don’t get carried away by having to hit a specific number by sacrificing efficiency. Determine your ideal impression share by considering your business, the competitive landscape and your unique return goals.
  • Overlap rate shows how frequently a competitor’s ad is shown alongside yours in the Shopping carousel. It allows you to get a gauge on whom your direct competitors are. However, since Google’s algorithm determines which ads are served for each query, there isn’t much you can do to alter this metric.
  • Outranking share is the number of times that your ad has outranked your competitors’ in the same auction plus the number of times that your ad appeared but theirs didn’t and then divided by the total number of auctions you have participated in. Besides making you feel great about dominating the industry, this metric reveals your biggest competitors and provides insights on changes in other metrics. (e.g., if your CPC unexpectedly jumps, you can see if it’s caused by some actions taken by your competitors.)

3. Leverage Similar Audiences and Remarketing

Remarketing helps you reach shoppers who have already visited your website. You can promote products they have shown interest in so they return and make a purchase.

You can also leverage this list of audiences to help you find people “just like them” who are more likely to be interested in your products. By creating a Similar Audience, you can target searchers who have similar search behaviors as your existing remarketing list members.

Create Similar Audiences

In addition, you can create Similar Audiences using your own data–e.g., your list of past customers–to reach the right prospects with the right ads.

The Benefits of Using Similar Audiences

Targeting Similar Audiences has helped many marketers improve the ROI of their campaigns because:

  • You’re delivering your ads to people who are more likely to be interested in your products and, therefore, more likely to make a purchase.
  • You can simplify your audience targeting and take the guesswork out of discovering new audiences.
  • You can boost the reach of your existing campaigns by driving new, high-quality leads to your website that are more likely to convert.
  • Even if these visitors don’t make a purchase right away, you can add them to your remarketing list and use this information to get your ads in front of more high-quality prospects.

4. Create Tight Product Groups

A product group is a segment of your products that use the same bid. The tighter your product groups are, which can be achieved by better segmentation, the more granular you can execute your bidding strategy for optimal efficiency.

Here are the filters you can apply to segment your products:

  • Product Type: inventory categorization
  • Category: category taxonomy of your website or Google product categories  
  • Item ID:  identifier of each product
  • Brand: product manufacturer
  • Channel: the sales channel through which the product is sold
  • Condition: the condition of the product, such as new/used, etc.

In addition, you can create up to five custom labels to further segment the products and refine your bidding strategy.

Conclusion

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Google Shopping Campaigns can help you reach a targeted audience with high purchase intent. Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar, click-and-mortar or pure-play online retailer, it’s an advertising platform you can’t afford to ignore.

Not to mention, Google is constantly adding new features designed to help advertisers gain better insights, fine-tune their campaigns, create more engaging experiences–and yield better results.

To get the most out of your Google Shopping Campaigns, make sure to stay current on the latest announcements so you can leverage the most recent tools and features for your ads.

In addition, pay close attention to your metrics when a new feature is introduced so you can better understand how to cater to the preferences and behaviors of your ideal customers.

To stay ahead of your competition and maximize your ad budget, stop by our blog regularly to learn the latest and greatest in PPC advertising. Here are some of our favorite Visiture Google Shopping resources:

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Google PPC for eCommerce in 2018
  2. 4 Advanced Google Shopping Tactics to Supercharge Your eCommerce PPC
  3. 5 Tips to Help You Conduct Keyword Research for Your PPC Campaigns
  4. 10 Google Shopping Campaign Hacks for Skyrocketing Results
  5. Google Shopping vs. Amazon Ads: Which is Better?
  6. Ultimate Guide to Product Listing Ads

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