As one of the most powerful platforms in the world, Google is an essential tool for businesses wanting to get their products and services in front of the right people. Not only is it the world’s top-ranked search engine (by a mile), but it’s also a powerful ecommerce platform.
Some of the most valuable promotional activities for ecommerce owners are those that drive highly intentional actions from buyers. Google Shopping ads definitely fit into this category.
But what are Google Shopping ads and how do they work? Let’s dive into the platform to help you understand how to make the most of Google Shopping to drive sales and revenue.
Google shopping ads are ads featured on the platform that drive customers to purchase through a relevant search. If you Google pretty much any product you can imagine, this is what you’ll see at the top of the search results page:
Another variation is on the right-hand side of the search results:
Unlike paid ads or display ads that typically lead to a wide range of landing pages and have various goals, Google Shopping ads — also known as Product Listing Ads or PLAs — rely on the feed that contains your products, including their price, name, image, reviews, and promotions.
Google uses the information from this feed to display a grid of products based on the search term. From there, a user can click through to the product and purchase from the seller’s website as usual.
If you’re trying to figure out how to create optimized Google ads, download our Google Ads Creator template.
Google Shopping ads have taken the paid media world by storm. Here are some statistics that showcase just how much:
What is it about Google Shopping ads’ performance and profitability that makes them so popular?
There’s a simple answer: a combination of search intent and purchase intent.
Let’s look at several different levels of specificity and the way it relates to what the searcher had in mind when typing in their query:
Face mask - As an advertiser, you can’t quite narrow down what the user had in mind when searching for this. Is it a sleeping mask? A face mask? What skin type is in question? And what if it’s a pollution protection mask? It’s a vague search term. Google Shopping results have the same challenge:
Face mask for oily skin DIY - This term doesn’t show any purchase intent, but rather the need for information and DIY face mask recipes. As a result, no products are listed, and instead we see a featured snippet:
Face mask for oily skin - Now that DIY isn’t specified any longer, we see a carousel of products that all come from different sellers and brands. Google considers these masks good for oily skin types and aims to prompt the user to click through one of them to make a purchase. In this case, the user’s awareness of listed brands and sellers has the most impact on the purchase decision:
Glamglow Gravity mud - This is a search hyper-specific to a certain brand and its product. In this case, all the listed products are identical, but the sellers, prices, and reviews vary. In this case, it’s more likely that the price and shipping will influence the purchase decision the most:
You can take almost any product category and come up with examples of lower and higher purchase intent queries. More specific terms typically mean a higher purchase intent and a better chance for products in Google Shopping to shine through and lead to a sale.
Some more examples:
“Facebook displays ads to users regardless of their purchase intent. You can get people who are interested in the topic, but who aren’t necessarily ready to purchase. Being interested in something and being ready, willing, and able to buy are two different things,” says Pete Boyle, a paid advertising and conversion rate optimization specialist. “On another hand, Google’s focus on different levels of intent means you can optimize for people who are ready to purchase,” he adds.
As you can see in the examples above, specificity in a search query can include product category, shipping, details, color, size, and much more—which brings us to what makes Google understand the products it lists.
Google Shopping campaigns are powered by two systems: Google Merchant Center and Google Ads.
Unlike setting up a standard paid search strategy with campaigns, ad groups and ads, the nerve center of your Google Shopping campaigns will be in the Google Merchant Center.
Google Merchant Center is a tool that helps you upload your store and product data to Google to make it available for Shopping ads and other Google services.
As you’ve seen in the examples above, Shopping ads don’t display any copy or call to action — instead, they display the information a retailer has entered into their Merchant Center.
If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to set up a Merchants Center account.
The first thing you have to do to be able to run a Shopping campaign is to create a Merchant Center account. You can do this in a few easy steps:
Finishing the registration will take you to the Google Merchant Center dashboard, from where you can navigate to your business information, your products, and tax and shipping information.
Before you move on to setting up your product feed and your Shopping campaign, you need to become familiar with the Merchant Center guidelines and ensure your business is fully compliant.
Some of the main guidelines include:
Next comes the most important step, and likely the most time-consuming one: setting up your product feed.
You can do it in two ways: automatically (by using an integration) or manually.
The automatic setup means you leverage the platform your online store is hosted on to integrate your product information with your Merchant Center. You will typically have access to this if your store is on Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento. Simply follow your platform’s instructions to make this happen.
Manual set-up requires you to enter all your product data through a file such as a spreadsheet.
In your Merchant Center, select Products > Feeds, then click the plus sign and follow instructions. You will soon reach this step that will provide you with a Google Merchant Center feed spreadsheet…
...which will include columns you need to fill out and instructions on how to do so:
The following is the most essential information that is part of a well-optimized product feed:
When it comes to certain items like clothing, you will also need to provide additional information such as gender, size, age group, color, and more.
Once your product feed is ready, it’s time to launch your Shopping campaign.
The second part of the Shopping ads puzzle is the Google Ads platform. Think of it this way: the Merchant Center hosts your product feed, representing your shop in Google’s eyes. To amplify this shop, Google Ads lets you create a campaign and fine-tune it to your preferences.
Here are some key settings that make Shopping ads specific to the immediate context of the searcher:
Both of these systems work through a regular Google account. For them to work together, the most important step is to link them from the Merchant Center interface.
You linked your Merchant Center and your Google Ads account earlier. From your Google Ads dashboard, select Campaigns, then click the plus sign. From here, you can select Sales > Shopping to start creating your Shopping campaign.
The settings you choose on the next page — bidding and budget — will largely depend on the cost of your products and the revenue they bring in. Here are some best practices, especially if you’re just starting:
Finally, set your locations correctly, and you’re good to go!
To make sure your campaign is worth your investment and it keeps bringing you a positive return, here are some tips to follow.
If you follow these best practices, you will ensure that you show up for relevant search queries, but also provide the best experience for the buyer, from the moment they discover you to beyond the purchase.
It’s not enough to just move your shopping campaigns to Google, you need to ensure your company’s feeds are optimized for search to get the best results. So how do you do that? Here are 8 tips to help you:
As you can see Google Shopping ads are a powerful tool to leverage search behavior. From a consumer perspective, it makes searching easy as they can quickly identify a product relevant to them.
Like any paid campaign, it’s important to track, A/B test and tweak to make the most of your ads. It’s never too late to get started and see how the platform can perform for your business.
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