Did you know that about half (48%) e-commerce searches originate from search engines, primarily Google? When selling something online, your product can appear on Google in three primary ways.
These include organic search, search ads, and Google Shopping ads, which has the honor of claiming the top spot in the Google search. Therefore, Google shopping optimization and learning how to improve results on Google shopping should be one of the top priorities of every e-commerce business owner and marketer.
If that’s you, then let’s dive into the challenging waters of Google Shopping Optimization.
What Is Google Shopping and What Are Google Shopping Ads?
Google Shopping is Google’s own online product search and comparison tool. If we compare it to Amazon (the premier e-commerce search engine), Google shopping shows e-commerce listings/online products from different e-commerce websites the way Amazon shows products from different sellers listed with Amazon.
Google shopping has been with us since 2002 (it was called Froogle back then). It has evolved over the years, went through a bunch of different names, and now it has settled down on Google shopping.
The following are the Google shopping ads for the search query “Acer Aspire 5 slim.”
Even though they also appear on the Google shopping tab, what makes them powerful is that they appear in Google searches, in the very top spot. These are paid ads, and even though Google has opened the Google shopping platform for free listings as well (where e-commerce products compete for higher ranking in organic search), the attractive real estate that (paid) Google shopping ads possess still holds its value.
It’s important to note a few things about Google shopping. One is that Google does most of the work for you. If you provide the right data in the right format, Google will create a shopping ad, a listing for you automatically. And though a lot of information will be conveyed to the user (especially if they are in the shopping tab), once the user clicks an ad, they are taken directly to the original listing. This can be on your own website or Amazon. And you pay Google for that click.
Google Shopping Ads vs. Search Ads
Google ranks orders and regulates CPC bids for shopping ads based on the product listing. On the other hand, for search ads, you bid for keywords. This makes Google shopping optimization relatively different from search ads optimization, where your primary focus would be the keyword.
There are other differences as well:
- Search ads cover both products and services, whereas Google shopping ads are exclusively for products.
- Google shopping ads have replaced the search ads from the top result real estate.
- Shopping ads are more visual in nature, whereas search ads are text-based.
- Google shopping is more ideally suited for e-commerce websites with a lot of products, and search ads might be better for a relatively small product line.
Why Optimize For Google Shopping Ads?
Before you delve into another paid marketing campaign, you should weigh the benefits against the cost and determine whether or not it’s worth it.
- Google shopping ads claim the top spot, and they are visual in nature, i.e., each ad is accompanied by a picture of the product you are selling. And as stats from various e-commerce sources have proven time and time again, clean and comprehensive visuals are much more likely to get you a click (and even a conversion) compared to textual descriptions. A clear picture of the product helps you make up your mind faster.
- Google shopping ads have replaced search ads for a wide variety of products, so they are the only way to rank high on Google through paid advertisement in most cases.
- Google might show multiple shopping ads from your e-commerce store/website if they are relevant and you've optimized your campaigns properly. If it's exactly the same product, then you might be paying for a fractional improvement in Click-Through Rates (CTRs), but if it’s a variant (or a slightly different product), it’s beneficial for conversion.
- The bid for shopping ads tends to be a bit lower compared to the CPC bids for search ads. So if your fully optimized shopping campaign can get better CTRs and conversions, the overall Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) would be significantly lower.
- While keywords are important for Google shopping campaigns as well, the placement and bidding are geared more towards the whole product description and matching your product to the right buyer. This makes Google shopping relatively less competitive than the keyword-heavy Google ads.
- The advantage it has common with Google Search Ads or even organic search is that it's intent-based marketing. The ad is not invading a user's browsing time; it's displayed because they searched (with intent) for a certain item.
Google Shopping CPC, CTR, and ROAS
For most overlapping categories, the benchmark CPC for Google shopping tends to be significantly lower than Google search ads. The trade-off is that the CTR is also a bit lower. The average Google search CTR was found 5.9% during COVID, and for Google shopping, it was 0.77%. But that's unevenly distributed over the industries.
Take the "Home and Garden" as an example. The Google shopping CTR is 0.74%, whereas Google search CTR for the same category is 4.78%. The CPC for both is $0.66 and $4.07, respectively. When it comes to converting a click to conversion, Google search has an advantage. A benchmark CVR value for Google search for the home and garden industry was 4.26%, and for Google shopping, it was 1.31%.
Let’s compare the ROAS for a hypothetical scenario for a specific product, say a raised garden bed that you are selling for $200 apiece, and it only costs you about $70 (so you make a $130 profit on each piece sold). Assuming 100,000 people saw the ads, here’s how the numbers might pan out for you.
ROAS for Google Ads: Out of 100,000 people, about 4,780 might click through, costing you about $19,454 in ad spending. Out of those, about 204 people might convert and buy your product. Your total profit (before deducting the cost of advertising) would be $26,502. In this case, you are in green. But if making/sourcing the product costs you just $35 more, you’d be in red.
ROAS for Google Shopping: Out of 100,000 people, about 740 might click, and about ten might buy your product. The CPC would be about $488. And your profit before deducting ad spending would be $1,300. If we deduct the advertisement cost, your profit would be $812.
The difference is quite stark. It’s true that you are likely to sell more with Google ads, but the high advertisement cost will eat into your profits. You will make a total of $34.5 profit with Google ads for each unit you sell, compared to $81 you will make in Google shopping. But remember, better profits are just one goal, not the goal.
Setting Up A Google Shopping Campaign
Since this article is more about optimizing a Google shopping campaign (or simply Google shopping optimization), we will only provide an overview of how you can set up a Google shopping campaign.
- The first thing you’ll need to set up a Google shopping campaign is a Google Merchant account, and Google ads account that's already embedded with your e-commerce site and pages (for tracking data).
- Once you have your Merchant account set up, you can create and add your product feed to it. It has to be done in a very specific way, following Google's guidelines. You can either do it manually, using a spreadsheet and providing all the relevant data. Or, you can use an app to "arrange" and export the product data to Google's merchant account. If your e-commerce store is connected to your Google Merchant account, this process will be automated since the latter will pull the data directly from the former.
- With that setup, you need to log in to your Google ads account. On the page menu (left side), click Campaigns>New Campaigns, then click shopping as the campaign type. After that, you have two options. One is smart shopping, and the other is standard. In smart shopping, you will only have to set up a target ROAS, and Google would take care of everything else (bidding, display network selection, etc.). This has more reach and more conversion potential, but with limited access to search term reports, you will have very limited control over it. For beginners, standard shopping might be a good idea because it might be more work, but it will also get you more useful data and allow you to understand the shopping campaigns more thoroughly. You get to set your maximum CPC, therefore control how aggressively you are bidding.
- You will have to choose a campaign name, country of sale, inventory filter (choose which products to market), bidding strategy, daily budget, campaign priority, network (Google search, display, YouTube, etc.), devices, location, and local inventory ads.
- Save and create your ad group.
14 Google Shopping Optimization Strategies – How To Improve Results On Google Shopping
Now that you’ve set up your first campaign, there are a few ways to optimize your Google shopping campaign and improve your probability of showing up in Google shopping, i.e., improve results on Google Shopping. To increase results in Google shopping, there are quite a few things you can do:
- Optimize your product feed for Google. Google needs to understand what your product is so that it knows whether or not it’s the product Google users are searching for. You need to help the search engine determine when and to whom to serve your ad for maximum conversions. You need to nail the key attributes, provide updated data, and make sure all the relevant information is conveyed.
- Use the right keywords in your description to give the search engine a better idea of what your product is. It might not be a ranking element, but it's important to connect to the right target audience. Use the right Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN) for products you are reselling and MPN for products without GTIN. Choosing the right category doesn't just influence your conversion rates; it also impacts the CPC. But the wrong category selection can result in a misleading buyer's journey, and you should never sacrifice customer satisfaction for metrics.
- There are about 45 different fields available to you to describe your product to Google. Prioritize the ones that are mandatory (either legally or by Google). Also, product type might not be mandatory like the product category, but that's an option you want to leverage to describe your product better.
- Optimize the title. Keep the character limit in mind, and don't try to stuff multiple keywords in the title. Try to convey as much information as possible, keeping the user's intention in mind. If you are selling a novelty product or a specific model of something, make sure it’s part of the title. For clothing, the color and size of the product can be helpful. The more information a user is getting from your title, the more likely they are to click (assuming it is what they were looking for).
- Optimize product image. You can’t and shouldn’t go beyond the bounds of Google’s guidelines for the image, but it’s a good idea to try and be creative within that domain. Don’t sacrifice clarity for aesthetics but standing out from your competitors (like placing the object at an angle, as opposed to everyone else who has it on a flat surface) might help you get more clicks. Use A/B testing to see which image might be working best for you. Choose a high-quality image with a white background that offers a clear view of the product.
- Be picky about your display networks. You won't have that option in the smart campaign, but if you are going with the standard one, you can control where your ads are displayed. A good idea is to exclude both search networks and YouTube and Discover on Display when the option is presented. This will not just impact your CPC and conversions but will also refine/narrow down your data and help you understand your bottom line better.
- Leverage the power of negative keywords. Even though you might not be fully able to harness the power of keywords when marketing your product with Google shopping, you can narrow down your scope and control costs by using negative keywords. For more potent marketing and conversions, showing up in the right search queries is important, but it’s also imperative that you don’t show up in certain places. These vacant clicks will negatively impact your ROAS.
- Add irrelevant negative keywords. Your product, or more precisely, your product description, might overlap with several others products that you are not selling. They might be for a different market segment, product type, etc.
- Be wary of competitor search queries. Several times people search for a product with a specific company/website (typically Amazon). So if someone is searching for “Acer Slim i5 Laptop Amazon” and you happen to sell that laptop, you might still want to exclude that keyword because the user wants the product from Amazon.
- Cut out generic keywords with very low click-through rates. These generic keywords might help your ad show up more for relevant searches, but the click-through rate and conversions would be significantly lower.
- Optimize your shopping campaigns. You can have one shopping campaign for all your products (no matter how many there are), and while this might be the easiest route, especially with the smart campaign on, it is likely to be more expensive and perform poorly. There are four basic structures that you can go with:
- One campaign: If you have a relatively limited product range and they are all very similar in costs, sales volume, shipping, etc., an undivided campaign might be just what you need. It will allow you to distribute your “resources” equally on all your products.
- One campaign + Multiple product groups: Having multiple product groups (each based on a different set of product attributes) allows you more control over how you want to bid for certain products. Some product groups might require more aggressive bidding, while for others, you might focus on different optimization techniques.
- Multiple campaigns + Similar product: This is a relatively advanced campaigning strategy. This is useful when you are setting up different campaigns for different target markets or market segments. For example, your product A dominates the UK market but struggles in the US one. So having a separate campaign for both, each with different priorities and bidding strategies, might be a good idea.
- Multiple campaigns + Different products: Setting up different campaigns for different sets of products (divided based on brand, target market, selling frequency, shipping costs, etc.) offers you even more control than setting up multiple product groups.
- Find your winning products. The simplest criterion is the products that might get you the most profit for the same ad spend, i.e., you need to spend $500 a month to sell an equal number of units of two products, you might consider focusing more on a product that's getting you $30 in profit than the one getting you $5. But it’s not as simple as that. You will need to factor in other elements of your marketing strategy as well, like more visibility, gaining traction for a new product line, etc.
- Price your products competitively. No matter how optimized your shopping campaign is and whether or not you are showing up on the first spot if your product is priced significantly higher (or even too low) than your competitors, users are unlikely to click. Since Google takes both product and shipping costs into account, you have two variables to control.
- Optimize your bidding. When it comes to bidding, you can either do most of the work manually or give control over to Google (partially or fully). Align your bidding strategy with your business goals. If you are more about profitability than visibility, set a higher budget and maximum CPC for your winning product and pull back a little from products with stunted profit margins. Automated strategies are a good idea to cart over some of the responsibility to Google, but it’s important to note that they are likely to care more about their profitability than yours. Understand the difference between maximizing clicks strategy (if you are sure more clicks will lead to more conversions) and enhanced Cost Per Click (eCPC) when you want Google to increase the likelihood of conversion, albeit at a higher cost. Also, when setting up your target ROAS, make sure that you are setting realistic expectations.
When optimizing bidding, third party AI optimization tools can be highly beneficial to increase performance. When managing large amounts of data, AI tools often trumps manual optimization, not to mention all the time saved. AI plugin tools like www.bidbrain.com can help you increase bidding performance as well as improve your product feed for higher outcome.
Other tools that can help with Google Shopping bidding include Whoop!, Bidnamic and Bidbrain.
- Leverage the power of campaign data. From the dimensions tab in your Google ads, you can zero in on the time-specific performance of your shopping campaigns. If some of your products are selling better between five and eight p.m., on the weekend, that’s when you might want to bid more aggressively. Use the geographic sales data in a similar manner. Look into the specific outlier individual products, i.e., the ones that are performing exceptionally well or quite poorly. Consider clumping winners and losers together, each campaign/product group with its own bidding strategy.
- Keep an eye out for competition. Regularly monitor Google shopping benchmark and try to decipher the competitive landscape. This won't just help you with more accurate budgeting and estimations; it will also allow you to gauge your performance against your competitors. Focus on metrics like search impression shares, search absolute top impression share, search lost impression share, and click share. And to get more use out of these metrics, you also need to pull (and understand) data from the benchmark metrics.
Google’s default suggestion to gain more visibility in Google shopping (or anywhere else really) is to bid more aggressively and increase your budget. It is a viable strategy but only if you’ve optimized your Google shopping campaign to perfection. If not, you will simply be brute-forcing your way onto the top spot, but you are still quite unlikely to gain the conversions and clicks you were hoping for. So you should start by optimizing your campaign and then explore aggressive bidding strategies for better visibility.