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Getting Started with Google Shopping
Marketing tips

Getting Started with Google Shopping

Anthony Capetola Bio Photo
By on November 1st, 2018 Reading Time: 10 minutes

As an ecommerce business owner, one of your main goals is generating visibility for your brand and products. Not only is it important to gain such visibility in general, but it’s also crucial to look for ways to reach your target audience at the moments they’re actively considering opening their wallets and making a purchase.

That said, everyone knows how important it’s to get your site ranking high on Google. You probably are also well aware that this feat alone doesn’t automatically lead to an increase in sales or revenue.

Even if your store ranks #1 for certain keywords and sees a major influx in traffic, there’s no guarantee that all of the incoming visitors will go on to make a purchase. After all, the vast majority of them will most likely be “just browsing.”

However, there is a way you can use Google to specifically reach those customers who are primed and ready to make a purchase. And that’s exactly what we’ll be discussing in this blog post.

What is Google Shopping and why you should be using it

Before we dive into the ins and outs of using Google Shopping to your advantage, it’s important that you understand exactly what it is.

In the simplest of terms, Google Shopping is a subsection of Google that lets you sell on Google by showcasing ads with products related to an individual’s search query.

Even if you’ve never used Google Shopping to promote your products, you’ve almost certainly seen the ads in action as a consumer (as long as you live in one of the countries where Google Shopping is available).

Let’s say you’re searching for “basketball sneakers.” Here’s how sponsored ads would appear on search results for this product-related search term:

Google Shopping Sponsored Ad Example

Clicking on the “Shopping” tab brings you to even more product-related results that are Shopping Ads.

Google Shopping Tab Example

Shopping Ads, formerly known as “Product Listing Ads,” or “PLAs,”  are created by the companies that offer the products showcased in the ad.

The important thing to note is that Google Shopping isn’t a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy. It’s a product directory that showcases your products to potential customers and points them to your website.

If you haven’t had a chance to toy with the idea of reaching out to your audience using Google Shopping, you’re not only missing out on some major opportunities – you’re also probably falling behind your competition.

Seeing as nearly 3 out of 4 searches on the web are conducted on Google, it just makes sense to focus on becoming more visible on the search engine people use for basic and product-related searches/queries.

According to the Google Shopping, Sales & Orders’ Q1 2018 Growth Analysis Report, compared to Q1 2017, ecommerce businesses that use Google Shopping experienced:

  • 118% YoY increase in Google Shopping Ad impressions
  • 87% YoY increase in clicks coming from Google Shopping Ads
  • 20% YoY increase in conversions and revenue generation

These impressive results prove that more and more consumers are starting to use Google Shopping to discover products. So it makes sense for you to give these Shopping Ads a try.

A quick note on Shopping Ads vs Text Ads

Product Shopping Ads aren’t the same as Text Ads.

As you can see, Shopping Ads allow you to showcase much more than text-based ads do. And on the business side of things, Shopping Ads are much more effective in driving engagement and revenue. Take a look at the following infographic:

Google Shopping Versus Text Ads Infographic

It wouldn’t be fair to say that Text Ads aren’t effective, just that Shopping Ads are much more so. If you’re trying to choose between the two, Shopping Ads are your best bet.

How to set up an account for Google Shopping Ads

Now that you know how effective Shopping Ads can be, let’s go through the process of setting up your account for creating your first  Google Shopping campaign.

1. Create a Google Merchant Center account

There are three basic steps to create a Google Merchant Center Account:

1.1 Create a business account on Google Merchant Center

Google Merchant CenterThis is pretty straightforward. Just fill out some basic information about your online store, including:

  • Your store name
  • Your store’s website address
  • The location of your store
  • Your company’s contact information

You’ll also be asked to verify that all of the information you provided is accurate and that you actually own the store. You can do this by connecting your Google Analytics account to your newly created Merchant Center account, or by adding the provided HTML tag to your website’s homepage.

1.2 Input and verify your company’s information

After you’ve verified and connected your Merchant Center account to your website, you’ll have to fill out additional information regarding taxes, shipping rules, and other policies.

1.3 Connect your Merchant Center and Google Ads accounts

Your next step will be to connect your Google Ads account to your Merchant Center account. This is mandatory, you need to have a Google Ads account to create campaigns for your Shopping Ads.

To connect your Google Ads account, click on the vertical ellipses at the top right corner of your screen, hit “Account Linking”, and follow the instructions on the next page.

Connect Google Shopping Ads Account Linking

2. Create and optimize your product feed

A product feed is a place that holds your product information which later will be presented to your customer. To set it up, hit “Products” on the sidebar of your Merchant Center dashboard, and then select “Feeds”:

Merchant Center Primary Product Feed

Add a new feed by clicking on the large plus sign, then follow the instructions on the next page. You’ll be asked how you’d like to input your feed data:

Shopping Ads Primary Feed and Input Method

If you’re 100% certain that your on-site product descriptions are good enough, you can use Content API to connect your site’s data to your feed data.

If that’s not the case, I’d recommend inputting product data using Google Sheets. Once you select this option, you’ll be asked to generate new Google sheet, or select an existing one.

Create Shopping Ad Feed Google Sheets

Since it’s your first time setting up Google Shopping Ads, it’s smart to use a generated Google spreadsheet template that includes the categories you need to fill out with regard to your products.

shopping-ads-product-feed-example

Spreadsheet example | Source: WordStream

And while this spreadsheet does a great job of explaining all that goes into detailed product description, there are 5 things that require your more attention than others:

2.1 Product Title

Your product title is the headline for your Shopping Ad. It’s one of the first things your audience (and Google’s algorithm) sees on your Shopping Ad, which means your product title should stand out.

Now, “standing out,” doesn’t mean keyword stuffing, writing overly promotional copy, or using all caps. In fact, doing any of these things will get your Shopping Ad rejected by Google in the first place.

Rather, your product titles should be as descriptive and specific as possible without going overboard. Take a look at the following ads that appear in the search results for “Ibanez acoustic guitars”:

Google Shopping Ad Title Example

In each of these cases:

  • All of the keywords appear in the product title
  • The titles are more specific than just “Ibanez acoustic guitar”
  • The titles include identifying information – in this case, model number, and name

2.2 Product Description

Similar rules apply when putting together your product descriptions that can be up to 5000 characters long. With product descriptions, however, you can be more elaborate, so do take advantage of it.

Describe your products in a positive light, but avoid making them too promotional. The best way to do so is to objectively state your product’s features, then tie them to the benefits your target customers will experience by using the product:

Shopping Ads Product Description Example

2.3 Product Photo(s)

One of the biggest drawbacks when shopping online is that you can’t physically interact with the product before buying it. So, as an online store owner, you have to bring your products to life by sharing attractive and detailed images of them.

Google Shopping Ads Product Photography Example

You can add product images to Google Shopping Ads by providing links to your on-site product shots. Shopping Ads allows to upload up to 10 product images per ad, so don’t miss this opportunity to give customers a better idea of your product. Show your products from different angles, emphasize various details, and offer a few close-up shots.

2.4 Product Category and Type

Products on Shopping Ads need to be sorted based on the categories created by Google. You’ll notice that there are a lot to choose from, so you want to be as accurate as possible.

For example, the guitars listed above fall into the following hierarchical categories:

Arts & Entertainment → Hobbies & Creative Arts → Musical Instruments → String Instruments → Guitars

You can take it a step further by adding custom sub-categories based on your product specifications. When creating sub-categories for the products, be as specific as possible. For example, if you offer multiple guitars (both acoustic and electric) from a variety of brands, you’d want to further categorize the above product as:

Guitars → Acoustic Guitars → Ibanez

Since this information will be shown on the Shopping Ad, it will help Google determine the keywords your ad shows up for.

2.5 Pricing Information

The last piece of information you need to include in your product feed is the price. You can also mention:

  • Sale price and duration
  • Unit pricing for products offered in bulk
  • Details of an installment payment plan
  • Loyalty points accumulated for a given purchase

2.6 Item groups, product variants, and Printful products

If your store offers multiple variants of the same products, you should define these variations using the “item_group_id” attribute.

Each of these items will have the same Item Group ID, but their own unique ID. Let’s say you sell a t-shirt in two different colors: blue and red. Both t-shirts would have the same Item Group ID (define them however you want) “123abc”, but the blue variant’s ID would be “123abc-Blue,” and the red would be “123abc-Red.”

Google Shopping supports the following variation attributes:

  • Size
  • Color
  • Material
  • Pattern
  • Age Group
  • Gender
  • Size Type
  • Size System

If you offer products that vary in any other way, take a look at Google’s Support Page for more instructions. And if you’re selling Printful products on your store, use Product Variant spreadsheet to get an idea of how to define these variations.

If you offer Printful products, you may not be able to provide GTIN, MPN, or brand name for these products. To get around this issue, you’ll want to remove these identifying attributes from your product feed altogether, then include an attribute for “identifier_exists” and apply “FALSE” for all products listed.

How to create Google Shopping Ad Campaign

Now that we’re done with the setup, let’s get to the actual campaign. Head over to your Google Ads dashboard to start creating your very first Shopping Ad (in this blog post, we’ll be using the new Google Ads experience).

First, select “Sales” from the following menu:

Create Google Shopping Ad Campaign Step 1

Then click “Shopping” and choose the account attached to the store you want to create ads for:

Create Google Shopping Ad Campaign Step 2

Before moving forward, you’ll have to decide whether you want to create a “Standard” or “Smart” marketing campaign.

Create Google Shopping Ad Campaign Step 3

While running a Smart campaign has a number of benefits, for the purpose of this article I’ll choose “Standard”.

In the next step, you’ll have to set up the logistics of your ad campaign. First – define your bid settings:

Google Shopping Ads Bid Settings

Then you’ll have to decide on your targeting strategies:Shopping Ads Campaign Targeting Step 5

Last but not least, you’ll be asked to name your ad campaign and set your bid.

Name Google Shopping Ad Campaign Step 6

How to optimize the bids

Just like with Text Ads,  you’ll be bidding for visibility on Google Shopping for each ad campaign you run. However, with Shopping Ads you won’t be targeting keywords yourself, Google’s algorithms will do that for you, taking in consideration the quality of your Shopping Ad and the maximum bid you set for a product (or product category).

While you can’t choose the keywords for your ad, you can optimize your ad title and description to have a better chance of appearing in a specific keyword search.

Since we already looked into ad optimization, it’s time to figure out how you can find optimal bid for your products:

  1. Determine your profit margin for the item before taking the cost of your Shopping Ad campaign into consideration. So, you simply need to subtract your cost of goods sold by the sale price per item for your product.
  2. Multiply your profit margin for the item by your overall conversion rate. This number will be your true maximum bid.

    For example, if you make $5 in profit per sale of a specific product, and your conversion rate is 3%, your true maximum bid would be $.15.

Don’t start bidding at this maximum amount just yet. Take in consideration how well specific the product usually sells and adjust the bid accordingly.  

It’s advised to have an initial bid that is 40-75% of your maximum bid. For example, for less popular products aim towards the 40% mark, and for top-sellers consider starting at the 60-75% mark.

Remember, your initial bid isn’t set in stone. The more successful the ad, the higher you want to bid on it. And if your ad isn’t bringing new sales, you probably want to start slowly decreasing your bid.

That said, for the first month or so of running your Shopping Ads you should assess their performance 2-3 times a week, and adjust the bid at most once a week. Later on, make it a habit to evaluate the success of your ads at least 3 times a week, and adjust your bids 3-5 times a month if needed.

Before changing the bid of a Shopping Ad, keep in mind the spikes and lulls of a given sales period. This is especially important if you’re running campaigns around the holiday season or any other time of year when your target audience’s behavior fluctuates rapidly.

Start creating Google Shopping campaigns today

There’s a lot that goes into managing your Google Shopping Ad campaigns, but this guide should be enough to get you up and moving in the right direction.

Once you dive into the world of Google Shopping, the main thing to keep in mind is that it’s not a “set it and forget it” type of deal. Not only is it important to reassess your bids every now and then, but it’s also crucial to reevaluate the quality of your Shopping Ad.

As with all things ecommerce and marketing, you want to treat your venture into Google Shopping as an experiment, tweaking variables one by one until everything clicks – and business starts to boom.

Anthony Capetola Bio Photo
A 10+-year veteran of the digital marketing industry, Anthony Capetola is the current Marketing Manager for Sales & Orders, a software management solution for Google Shopping.

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  1. Steve Bedard

    Hi,

    I’m having trouble with Google Ads ! They say my products are refused although I’ve completed my google sheet as specified in my feed in google merchant center. When I click a product there is no error in merchant center, it just says “pending”. But when I log in google ads the product listed is missing the google_product_category. It says it’s refused but not telling exactly what is going on ! It’s a bit confusing

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