Last updated: 1/28/18
How would you like to get your ecommerce products listed at the very top of the search results?
You can do that with Google’s Shopping Ads.
Essentially, Google Shopping Ads are rich results. They present Google users with a thumbnail image of a product, its title, its price, and in some cases even an aggregate review rating.
They’re also a great way to boost sales.
Consider that one out of every five shopping clicks in 2013 was on a Google Shopping Ad. That’s a lot of opportunities you could be throwing away if you don’t market to people who shop on Google.
In this article, we’ll go over Google Shopping Ads, explain how you can set them up for your own business, and offer some best-practices when it comes to using them.
Google Shopping Ads Are PPC Ads
The first thing you need to understand about Google Shopping Ads is that they’re ads. They’re not part of organic search results.
That means they cost money.
Google Shopping Ads follow a similar pay model as Google AdWords ads. You get charged every time somebody clicks on the ad.
That’s why it’s important to optimize your product title and description for the right keywords. You don’t want to pay for clicks from people who aren’t even in your target market.
Google Shopping Ads
Where Do Google Shopping Ads Appear?
Google Shopping Ads usually appear at the very top of the search results. Sometimes, though, they appear on the right-hand side of the screen.
In either case, they appear right at the top.
Of course, that’s great news because the top of the search results is prime digital real estate.
Google Shopping Ads Saw Phenomenal Growth in Q4 2018
One of the reasons that so many marketers love Google Shopping Ads is because it’s one of the best ways to reach customers.
Don’t take my word for it. Look at the numbers.
In Q4 2018, Google Shopping clicks grew a whopping 34% year-over-year.
Growth was particularly noticeable on smartphones. Impressions increased 55% YOY in Q3 to 111% YOY in Q4.
In other words, Shopping Ads are getting impressions and they’re getting clicks.
There’s more. One study from Q1 2018 shows that roughly 80% of all retail search ad spend is allocated to Google Shopping campaigns.
Another study shows that money spent on Google Shopping Ads generates more than 85% of retail ad clicks.
If you’re running an ecommerce site and haven’t yet tried to increase your reach with Shopping Ads, make 2019 the year that you do so.
However, Google Shopping Ads Aren’t for Everybody
By now, you might be sold on the idea of Google Shopping Ads. That doesn’t mean that they’re right for you, though.
For starters, if you have fewer than 500 products, it might be difficult to gain visibility. Google tends to favor websites with thousands of products.
Second, if you’re in a highly competitive industry, you might find that the cost per click (CPC) just won’t give you the kind of return you’re looking for.
Third, if your website isn’t high quality, Google might not show your products. Check your site for broken links, invalid images, and non-responsive content.
Get Started With Google Shopping Ads
If you’ve determined that Google Shopping Ads are right for your business, then there’s no better time than the present to get started. There’s quite a bit of upfront effort involved, though.
The first thing you need to do is create a Google Merchant Center account. That’s the tool you’ll use to inform Google about the products you’re selling.
Next, you need to set up a Google AdWords account. Of course, you can use that account to run other kinds of AdWords ads as well.
Once you’ve got both of those accounts established, it’s time to link them. That will enable you to share info between the two accounts.
Create the Feed
After you’ve created your Google Merchant Center and Google AdWords accounts and linked the two, you need to create a product feed.
What’s a product feed? It’s a digital listing of the products that you’re selling online.
Your product feed will include quite a bit of detail about each product you’re offering, such as its title, description, URL, price, and image URL. You can find a complete list of eligible attributes in the product feed here.
You’ll submit the product feed in either TXT (.txt) or XML (.xml) format.
Remember, some attributes are required (such as the ID) while some aren’t. You’ll have to make sure that all the required attributes are complete for each product when you submit your feed.
If you aren’t sure which fields are required, just check this page. Look for the word “Required” in bold, red letters in the second column of the table.
Also keep in mind that if you submit a feed that doesn’t include all the required info, Google will tell you exactly what’s missing.
Once you’ve submitted your feed, it’s time to hurry up and wait. Google will process the feed and it could take as long as 24 hours before you see anything in the search results.
Create a Google Shopping Ad Campaign
Now that you’ve uploaded your feed, it’s time to create a campaign. You’ll do that in AdWords.
Sign in and click Campaigns on the left.
Click the plus button and select New campaign.
Select Shopping for “Campaign type” and click Next.
Now, enter campaign specifics:
- Campaign name – Use a descriptive name. It’s how you’ll reference the campaign in the future.
- Merchant – The Merchant Center account that you just used to upload your feed. Note: if you don’t see any accounts listed, then you didn’t yet link your Merchant Center account to Google Ads.
- Country of sale – Use the country where your products will be sold and shipped to. Only people from that country will see you ads.
- Inventory filter – Leave this alone if it’s your first rodeo. Later, you might use it to limit the number of products that appear in Shopping Ads.
- Bidding – Select the type of bidding you’d like to use.
- Daily budget – How much money per day are you willing to spend on Shopping Ads? Put the answer to that question here.
- Campaign priority – You can leave this alone unless you’re advertising the same products in multiple campaigns.
- Networks – Choose whether you want your ads to display on Google search partner web properties in addition to Google search.
- Devices – If you want to limit your ads to mobile platforms or desktops, do that here.
- Locations – Are you doing geotargeting with your campaign? If so, specify the locations where you want your ads to appear.
- Local inventory ads – Leave this alone unless you want to include products sold in local stores.
Once you’re done filling out that info, click Save and continue.
Next, you need to choose the kind of ad group you want to create. If you’re brand new to this, select Product shopping ad.
You’ll also need to enter a name for the ad group and a bid.
Click Save again.
In the product groups page, you’ll only see one option: “All Products.” Leave that alone for now.
Later, you can create more product groups that highlight only a portion of your inventory.
Congratulations! You’ve created your first Google Shopping Ads campaign!
How Does Google Determine Which Shopping Ads to Show?
Once you’ve launched your campaign and started tracking your analytics, you might be surprised to learn that your ads are receiving very few clicks. In all likelihood, that’s because they’re receiving very few impressions.
Why is that? It could be due to a number of reasons.
For starters, consider your bid. If you’re getting outbid by competitors, then Google will use its profit motive to prioritize their ads.
Second, consider the quality of your site. As we’ve seen, a website that offers a poor user experience isn’t likely to get too many ad impressions.
Third, consider the CTR of your ad. If Google has shown it a number of times and yet very few people chose to click on the ad, that means it isn’t resonating with your audience. You might need to update the product title or image.
Optimize Your Feed
If you want to reach likely customers with your product feed, you’re going to have to optimize it. Fortunately, much of that optimization effort is based on common sense.
It’s likely that you’re already familiar with basic SEO. Feed optimization isn’t that much different.
For starters, each product should focus on a keyword. That keyword should be a popular search term related to the product itself.
Use a keyword research tool like SEMRush to find the most popular search terms related to your products.
Note: this is one of those times when using a brand name in the keyword might be a very good idea.
You might also find that product attributes figure prominently in popular keywords. For example, if you’re selling TVs, you could notice that “32 inch LCD TV” is a popular search term.
Once you’ve found the most popular keywords for your products, be sure to include them in the product titles and descriptions.
Also, don’t stuff your titles and descriptions with keywords. Google will pick up on that and your impression count will suffer.
Include Negative Keywords In Your Google Shopping Ad Campaign
Unlike traditional AdWords campaigns, you can’t specify which keywords you’ll associate with your Google Shopping Ads. Google will determine which search terms trigger your ads.
However, you can still add negative keywords to your campaigns or ad groups.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of negative keywords, they’re keywords that people use in search that disqualify your ad from appearing. That’s so you don’t risk getting (and paying for) a click from somebody who really isn’t interested in your product.
For example, if you’re selling shoes for women but not men, you might want to add “mens” as a negative keyword. That way, people who Google “men’s shoes” won’t see your ads.
Follow the Money
As with so many other aspects of marketing, you should allocate the lion’s share of your resources to successful campaigns.
Check your analytics data to see which products are performing best. Then, create specific ad groups for those products and max out your bids.
Avoid getting too exuberant with your bidding, though. You don’t want to erase your margins in an effort to boost top line sales.
Likewise, move poorly performing products to separate ad groups and lower their bids. That should improve your overall ROI.
Send Your Feed to Google Daily
Make sure you send your feed to Google every day. That will ensure that it’s up to date and accurate.
Google seems to favor businesses that provide data consistently, so you’ll likely increase your odds of getting impressions as well.
Pick the Right Image For Your Google Shopping Ads
It’s been said that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. That’s never more true than in digital marketing.
Make sure that your product images are of the highest quality. Also, make sure that, as much as possible, they highlight product benefits.
Remember, though, people will see a thumbnail of your product image. They won’t see the full-sized image until they click on the link. That’s why you should ensure that your image looks great even when it’s scaled down.
Show Ratings On Your Google Shopping Ads
Think about your own online shopping experiences. When you’re on the fence about a purchase, what do you usually do?
You probably look at the reviews.
First, you’ll check the aggregate review rating (usually expressed in “stars”). Then, you’ll read a few individual reviews.
Your customers are no different. They want to see some social proof.
That’s why you should send a request to Google so that you can include ratings in your Google Shopping Ads.
Keep in mind, though, if you have low ratings, that will work against you. Make sure that you’re practicing outstanding customer service.
Populate Your Google Shopping Ads with Tripwire Offers
One great way to add new people to your email list is to populate your Google Shopping Ads with tripwire offers.
What’s a tripwire offer? It’s an intentionally low-priced product that you offer just to get people into your virtual store. Then, you collect their contact info so you can send them promotional messages from time to time.
Also, you can upsell and cross-sell during the checkout process. That’s a great way to improve your overall return on a single order.
Of course, people who visit your site are also eligible for retargeting even if they don’t make a purchase. That’s another way that you can use tripwire offers.
Use Showcase Ads to Give Customers a Choice
Once upon a time, Google might have only displayed a single ad from your campaign in response to a search query. Now, Google can highlight multiple products from the same merchant.
How? With Google Showcase Ads.
When people search for general terms like “laptop” or “vacuum cleaner,” they really haven’t said everything about what they’re looking for.
What kind of laptop do they want to buy? What brand? New or used?
Fortunately, Google allows you to market your products to people who use those kinds of generic search terms.
Showcase Ads highlight related products you offer that match a specific search query. Then, consumers can browse your related products to find the one that’s right for them.
For example, you can display an ad for a Toshiba laptop, another ad for a Hewlett-Packard laptop, another ad for a Lenovo laptop, and so on.
Even better: all your ads display together. They’re grouped so shoppers know that they’re related.
Keep in mind: bidding for Showcase Ads works differently than bidding for other types of ads.
Usually, you’ll pay per click (PPC) with Search Ads. In the case of Showcase Ads, you’ll pay per engagement.
How does that work?
First, you set the highest amount that you’re willing to pay per engagement.
And what’s an engagement? It’s when somebody expands the Showcase Shopping ad and spends at least 10 seconds looking at the products inside.
So it’s possible that someone can browse your showcase shopping ad, look around at the products you’re offering, and leave without even clicking on anything.
And you’d still pay. That’s because you’re paying per engagement.
Keep that in mind when you set your budget for Google Showcase Ads.
Use Shopify’s Google Shopping App
If you’re running a shop that relies on Shopify for ecommerce, there’s some good news: you can use an app to sync your products from your store to the Google Merchant Center.
It’s a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Once you update your products on Shopify, the app will take care of keeping them in sync with the Merchant Center.
That’s the best kind of marketing automation.
Additionally, the Google Shopping app also offers analytics so you can see how your campaign is performing.
If you’d like to adjust your daily budget, you can do that without even leaving Shopify.
Use Merchant Promotions to Stand out From the Crowd
Do you have a product that’s currently on sale? It’s a safe bet that people who are searching for that product online will want to about your discounted offer.
Fortunately, you can tell folks that your product is on sale with a merchant promotion.
What’s a merchant promotion? It’s an opportunity to highlight something special about a product that you’re offering in an effort to boost your click-through rate.
For example, if one of your products is currently offered at 30% off, you can run a Google Shopping ad with a small banner at the top of the image thumbnail that reads: “30% Off.”
That might get you some more clicks.
You can also include a “Special Offer” tag at the bottom of the ad. When people hover over the words “Special Offer,” they’ll see a pop-up that gives them more info about the promotion.
Here are some merchant promotions you should consider:
- BOGO (Buy One, Get One free)
- Free Shipping
- Reduced free-shipping threshold
- Brand-specific rebates
Wrapping Up Google Shopping Ads
Google Shopping Ads are a great way to boost your sales. They appear at the very top of the search results and they’re usually clicked on by people with high purchase intent. If you’re not using them already, why not start today?