Optimize your Google Shopping ad campaigns with agile product feeds (+ examples)

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Google Shopping ads, also known as Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs), are one of the best ways to bring customers to your products and vice versa. It’s true: Shopping ads are some of the most clicked ads Google has to offer. They account for more than 60% of paid clicks for retailers, making it an ecommerce marketer’s best weapon. Here are some insights into how you can strengthen your Google Shopping presence and land that coveted product placement.

Where are Google Shopping ads found?

Google Shopping ads, or promoted products, can be found in a carousel at the top of the main Google search results page, to the right of text ads and search results, and in the Google Shopping tab. The products shown at the top of the SERPs are still all paid ads and are known to get a majority of clicks for any product search.
Additionally, these ads can be seen in the Google Images tab, Google search partner websites, and on the Google Display Network (which includes millions of Google partner sites, plus YouTube, Gmail, and Google Discover).

Where Google Shopping ads are found

Where are free listings found?

You can now, as of April 2020, use Shopping campaigns (or free listings) to promote your products on Google at no cost. The Shopping tab is primarily made up of free product listings. In terms of placement in the Google Shopping tab, the paid ads appear at the top and bottom of the search results, while the free listings are sandwiched between them.
Free listings were introduced as a sort of rebirth of the Froogle days, and to allow Google to better compete in the ecommerce ring against industry leader Amazon. Essentially, they needed more merchants to sell more products across its ecommerce platform. We’ve previously covered how to optimize for the free product listings here.
Since adding free listings, Google reported increases of 70% in clicks and 130% in impressions for both free and paid product listings.

How does Google decide how to rank Shopping ads?

Google determines where your ad will be positioned based on your Ad Rank. Essentially, the ad with the highest Ad Rank gets the top position, the ad with the second-highest Ad Rank gets the second position, and so on. Ad Rank is based on your ad’s bids, quality, threshold, context, and extensions (landing pages, contact info, etc.).
To measure the impact of your extensions, Google factors in criteria like relevance, click-through rates, and their prominence on the search results page. If your site uses relevant keywords, it can outperform competitors who have placed a higher keyword bid.
Quality, when it comes to Ad Rank, refers to ad relevance and landing page experience, as well as expected click-through rate. You can improve your ad quality by strictly following Google’s requirements as written on their guidelines and following our best practices for optimizing the key attributes of your product feed, which we cover below.

Which Google Shopping ad positions convert best?

The success of the ads comes down to their location on the search page. Marketers aim to be shown in the ads right above the organic search results, and better yet, in the very first ad shown in that row. You can see the rate at which your ads are being shown there by looking at the Top Impression Rate (the entire row) or the Absolute Top Impression Rate (that very first position).

How do you set up Google Shopping campaigns using a product feed?

Start by creating a Google Merchant Center account with all the information related to your products. As with many Google products, it's relatively simple to onboard.
At the same time, you need to have created a product feed. We’d recommend using an automated, user-friendly feed management solution.
Once you’ve created your feed for google shopping , link it to your Google Ads account via your Google Merchant Account. Making sure they’re all synced up will allow you to launch various campaigns, such as retargeting. Shopping Ads can then be created within either the Google Merchant Center or Google AdWords. The latter offers some additional “smart” options that we’ll discuss later on.

What is the average click-through rate for Google Shopping ads?

Click-through rates depend on your vertical. A recent study reported that the average conversion rate for Google Shopping ads across all industries is 1.91%, while the highest rankings went to the medical supplies (0.87%), beauty (0.74%), and childcare (0.71%) industries. You can use these as a benchmark to help judge the current performance of your Shopping ads.

How to optimize your product feed and enhance the performance of your Google Shopping ad campaigns

Optimizing your product feed means making sure it’s locked and loaded with the best practices – so you’re not leaving anything to chance. Unlike with other ad formats, you can’t bid on keywords in Shopping campaigns. Google pulls the information from your product feed to build your shopping ads and listings, assigning keywords to your products based on the information it gathers using its own algorithm.
If you ascertain that your paid product ads aren’t performing optimally, there’s a lot you can do to readjust your approach:

1. Find a feed management solution

While Google provides a list of highly recommended product data specifications, there are other ways to help grow conversion rates and drive more sales, by using a powerful feed management and optimization solution that allows you to create channel-ready feeds you can optimize in bulk.
Many companies have seen big wins as a result of focusing on optimization, such as marketing agency K-News Media who achieved a 20% boost in conversion rate on Google Shopping.

2. Keep your data up to date

Always make sure your product data is no older than 30 days old, as after this time period Google will set products as “expired” and remove them from ads and free listings. To keep your products active, you'll need to update your product data on a regular basis.

3. Focus on these key attributes

Here are the key elements of your product feed you'll want to get right, along with best practices for your Google product ads:

Product title

Use the product’s real name in addition to other essential elements such as color, model, and size. Within the 150-character limit, prioritize the most important keywords because Google takes keyword placement into account and audiences may only see the first 70 characters of a title.
This screenshot shows the the Google Shopping tab results for "Pandora rings". Keywords such as "hearts", "ring", and the colors or materials are places toward the start of the titles.

Pandora rings

Product description

We recently dissected what makes a winning product description to help drive sales. A compelling, feature and benefit-focused description will serve you well. As mentioned above, Google will scan this data in your feed, so make sure to include all the relevant keywords – without stuffing it to the brim. User-centric copy makes a big difference, and you could always A/B test versions of your feed to see whether it affects conversion.

Product type

This is a free-form field with no character limits. It’s a great place to include the most important short and long-tailed keywords related to your products, which also make a difference here. There’s no need to worry about user-friendly texts here, as only Google can see this part.

Product category

Choosing the right category can make or break your ad’s performance. Google has published some category best practices to help you navigate this area.

Product images

Google favors high-quality, compelling images, as do consumers. Product images with a white background or products shown in-situ are well suited for Shopping placements. Keep in mind that they’ll show as a small thumbnail, a detail to consider in ensuring your product remains visible and centre-stage.
If your Shopping ads aren’t performing, your images may be the reason. A good practice is to search for your product’s keyword in Google and see which product images come up. You can learn from what others are doing, and even try to one-up them.
By optimizing their images in bulk and improving other feed elements, Aldi Switzerland increased conversion rates by 30%.

Product price

The price can also affect the success of your ads – they must be honest and reflect the sum indicated on your product pages. To avoid some common errors that we’ve seen, make sure the algorithm is pulling updated and correctly formatted prices and currencies. FYI, (Google is now pausing listings showing potentially inaccurate pricing.

Product promotions

Consider creating an additional feed for promotions. By doing this, your special offer will appear at the top of the ad in blue or white text. Choose the wording to explain the deal, such as “Sale” or 30% off”. You can also name the benefits right within the promotion section to further drive clicks, like writing “Free shipping.”
In this example, we can see that Lululemon has ensured selling points like "Price drop" and "Free shipping" are visible on its listings.


Product ratings

To gain trust from your customers, ratings and reviews remain an important selling factor in an ecommerce marketer’s holster. They can make a big difference in the performance of your Google Shopping campaigns. Product reviews in Shopping ads are shown as star ratings. To be considered for this feature, you need to submit a product ratings interest form. Google will respond in 10 to 15 days and, if approved, will highlight the next steps to take.

4. Set up Smart Shopping campaigns

If you’ve opted for standard manual Shopping campaigns, that’s a great start. However, Google offers an alternate solution that will allow your ecommerce marketing to follow the latest data, machine learning, and AI trends.
This brings us to Smart Shopping campaigns, which grant you access to all available networks. They can be set up in your Google Ads account and connected to your Google Merchant Center account and product feeds.
Smart Shopping campaigns work by pulling data from your product feed and testing combinations to show the most relevant ads across Google networks. They also incorporate Smart Bidding, where machine learning assesses millions of data points and automatically adjusts your bids in real-time for individual shoppers who type in a certain keyword.
You can configure the campaign’s goals (target ROAS, for example) and overall budget, while Google takes care of achieving maximum conversion for your total spend. This sort of lightning fast, real-time, and reactive keyword bidding could never be achieved manually.

Bonus tips for your Google Shopping campaigns: Raising budgets, retargeting, and negative keywords

If you choose manual CPC as your bidding strategy for your Shopping ads in Google Ads, you can still use enhanced cost per click (ECPC). ECPC is a Smart Bidding strategy that automatically adjusts each manual bid based on how likely a click is to lead to a sale or conversion on your website, while still keeping within your overall budget.
You can also run retargeting campaigns that tie into your Shopping ads and target your previous shop visitors, cart abandoners and customers. These have shown to increase conversion rates by 70%.
Lastly, consider cutting out low buyer intent by adding negative keywords to your Google Ads campaigns. Your product will no longer appear in the results for these searches, and you can make better use of your budget.

Key Google Shopping ad take-aways: optimize and automate

By optimizing your product data, you stand to maximize the performance of your Google Shopping ads, as well as your organic product listings.
Remember, the key to your campaign performance is content quality, so be sure to focus on this every step of the way: in your product feeds, and on the landing pages you link to. To make sure you're leaving nothing to chance, optimize your product content and find an agile, scalable feed management solution to help.
Our ecommerce platform allows retailers to craft top-quality, channel-ready product feeds. This way you can scale your efforts much quicker when you want to add more product catalogs, sync with other streams (other ecommerce channels), or even expand your retail business into new markets and languages.

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