Shopping ads are one aspect that often get overlooked for my ecommerce owners who often focus on direct Facebook ads and search advertising.
After personally managing over $3 million dollars of advertising spend on Google ads, I absolutely love Google shopping ads because they are relatively easy to optimize and run.
Generally speaking, Google shopping campaigns that have been optimize properly can yield the one the highest ROAS in your Google ads account. People that Google show these ads to are often people who are already in the “shopping mentality” or are browsing the Shopping tab whilst in searching for those keywords, so they tend to have much higher buying intent.
Table of Contents
Creating a Google Merchant Center Account
Before you jump into creating Shopping ad campaigns, you’ll first need to set-up your Google Merchant Center (this can take quite some time especially if you’re doing it for the first time).
Head over to the Merchant Center site and create a GMC account (if you haven’t already). From there you’ll be able to connect your product feed or create one manually.
The main benefits of setting up a Google Merchant Center account are:
- You get to run Shopping ads – a strong channel that typically has good ROAS
- Free listings on Google – your products have the chance to appear on Google websites and platforms for free (basically free traffic if Google likes your product)
Submitting Your Product Feed to Google
There are a few ways that you can submit your product feed. You’ll be prompted by Google to choose a method the first time you sign up for an account.
If not you can click the settings wheel at the top right of the page, and select data sources
In the next page, just click on +add data source and you’ll have the 3 options to select from. Personally, I wouldn’t recomend add products from a file as Google sheets is just more superior to this option.
Content API for Shopify stores – Use “Google & YouTube” app
If you’re using Shopify, you can easily integrate your product feed using the “Google & YouTube” app. Just add it to your store and connect your Google Merchant Account.
After this your products should sync automatically. This method is super easy and quick to do.
Submit Product Data Using Google Sheets (My Preferred Method)
You can also decide to submit via Google sheets to easily manage and alter your product parameters. Personally I like to use Google sheets as I have a lot more control and can make changes to my product data for optimization very easily, but it’s a slightly more advanced method and will take some getting used to when inputting product data.
Steps for Google Sheets Method
- Create a Google Sheet that you can use to link to the Merchant Center. You can get a default template from Google (see the image above). These are the required attributes you will need to have (but not limited to):
- ID (anything that uniquely identifies your product)
- Link: link to product page
- Condition: new
- Availability: In stock
- Image Link
- GTIN (identifier, can use barcode if you have one)
- MPN (another identifier, can use SKU or leave blank but need at least GTIN or MPN filled out)
- Google product category: Find best category that matches what you sell from this list
- You want to send google as much information about your product as possible, and this may not be represented properly in your product data page, that’s why using Google sheets allows you to control the product inputs.
- The data in your feed (spreadsheet) is your KEYWORDS for Google Shopping
- There are many other additional attributes you can add in your data feed
- Google LOVES data, especially structured clean data so give them that.
Your Google Sheets product feed should look something like this:
Other Requirements to Set-Up
Once you’ve set up your Product feed, you’ll also need to update a key important things before you’ll be eligible.
- Business information
- Shipping information – how you charge and typical delivery times
- Tax information
Just head over the respective tabs to enter the information for these items.
Your product feeds may take several hours or up to 1-2 weeks to approve. If it is taking too long, reach out to Google support to try and speed things up. Usually if my feed is taking too long to get approved, I’ll “spam” support with emails daily just to get it quickly reviewed.
Set Up Shopping Campaigns on Google Ads
Once everything is approved you can set up your campaigns on Google.
Before running your Shopping ads, make sure that your ad conversion tracking has been set up properly.
Types of Shopping Ad Campaigns
1. Standard Shopping ads
This campaign type is specifically only for shopping ads and allows you to have a bit more manual control over your campaigns, as well as to get a sense of keywords that your product is showing for.
Unlike other campaigns like search ads, you don’t get a lot of customizations and all you need to do is select the product feed that you want to run ads for.
2. Performance Max Campaigns
In contrast to standard shopping, Performance Max are fully automated campaigns and rely heavily on Google’s AI algorithm to work well. Do note that Performance Max campaigns actually serve on all Google’s platforms (search, display, discovery, YouTube, shopping) unless you specifically set it to run for only shopping.
As a rule of thumb, try to aim for a bare minimum of 50 conversions in the past 45 days from all your other campaigns before transitioning to this automated strategy.
This is because if you don’t have enough data before hand, then Google may end up spending more budget to learn and profitability at the start may not be up to par.
My Google Shopping Ads Strategy
I almost always start with Standard Shopping campaign format to get more data on my products to optimize my Merchant Center listings before transitioning to Performance Max which is a more automated campaign where you have a lot less control.
The data that you gather from this campaign will help you to know what keywords to add/remove in your product listings (use this info to edit your product titles, description and other variables). You can also control your bidding strategies in the campaign.
That’s when we can also start to expand the campaigns into other countries and slowly increase budgets based on performance.
The set-up progression would typically look something like this
- Start with a Standard Shopping – SG campaign. Make sure that all the products get approved in the Merchant Center first, and then start running Google ads (otherwise if it gets disapproved/banned, Google ads account may get banned as well)
- Use Manual Bidding Strategy
- Optimize title & description from keyword data
- Optimize product image (to influence CTR)
- Regularly check Google Merchant Center account to make sure products are approved
- Review performance on standard campaigns
- Use negative keywords (review search terms report)
- Once we hit 25-50 conversions, switch to Performance Max campaigns
- If all goes well, break Performance Max campaigns out into different countries
Standard Shopping Campaign Bidding Strategy
Start off with a more conservative number like $1-$2 and adjust up or down depending on how Google algorithm reacts. The bid really depends on your product niche and how competitive it is, but if it’s too low you can always adjust it higher.
Starting budget should be around $50-$100/day, depending on cost of product. Use manual bidding (can use with enhanced cpc). Once you have 50 conversions, you can switch to automated bidding strategy.
Why do we want to do this? Well, at the start, you want to give Google a boost to the right direction by manually adjusting the bids at the product level. You want to split out all products (ex: by Product ID) to see how each product performs individually and to adjust your bids accordingly
Note that shopping campaigns don’t generate sales right away, it can take time to build up the data to optimize, especially when starting from scratch.
Once you hit 50 conversions, can use target ROAS automated strategy. Don’t use the breakeven ROAS as the target ROAS, but want to add 10%-50% on top of the target ROAS to get a profit. Give Google a benchmark to hit as you want to find balance between profitability and volume of conversions.
Don’t change your bidding strategy every week, let it optimize and get results first.
What’s the Secret to Optimizing Google Shopping Campaigns?
Clean, well-optimized product data feeds and consistent product approvals in Google Merchants is the secret to success.
The success of your Shopping ads all boils down to the data provided to the Google Merchant Center. Specifically the keywords in your title and meta description.
It is important to use proper structure and understand the language that your customer uses to search about your product (can google keywords related to your product and look at competitors for inspiration).
Brand name, color, size, type, gender, etc are possible things to add in your title. For your description, make sure it is long enough for Google to understand your product (what your product is, what it does, how it is used).
Add a comprehensive description on your website product page too – you can also add videos to the descriptions of your products on your website (show it in use).
Some Suggested Formats for Product Title Optimizations
- Brand + Product Type + Color + Material
- Brand + Size (length/width/height) + Product Type + Color
- Material + Product Type + Color + Brand
- Product Type + Size + Color + Feature + Brand
You can also add in popular keywords about your product that people are searching into the title and descriptions.
In the next few days after optimizing for your titles and descriptions, you may notice an increase in impressions and a lower CPA.
Optimize Your Product Images
It is also important to choose the best image for your product. Google your product and figure out how to stand out from competitors (image colors, background, angle, HD photos).
💡Take note that Google also has restrictions on what type of photos you can have; logos, promotional text are usually disapproved.
Adding Negative Keywords
After your Standard Shopping campaigns have been running for some time, you can review the actual search terms that people are using when they viewed your product.
Go to Campaign > Keywords > Search Terms.
Create a filter to show the terms that don’t have conversions, and then sort them by cost. Exclude search terms that have high spend but are not performing, or are irrelevant.
Merchant Center Bonuses (Additional Optimizations)
You can also enable or add the following features in order to optimize your product listings.
- Google Listings – Turn on for a chance to list your products for free
- Dynamic remarketing – turn it on
- Add promotions for your products (e.g. 11/11 promo, Black Friday sales) – these will stand out on your ads from competitors
- Add Sale Price to get sale price annotations. To enable this, you must meet these requirements.
- Integrate Product Ratings – this will be a HUGE boost to your product CTRs. People love reviews and it just adds to the social proof. Here are the 30 Google-approved reviews partners.
- Add logos and brand colors – for a neat design touch and consistent branding
How to fix Misrepresentation error on Google Merchant Center
One thing I’ve often encountered for clients that just set-up a brand new Google Merchant Center account is that they tend to get a error notification that their account has been suspended due to “Misreprensentation”.
Sometimes this error occurs even when there’s really nothing wrong with your product pages and you’ve already done all the steps as suggested by Google to get your products approved. Click here for the list of Google’s misrepresentation policy violations to make sure that you’ve cleared all of these on your site.
What you need to know is that this is often triggered by Google’s initial automated review of your site so don’t panic! If you’re confident that you do not have any of the policy violations on the list, a simple way to resolve this is to simply request for a manual review.
The review can be as fast as a few hours or several days depending on the Google rep that’s reviewing your products.