Google Shopping Campaign Optimization – Become a Shopping Ads NinjaLast Updated: February 12, 2020
Google Shopping Campaigns have been for around a little while now.
And If you’re using Google Ads for ecommerce and you’re not taking advantage of them, there could be sales that you’re missing out on.
Also known as Shopping Ads, Product Listings Ads or PLA’s, they have huge potential for online retailers.
Shopping Ads generated an unbelievable 75% of clicks for online retailers in 2017. So being the marketers that we are, we can’t ignore numbers like that.
This post is going to walk through some of the basics of what a shopping campaign is and how you can set them up.
Then we’re going to move onto the good stuff on
how to optimize google shopping campaigns like a shopping samurai.
*In this article we’re going to mention something called ROAS quite a bit. This refers to the term Return-On-Ad-Spend.
It’s a performance metric that combines your revenue and digital marketing spend to show how the two are performing together.
This is one of the most important metrics for ecommerce retailers using Google Ads as it takes into consideration what you’re spending as well as what you’re making back.
If you want to know where to begin with this, here’s a good place to start.
What is a Shopping Campaign?
A Shopping Campaign is a campaign created in Google Ads to show shopping ads to users related to their search query.
When a user searches using a product related search term i.e. “running shoes”, your product image, title and price will be displayed on the search results page next to or above the normal text-based results.
Shopping Ads On Mobile shown above the organic results.
Shopping Ads on desktop shown to the right of the normal results.
As you can imagine, a lot of the searches which trigger these ads have a high purchase intent. Which is one of the primary reasons why advertisers are seeing such great results from this type of campaign.
How To Setup a Google Shopping Campaign
Here’s a short intro video from Google on how to set them up :
You should know that a shopping campaign is powered by a product feed which is uploaded into your Merchant Center account.
Your product feed is then used to display shopping ads to potential buyers that are searching using related product related search queries
To begin with, you will need to upload a spreadsheet of our product details to Google Merchant Center. This produces your product feed.
Things like Title, Price, Image, ID etc are all included in the spreadsheet. Check out the merchant center upload requirements.
Google Ads then pulls this information from the Merchant Center and uses the data to show your Shopping Ads. Potential buyers can visually see what a product looks like, also its name and price.
At the moment, Shopping Campaigns are only available in certain countries. A full list of eligible countries can be found here.
Now hopefully you understand the basics of how shopping campaigns work as well as their potential and what you need to do to create one…..
Now let’s find how to optimize them!
Here’s our 20 shopping ads optimization tips.
Optimizing Your Shopping Campaigns
Now in order for your shopping campaigns to be revenue generating machines, they need to be n-sync’d with your product feed.
See what I did there?
In other words, they need to work together to perform as well as the can.
The quality of your product feed will have a big role to play in how successful your Shopping Campaigns are.
If your feed isn’t optimized, then you can say “Bye Bye Bye” to your ROI.
I’m going to begin with how to optimize your product feed then move into what you can do to optimize your Shopping Campaigns.
1.) Optimize Your Product Titles – Only If You Wanna 10X Your CTR!!
Your product titles are the best place to start to see the biggest results in the optimization of your product feed.
After a number of different optimizations to a product feed in an experiment by Crealytics founder Andreas Reiffen, almost all tests showed little or no shift in performance .
Except changes to the product feed titles.
An optimized product title almost 10x’d the volume of traffic received.
That’s right, a massive 10x increase in click through rate.
Here’s the difference in clicks that they found :
So We Should Optimize All Our Product Titles Right?
This tells us that we should probably spend a decent amount of time and effort making sure that those product titles are as relevant as possible to how the users are searching for your products.
Take a look at your search query reports and see what keywords your users are searching with.
Also pay attention to the order of the words (red running shoes as opposed to running shoes red) and the search terms driving the most revenue.
Then we can take what we have found and try to incorporate that into the beginning of our product titles.
And as we can see from above, it’s definitely worth the end result.
A potential 10x in CTR? I’d take that!
*I’d understand completely if you want to stop reading here and jump straight into optimizing your product feed.
There’s more gold like this coming up on
Google shopping optimization….
2.) Optimize Your Product Feed Descriptions & Categories – Should We?
In the same experiment, Andreas tested using irrelevant descriptions in the product descriptions.
They tested using a reference to a baseball cap in the description for a party dress and putting a party dress in an athletic shoe category.
There was little or no difference in performance.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t spend any time on these two parts of your feed.
But, if you don’t have an endless amount of time to manage your shopping campaigns (and who does right??) then you should definitely look to spend more of your time towards your product titles and what we’re about to talk about next….
3.) Optimizing Your Product Images – Original Research
Your product images are sooooo’ important when it comes to standing out from your competition.
We wanted to find out what types of images were more appealing to buyers than others, so we performed an experiment.
We surveyed 40 people and asked them if they were to click on a shopping ad first, which one would it be and why.
The images all followed 3 characteristics :
- They were all shopping ads for fashion related items
- We had 5 images in total, 3 of people wearing the product and the other 2 were the product by itself.
- They all had the same price.
The findings were extremely interesting.
Out of the group of the random group of people we tested, 82% answered that they would be more likely to click on a shopping ad first if the image was of someone wearing the product rather than of the product by itself.
Wait a minute…. 82%?
Yup, that’s right. A potential game-changer.
Just Because Everyone Else Is Doing It, Doesn’t Mean It Will Work!
Just the same as a mediocre text ad, if an image doesn’t sell the product, it can just sit their not attracting any clicks.
There’s a couple of things to bear in mind when choosing your product feed images :
- Make sure the image clearly represents your product.
- Make the image as high quality as you can. Bad quality images aren’t going to be anywhere near as appealing to buyers.
- Test different types of images too. As we found in our experiment, different types of images can attract a lot more clicks. You may want to try someone using or wearing the product as opposed to an image of the product on it’s own.
Check out our article in full on the research behind the best shopping campaign image to use.
OK, so now we have fine-tuned our feed, it’s time to move onto the campaigns themselves.
4.) Your Shopping Campaign Structure – It’s all about the almighty OPAG 🙏🏼
If you’ve ever run Shopping Campaigns before then hopefully you know how well they can work.
But to take things up a notch. We need to take more control over the campaigns than what Google gives us when we follow the default setup.
By default, products are grouped together in one category. This structure doesn’t work for most stores.
Usually all products will have different prices, margins, conversion rates etc….
So we began implementing OPAG’s for our clients and their results went 🚀🚀🚀
OPAG = One Product Ad Groups
It essentially creates one ad group for each product that you sell. It gives us so much more control over product performance. Something that just isn’t available as standard from Google Ads.
This is a big part of
google shopping optimization and you should check out our post in more detail here to find out more and how to set them up.
5.) Google Shopping Campaign Priority
Before we go any further into the structure of our campaigns, we need to discuss something really important… Like really important… Some would say, it’s a priority!
One thing that Shopping Campaigns can do that Search Ads Campaigns can’t, is set a campaign priority.
This gives a “Priority” to specific shopping campaigns over other shopping campaigns.
Let’s say for instance we have 2 shopping campaigns that are both showing ads for the same products (we’ll get onto why you might want to do that next).
We can actually tell Google that we want to give one campaign priority over another, irrespective of what the bids are.
There are 3 different settings to choose from : Low, Medium and High.
To change the priority for a campaign, you simply browse to the campaign settings in Google Ads:
Some points that you should know about campaign priority :
- The shopping ad of the campaign with the highest priority will be shown, regardless of the bid. So if Campaign A has a high priority and a £1 bid and Campaign B has a £2 bid with a medium priority, Campaign A’s ad will still be shown.
- If multiple campaigns have the same priority, the one with the highest bid will be shown.
- If the campaign with the highest priority runs out of budget, the ad will be shown for the lower priority campaign with the highest bid.
All you need to know for the moment is that all of this is possible and when you might use it is coming up next!
6.) Search Query Level Bidding
This is something I first came across from Bloomarty (aka Martin Roettgerding).
It’s technically brilliant.
If you have a spare 30 minutes, check this video presentation out :
This technique allows us to bid very close to the search query level for the products that we’re selling.
Rather than letting Google Ads decide when to show our ads, this pretty much allows us to tell Google when to show them.
Something that we can’t actually do as standard with Shopping campaigns, but with some configuration tweaks, we can.
If you’re serious about really being in control of your shopping campaigns and maximising their potential, then this is probably something worth testing out.
In the most basic terms, this campaign structure will allow us to do the following :
- Bid high for product search queries
- Bid low for more generic search queries.
- Be in control of branded vs non branded search queries
If you’re interested in trying it out, check out this post from Search Engine Land.
7.) Google Shopping Bid Strategies
As with search ads, we have a few different bidding strategies available to us when using Shopping Campaigns :
- Manual CPC
- Target ROAS (automated)
- Maximise Clicks (automated)
- Enhanced CPC (semi-automated)
Using automated bidding will give you more time to focus on account strategy and conversion rate optimization, but manual bidding will give you more control.
But as with anything that we do within Google Ads, the key is testing before you go all-in.
If you have the conversion volume, then Target ROAS makes sense to test out for shopping campaigns.
But what we care the most about as marketers, is if it’s making us more money?
If we switch to an automated bidding strategy then we need to know that doing so will give the same ROAS, if not better.
Using experiments, we can test new bidding strategies out to see if they improve our results.
More information on available bidding strategies :
This is the default way of managing your bids in Shopping Campaigns. This is where we go in and manually set our bids.
Target ROAS (Return-On-Ad-Spend)
This option will try to maximize the revenue from each sale that you receive when setting bids to get your Target ROAS.
You need to set the ROAS that you would like to achieve from your campaign and Google will attempt to bring in the most amount of conversions and conversion value to reach that target.
Please remember that you need to be realistic with what you set here. If you typically receive a 250% ROAS and you enter 500%, chances are you’re not going to get great results.
Also, for this strategy to work properly, Google suggests that you have at least 20 conversions in the last 30 days.
This probably doesn’t really need much of an introduction. This bidding strategy will get you the most amount of clicks for your budget.
This strategy doesn’t factor in anything to do with conversions. It simply focuses on getting you the most amount of clicks.
This is more suited for low traffic products or when trying to increase awareness of a new product during a launch.
The strategy is more of a “bolt-on” for manual bidding. When this setting is turned on, your manual bids will be adjusted up or down depending on how likely you are to get a conversion.
Enhanced CPC doesn’t factor in devices, so you will need to do your own device bid modifications to stay on top of that.
Google suggests that you let it run for 15 days before evaluating its performance and have at least 200 clicks in a particular product group to optimize its performance.
So we’re done?
You should now have some good ideas on how to start Google shopping campaign optimization for your product feed . But this isn’t the time to sit back and sip on pina coladas… There’s still a bit more work to do.
Not quite yet….
This is the time where we start making sure that our campaigns are performing as well as they can and bringing in the most ROAS for us.
8.) Exclude Irrelevant Search Queries
As with Google Ads search campaigns, we recommend adding negative keywords to your shopping campaigns regularly.
You should be monitoring your search query report regularly to find irrelevant search terms.
If you don’t, this might happen :
To find them, we’ll just browse to the keywords menu item in our shopping campaigns and select the search terms option.
*Tip : Planning this into your calendar as a regular task is a great way to remember that it needs doing!
9.) Keep An Eye on Generic Search Queries
Shopping campaigns are slightly different to search ads in how advertisers display their ads to shoppers.
Search ads are displayed based on the keywords you choose to use and advertise on.
However, shopping ads are shown based on what Google thinks is relevant to the users search query.
Because of this, you can easily start showing ads for generic search terms, that are high-click and low purchase intent…
To stay on top of this, you should be keeping a close eye on your Search Query Report to see what search terms your ads are showing for.
If you spot any which aren’t providing a return for you, then you can simply go ahead and add those terms as a negative keyword to your shopping campaign.
10.) Adjust Bids By Device Performance
At the campaign or Ad group level, you are able to adjust your device bids based on their performance.
As mentioned earlier, we always recommend tracking your ROAS when optimizing your account, this lets you optimize for what brings in the biggest return for the business.
To get to this report, simply select devices option in the navigation at either a campaign or ad group level.
If it’s not making us money, let’s stop it spending as much.
11.) Optimize by Geo Location
Each customer location will usually have a different conversion rate.
So we can optimize for this by modifying bids based on the users location.
Our goal here is to increase visibility of our ads to users which make the most money for the business and decrease the visibility for those users which bring in no return for us.
Unlike device bid adjustments, this can only be done at the campaign level.
To find out how the performance by Geo is looking, you need to browse to your locations tab in the campaign view.
This will show you the performance based on the locations that you are targeting.
To go one step deeper, click on the Geographic report and select “User Location Report”.
Then you can click into individual locations to see the next level, so we can start to see performance in more granular detail.
We can break it down by :
- TV region
12.) Hour of the Day & Day Of Week
As any retailer knows, your customers convert differently depending on the time of the day and day of the week.
Similar to search campaigns, we can modify our bids based on the performance.
Be careful of getting too granular with your bid adjustments, if you don’t have enough data for your decisions to have reached statistical significance then you could do more harm than good.
If you don’t have enough data, try extending the date range.
Expert Tip : One thing we need to remember is that often shoppers will perform research based searches before committing to a purchase.
That’s why it’s really important that if you’re using the “Last Click” attribution model, then you should be consulting your model comparison tool in analytics before making any of these changes.
Otherwise you could be decreasing visibility of your shoppings ads for users when they’re in research mode, learning about your products and company.
That’s why it’s important for us to have an attribution model setup that reflects this.
I particularly like the position-based model which allows us to give “conversion credit” to each step in the user journey, depending on where the interaction happened.
One scenario could be that you drop bids during the day as you aren’t seeing many sales.
However, your customers could be researching during the day and looking you up once they get home in the evening. If you stop showing your ads during the day, you could be damaging your performance.
13.) Increase Visibility For High Performance Products
Because of the way we have structured our campaigns as discussed above (hint: One Product Ad Groups), we can now start to increase the visibility for products which are performing well for you.
A couple of ways in which you can do this are :
- Increasing bids
- Bid adjustments by Device
Expert tip : Please take note that you’ll need to keep a close eye on the adjustments that you make. We’ve seen a “peak” in traffic where you will start to see larger volumes but it isn’t making any additional revenue.
14.) Decrease Visibility For Products Not Performing
Just as we can increase visibility, we can decrease visibility too.
So products which aren’t meeting our business goals, can have their visibility decreased so that we’re spending less on under-performing traffic.
Usually good candidates for this are products with high-spend and low revenue.
If you consistently have products which are underperforming then one option is to place these in their own campaign with a restricted budget and lower bids.
But… if you were using the OPAGs Technique then wouldn’t have to do this 🙂
15.) RLSA – Remarketing Lists For Search Ads
As you might already know, RLSA can be used on search ads.
Fortunately, shopping campaigns can also use RLSA to try and pick up some extra conversions.
RLSA lets us target audiences that have already been onto our website and engaged with us.
They may have been on your website a few minutes, hit the shopping cart page or even got to entering their payment details.
We can create different audiences based on different level of engagement.
So when the user goes back to Google to search, we can adjust our bids accordingly to try and increase the likelihood of picking up the conversion.
If you want to find out more, read this article.
There’s two ways that we can use RLSA in shopping campaigns.
Option 1: Add our audiences to existing shopping campaigns
In order to use this method. We’ll need to add our audiences that we’ve created in Google Analytics to our existing shopping campaign audiences.
These can be added at the campaign level or adgroup level.
If you haven’t done this already, then it’s pretty simple to do.
- Open up your Google Analytics account and browse to Settings -> Audience Definitions -> Audiences
Next we’ll create a new audience and define our conditions :
We may start with creating an audience for people which have added to cart but not bought anything :
Depending on the amount of traffic your website receives, you’ll want to build audiences based on the intent of the users.
Using the example above, if we set the audience membership duration (the amount of time since they met the predefined conditions) at 7 days, these users have a shown high intent (by adding the products to their shopping carts) so we’ll probably have a different bid strategy than for a user that may have only visited 2 products pages but not added to their cart.
Adding Audiences To Campaigns
To keep things as simple as possible, we’ll show you how to set these up at a campaign level.
However, if the traffic is there, then setting up these RLSA audiences at an ad group level is definitely recommended. It will allow you to make more specific adjustments.
There’s two ways of doing this, you can either you Adwords Editor or you can do it using the Adwords Interface.
To do in Adwords, if you browse you your shopping campaign, select audiences from the navigation and then click on the white and blue pencil symbol.
You’ll need to have at least 1000 users in your audience in order to be able to use RLSA’s.
So if you don’t meet this criteria, then it’s best expanding your reach.
So rather than 7 day cart abandoners, we may try 14,21,30 or 60 days…. Or until we get a big enough audience that meets the requirements.
One thing to remember is that the longer you set your duration, the lower the intent of the user.
But you’ll still be able to make bid adjustments to the audience to try and make them work for you.
If you can’t build audiences from abandoned shopping carts, you can work your way backwards until you do.
Some examples are :
- Time on site
- Visited multiple pages
- Viewed customer service pages
You’ll see in the image above that we have our Targeting setting set as Observation.
What this basically means is that the audience will be added to our existing campaign and it will run alongside the traffic that is coming to the campaign already.
Picture it like an add-on.
Option 2: Create new RLSA campaigns
Just as it sounds, this involves creating a specific campaign for your RLSA audiences.
This method will take a bit more management time, but will usually be worth the extra work you put in.
What we’ll do is create a duplicate of our existing shopping campaigns and then add our audiences to them. Simple right?
It’s pretty straightforward to do in Adwords Editor.
First of all find your shopping campaign, right click or cmd + click on it and select copy from the menu.
Next, goto your campaign list and using cmd + click or right click, then select paste from the menu.
Then from within the manage campaign settings, we’ll select Keywords and targeting then audiences.
I can then choose whether to add my audiences at the ad group or campaign level.
We’ll also be able to see all of our audiences and if they’re big enough for search.
How cool is that?
The next bit is probably the most important bit.
Imagine that we launched this campaign and we didn’t tell Google that we only wanted to show ads to the audiences that we had selected.
What would happen?
Well, there would essentially be a bit of a dog fight between your original campaign and this one. It wouldn’t be pretty. The two campaigns would be cannibalising each other.
So to get round this, we want to tell Google that we only want to show the ads from this campaign only to users which are in this audience.
How do we do that?
One we’ve added the audience, we’ll want to select either “Edit Ad Group Flexible Reach” or “Edit Campaign Flexible Reach” – depending on how you are setting them up.
And we’ll be given two options : Observation & Targeting.
In the first example where we added our audience to an existing campaign that we wanted it run alongside. That was set in observation mode.
Now we only want to target users in our specific audiences, so we’ll set it to Targeting.
When using this implementation strategy, I’ll also usually add the audience to my main campaign as negative audience to avoid them becoming cannibalized by each other.
16.) Similar Audiences
Here at HelloClicks we’re lovin’ the In-Market audience lists for Search & Display. They’re basically audiences that Google creates as they believe they’re “in the market” for what it is you are selling.
Unfortunately they aren’t available for Shopping Campaigns at the time of writing this post “boooooo” but we can make do with the next best thing – Similar Audiences.
Google takes your audience lists that you have created, duplicates it and fills it with people that are most similar to your audience list.
So, let’s say for instance you build a list of your converters over the past 30 days. Google will go out a find users which they think show the same behaviour that your converters do.
Google may decide to use the search queries of your purchasers, prior to them buying something on your site.
To set this up, you’ll need a remarketing list of 1000 cookied users and Google will also need to be able to find enough users that show a similar search behaviour with the users on your list.
More information on how to add them can be found here.
17.) Get Some Stars Bro’!!
If you’re selling products that other retailers also sell for a similar price or there are similar products with a similar price. Then one way to stand out from the crowd is by adding some stars to your shopping ads real estate.
To this, you can include reviews from 3rd party websites.
A couple of things you should know :
- These reviews are for the product itself and not for the business
- They are matched to your products based on the GTIN identifiers.
- If Google can’t match reviews to your GTIN, they will try a few other ways but generally the best way is to use a valid GTIN.
- You’ll need a minimum of 50 reviews
- You will need to upload your review feed to your Google Merchant Center account. If you use a 3rd party to collect reviews, they will be able to help with this.
Is it worth it?
As we all know, trust is also huge factor when making a purchase online.
And even though the reviews don’t directly represent a review of the company itself, it’s unlikely that the user will know this.
So when arriving onto your site after clicking your ad with stars, users will already be starting to lower the trust barrier.
We wanted to find out how important these reviews were. So in true HelloClicks style, we ran a little experiment to find out.
We surveyed a group of people and asked them out of the 5 products of identical images and pricing, which one they would be more likely to click on and why.
This is the image we tested :
This is what we found….
Out of the group of people that we surveyed, 90% said they would click on the image with the most reviews first.
As i’m sure you’ll agree, this is true indicator as to how important having reviews for your shopping ads can be.
This is the way you’re going to stand apart from your competitors if you’re selling similar products.
18.) Smart Shopping Campaigns
Smart shopping campaigns are an automated shopping campaign from Google Ads.
If you want to take a semi hands-off approach, then this type of campaign might be worth looking at.
What are they?
Google’s machine learning technology is developing at an incredible pace. Paired with the use of automated bidding, your ads will be shown across much more of the Google Network than with standard Shopping Campaigns.
The ads are served across the Google Search Network, Display Network, YouTube and Gmail.
So unlike normal shopping ad campaigns, you are now showing on more of Google’s network of websites.
One additional point to make is that these ads will also include dynamic remarketing ads. So users will also see personalized ads to them, if they have been to your website and not converted.
How they work
As with standard Shopping Campaigns, Smart Shopping Campaigns work by using your product feed from your Merchant Centre account to show shopping ads to users which they believe are more likely to buy what you are selling.
There’s no need for you to adjust bids, add negative keywords, product groups or priorities.
This is all taken care of for you.
The main thing you have to focus on, is making sure that your feed is as optimised as possible and the strategy you’re using.
I like deploying a GrIP structure (groups of individual products) and creating multiple Smart Shopping campaigns around products with similar performance to improve results. This sort of advanced management can be quite time consuming but with our Optmyzr toolset for shopping campaigns, we make it more accessible.
If you’re looking for information on Smart Shopping Campaigns, this is a great place to start.
19.) Merchant Promotions
Another way to increase the appeal of your shopping ads is by using Merchant Promotions.
This option allows you to show special offers related to your products :
The are great for Increasing your Click-Through-Rate and Conversion Rate.
At present, they are available to advertisers in Australia, France, Germany, India, the UK, and the US.
To create a promotion, you’ll do this in your merchant center account as detailed here.
If you don’t have the option available in your merchant center account then you’ll need to register your interest in order to use them.
20.) Showcase Shopping Ads
This new kid on the block and is sparking lots of interest in the world of Google Ads.
This type of ad is targeted more towards searchers that are higher up in the buying funnel that may be using more generic search terms.
Showcase Shopping Ads allow you to display a selection of your products as well as a lifestyle image or video and some text.
As they are targeting users earlier in the buying process, this is more of a Brand Awareness campaign type.
Bidding works by paying per engagement rather than per click. Once a user has opened your ad for 10 or more seconds or clicks through to one of your products, only then will you be charged for it.
Google has reported that they’ve seen a “3.6x higher than average CTR” with these types of Ads.
It’s unlikely that you will see many direct conversions as a result of clicking on these ads, but it’s a great way to make your company and products known to a user.
From here we can build out remarketing lists based on their behaviour and bring them back onto your website and into your sales funnel.
The Shopping Ads Campaigns Finale….
I really hope that you have managed to pick up some Google shopping campaign optimization best practices and on how to effectively structure and optimize your shopping campaigns.
But remember, there’s more to it than just getting your campaigns up and running.
They need constant attention to bring in the maximum ROAS for your account. If you don’t, then you could really be leaving money on the table….