How to Supercharge Google Shopping Ads

Running a successful Google Shopping campaign isn’t rocket science, but there’s definitely an art to it. Whenever I get asked to audit an account, the same issues or areas for improvement come up time and time again. So, I’ve put together this article to tackle some of those common problems and help you get the most out of your Google Shopping ad campaigns.

The first thing to know is that the key to successful Google Shopping ads is understanding how they differ from text ad campaigns. Put simply, there are no keywords – only products, and every product in your feed is a very broad match keyword. You need to utilise the tools you have at your disposal to get a higher impression share on the products, search queries and/or audiences that get the best results.

There are two main optimisation levers in Google Shopping. First is the feed itself – the engine of the whole operation, which needs to be constantly up-to-date, conforming to specification and optimised for how users search. Second is the bid management side, which I’m going to focus on first as it offers the quickest wins. How you structure and manage Shopping campaigns in AdWords can have a significant impact on the speed at which your products fly off your (proverbial) shelves.

The Set-up

Here’s my two-step approach to set-up for Google Shopping success (without using any bid-management platforms).

Step 1. Understand the tools you have at your disposal

Google Shopping ads shouldn’t be structured in the same way as a traditional search campaign. Here’s how to use AdWords tools to get the most from the platform…

  1. Campaigns

    Split products out into different campaigns to help you manage budgets and gain impression share on the right products (for example, create a Christmas campaign for your seasonal products). Then you can get clever and use negative keywords to filter search queries into specific budget hierarchies. We’ll go into how to do this in more detail in part two.

  2. Ad groups

    Unless you’re using DoubleClick, have a large inventory (30k+ products) or need creative reporting, ad groups are best ignored as they can overcomplicate optimisation. My advice? Start with one ad group per campaign and see how you go.

  3. Product groups

    We use these for more granular bidding, but just how granular should you go? Well, you need to find the right balance between efficiency and impact. What this looks like will differ between products, so evaluate on a case-by-case basis.

  4. Campaign priority

    Priority trumps bids, so ensure you use this tool correctly, as it’s key for both budgeting and search query cannibalisation.

  5. Negative keywords

    The key to quick optimisation. Add your usual eCommerce negative keyword lists straight away (e.g. “free”) as this will create efficiencies from the start. As a platform, Google Shopping is generally used to buy from, so focus on transactional, purchase-specific keywords. Leave discovery keywords to text ads or showcase ads where you can point users to non-product pages.

Step 2. Nail the basics

Google Shopping can (and often should) be the most profitable part of your AdWords account, after bidding on your core brand keyword. CPCs tend to be cheaper than traditional search, and conversion rates higher. Get your bids right and you’ll see brilliant results. Here’s how…

  • Base bids

    Set your base bid at a level that means you’re not losing any of your impression share to budget (this may take a few days to work out). Don’t be afraid to lower your bid to £0.03 if that is what it takes!

  • Bid modifiers

    Next, use bid modifiers at an audience, product group, location and temporal level to increase your impression share in the auction. But only where it matters. Here’s two examples of when this would be the case:

    • If from previous months, you know that your RLSA lists drives double the return in comparison with your non-RLSA audiences, then add a bid modifier to this audience of +100% as this will increase your impression share to them.
    • If lunchtimes during the week are when your conversion rate spikes, then increase your bids at these times.
  • Separate important products

    Create separate campaigns for seasonal products, for which you’ll want to vary how much budget you spend throughout the year. Add in a catch-all campaign on a Low priority with very low bids to pick up any products that have slipped through the net and you’re good to go.

  • Run regular search query reports

    You need to do this at least once a week, but I recommend you run them up to three times. The addition of a new product, for example, can cause havoc in even the most well-optimised campaigns. If you spot lots of search queries with high volumes of clicks but no sales, it’s probably best to add them as a negative as there will usually be a broader range of queries with higher conversion rates that your budget can catch instead (think about opportunity versus loss).

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Optimise Bids

Here’s my five top tips for optimising bids to drive more efficiency and conversions.

Set up a brand campaign

If you get traffic through any of your brand or ‘brand + generic’ keywords, then set up a separate campaign for these to make sure you get a good impression share for these highly relevant search terms.

To do this, create two duplicate campaigns. Then set the brand campaign to Low priority and the non-brand campaign to High priority. Bid higher in the non-brand campaign and add all your high-volume brand keywords to this campaign as phrase match negatives. You can also get creative here and set up campaigns for specific (non-brand) search queries using this same approach.

Use custom labels

If you’re not using custom labels, you’re missing a trick. They let you customise the feed output to help with bidding and campaign structure and are a vital part of your Google Shopping arsenal. Use them to do the following:

  • Group your seasonal products so you can give them extra budget when searches for them peak
  • Add data about cost of sale or margin, so you can set your bids based on the actual impact to your business
  • If you’re low on stock for specific products, add a label so that you know to reduce bids and let them sell organically
  • Label competitively priced products which are more likely to convert
  • Label products that you price match on

Create your own automation by using AdWords scripts

There are lots of useful AdWords scripts that take the legwork out of optimisation (though like a Sat Nav, you still need a good user to interpret the data!) Here are three I recommend:

  • N-grams script, to easily find the least profitable queries from your SQRs
  • 24-hour bidding script, to add more layers of temporal bidding than the AdWords interface allows (especially useful for eCommerce only brands)
  • Weather based bidding, if weather impacts your sales (positively or negatively)
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Regularly review product ID, brand and category level data

If you’re using DoubleClick, this will often be left to adaptive shopping. If not, make sure you regularly review which products, brands and categories drive the most efficient revenue. It can help evolve both your structural and bidding strategies, and answer questions like:

  • If I have multiple brands, which should I show for generic search queries?
  • Which categories are the most scalable/should I invest in?
  • Do I have any poor products or categories that I need to do more with?
  • Are there any brands not performing that I should look at pricing on?

Use Showcase ads

This new format from Google Shopping aims to provide a better consumer experience for broad, often high-volume search queries, such as “dresses” or “TVs”. In a nutshell, Showcase ads let you display brand shops with multiple products. They need to be run without a target CPA or ROAS as they’re largely a consideration tool for consumers still in their research phase.

Optimise Your Feed

Once you’ve sorted the AdWords side of your Google Shopping campaigns and they’re driving efficient revenue, the final way you can improve ad performance is to focus on optimising your feed.

The Google Shopping feed contains lots of different elements – most of which are needed to ensure your products get approved and show in the auction. But in terms of optimisation, there are three key areas to focus on, to get your products visible for more search queries.

Image quality

Two simple, yet important things to remember for your images:

  • Make sure they’re high-resolution
  • Use images that show your products on a white background

Product title

To optimise your page title, you need to treat it like a keyword. Put simply, you won’t appear for search queries for words that aren’t in your product title. So, here are some tips:

  • Include the brand name
  • Include what the product actually is (i.e. how people would search for it) rather than what it’s named internally
  • Include all the product features (i.e. size, colour, style etc.)
  • For colour, use standard names – like “green” – rather than your own specific shades, which users are far less likely to search for

Product type

The product type gives Google the information it needs to match products with user searches. The more detailed you can make it, the more closely Google will match your products to relevant search queries, which’ll increase your conversion rate.

For example, if you wanted to promote Adidas shoes, you should follow the format of option 2 (below), rather than option 1.

  1. Trainers > Adidas
  2. Trainers > Adidas > Mens > Originals > Dragon

And that’s it. Once you’ve optimised the above for all your products, your Google Shopping campaigns will be eligible to receive more impressions, which’ll help drive further incremental revenue.

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