The Master Guide to Google Shopping

The Master Guide to Google Shopping
This is a special contribution from Reese Garcia, director of ecommerce at KlientBoost.

There’s no way around it: Amazon and Google own product discovery online. According to the latest Mary Meeker Report, 85% of all product search starts on one of those two platforms. Worse, the bulk of that — 49% — takes place on Amazon, where commoditization and lack of data sharing undercuts a brand’s ability to establish direct and long-term connections to customers.

So, where do you begin to build those long-term connections? The next likeliest place for customers to find products is with search, which makes up 36% of product discovery. And a critical portion for retailers is Google Shopping, which dominates 76.4% of retail search ad spend in the U.S. If you’re underutilizing Google Shopping, you could be missing out on a huge chunk of revenue opportunities.

This master guide is meant to help lead any level reader through Google Shopping campaigns. If you’re a retailer who’s hungry for Google Shopping strategies that lead you to actual growth, you’ve come to the right place. Even if you’re only looking for a way to get started, you should keep reading as this guide will cover:

  1. How to Set Up Your Google Merchant Center Account and Product Feed
  2. How to Identify Your Best Product Feed Optimization Opportunities
  3. How to Target Keywords in Google Shopping and Prioritize Your Top-Sellers
  4. How to Take Advantage of Google’s New Merchant Promotions and Get Your Sales Seen
  5. How to Use Google Shopping’s Newest Features

1. Winning Google Shopping Starts With Your Product Feed

Popeye had to eat spinach in order to be strong, and you have to set up a product feed before you can be a superhero on Google Shopping.

If you don’t have one yet, you’ll need to create a Google Merchant Center account here. Your merchant account will be the place you add your product feed, and how you connect your product data to Google Ads so that you can start building shopping campaigns. This is where you’ll also configure your basic business information, shipping, and tax settings.

This is what your Google Merchant Center dashboard will look like

Once your merchant account is set up, you can get started on the feed. Your product feed is a file that contains data like your products’ titles, prices, and other details that tell Google what your products are and how ads for them should be served.

Unless you only sell one or two products, this isn’t the kind of file you want to create manually. With a product base of any scale, creating this manually is likely to lead to small errors, inaccuracy, and overall incompleteness. If you’re not using a shopping platform like Shopify that supports apps to help you create your product feed, you may want to generate an XML or CSV file with all of your product data. If you need help with identifying the required and recommended attributes, you can generate a feed using a Google Sheet within the Merchant Center:

You can also see a list of all the required attributes here

Since Google requires that your product feed be refreshed every 30 days, a Google Sheet or static CSV file isn’t the most efficient way to maintain an up-to-date catalog for Google Shopping campaigns.

The Merchant Center does allow you to schedule automatic uploads with a Google Sheet, so you may be able to get by on a Google Sheet for a while if you have a small catalog (less than 15-20 products) and your inventory rarely changes.

In any other scenario, however, you’ll want to make sure you have something in place that automatically uploads your feed at least daily so that your ads are always showing the most important and in-stock products.

2. How to Identify Your Best Product Feed Optimization Opportunities

Now that we’ve taken care of the basics, let’s talk about the parts of your feed you need to focus in order to get your products in front of the right shoppers and how to improve them.

If you haven’t set up a Google Shopping campaign before, you should know now that Google Shopping doesn’t use any keyword targeting like ordinary Search campaigns. This means that any time an ad is served, it’s totally based on the information in your product feed.

Optimize Your Product Titles First

In a study that tested Shopping ads’ performance against multiple product feed attributes, product title showed the most significant effect on performance, and had as much as a nearly 10x increase on traffic:

 

By contrast, making changes to the product description had a negligible impact on traffic:

This isn’t a recommendation to write bad product descriptions, but — for the sake of getting more and better traffic — now you at least know where to set your priorities. So, what makes a good product title? First, know that it’s not just about the words in your product title. It’s also about how you order them. Because Google reads your product titles from left to right, words earlier in the title may be given more weight when Google determines when to serve an ad.

With this in mind:

  • Move the most important parts of your product title closest to the front
  • Include the name of your product in the title (it’s easy to take that one for granted, but it matters to searchers and to Google)
  • If you’re selling a device or appliance, include the SKU or model number in the title
  • Use your brand name appropriately (if people search for your brand specifically, include toward the front, otherwise include it at the end)

How to Write Product Titles

To distinguish between a good product title and a bad product title, let’s look at a couple of examples. If I search “mens cashmere sweater,” smart advertisers are going to mention that in their title and tell me a little more about the product. Everlane does a great job of this in their product title and they show up among the first results for my search:

I’m not a big v-neck guy, but at least their title’s up front about it

Everlane’s product title is strong because they name the gender and type of sweater right up front, which happens to match how I search. They clearly state the name of the product, then state their brand name, color, and size. Way at the tail end of these results, the product title for Linksoul’s cashmere has a lot of room for improvement:

This is after three full rows of other sweaters

Is it a men’s sweater? I guess so. What’s the material? Or the exact color? Is the name of the brand Linksoul, or are they a 3rd-party retailer like a Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom? With so many descriptive details missing from their product title, Linksoul’s left a lot to the imagination (or at least to the landing page).

And with so many details missing, it’s no wonder why they’re at the back of these results. A better version of Linksoul’s product title would read as: “Men’s Cashmere Full-Zip Sweater in Black by Linksoul, Size S.” Or, “Men’s Black Cashmere Sweater, Full-Zip, by Linksoul, Size S.”

How do subpar product titles like theirs happen?

One reason that I’ve seen happen across multiple retailers is syncing their product data to Google Merchant Center from their website, and then taking no steps to optimize the data their site has given them. Linksoul’s situation is no different:

And the sweater’s not even in stock? Now I’m just mad

If you’re in a similar boat, you may be thinking: “My developer doesn’t have time for this! S/he has a backlog that goes on for days, and it’s all things we need to keep the business running!” That’s ok! Thankfully, it’s now possible to make small changes to your product titles through the Google Merchant Center through Feed Rules, which we’ll cover later. As a reminder, when it comes to your product titles, be an Everlane, not a Linksoul!

A Strategy For Using Your Brand in Product Titles

We can’t move on without covering how to handle your brand name first. If you’ve been running paid search campaigns or using an agency to manage your PPC, then you know that searches containing your brand name tend to convert at a higher rate than generic searches. That begs the question, should you use your brand in your product titles? And, if so, where? To help you answer that question, use these two questions to guide you:

  • Does your brand name get enough search volume to trigger ads?
  • Does your brand name make a difference in your sales?

Once you have your answers, you can use this table to break down how your brand name fits into your product title strategy:

First, I want to clarify what I mean by “inconsequential brand.” For our purposes, unless it’s normal for someone to search using your brand name to find the product they’re looking for, then it’s an “inconsequential brand.” The most common case here would be 3rd-party sellers, like department stores or other retailers.

Best Buy, for example, sells electronics from multiple different brands and they focus on including the individual product brands instead of “Best Buy” in their product titles:

Clearly Best Buy doesn’t even need to include “Best Buy” in their product title to secure spots in this auction

If you’re a 3rd-party seller, you should use product brand names rather than your store’s brand name in your product titles. This gives you the best chances of maximizing your products’ visibility for people who are and aren’t familiar with your store.

So, what if you own your brand, and your first customers love it, but not a ton of people know about it yet? In this scenario, don’t suppress any chances for your products to show for generic product searches by including your product name up front. Instead, use the Everlane strategy!

A lot of interest in their brand is pretty recent

If you remember the earlier example with Everlane, you’ll notice they included their brand name after they described their product in detail. For up-and-coming brands, that’s a smart way to put your products front and center while still letting potential customers know what your brand is.

Now that you know what parts of your product feed to prioritize, how to write clear titles, and some strategies for handling your brand name, let’s get to the main event: campaign creation.

3. The Ultimate Guide to Google Shopping Campaign Structure

Before we get into building smart campaign structures that prioritize your best-selling products and best-converting search terms, we have to to talk about the problem with Google Shopping.

Unlike Search campaigns, Google Shopping doesn’t allow you to target specific keywords to control the intent of your traffic and how you bid on it. Instead, the searches that trigger your ad are totally dependent on your product feed.

And if you’ve been running Search campaigns for any amount of time, you already know how big of a difference the intent of search and how much you pay for it can make on your profits. If you’re already running Google Shopping campaigns and feel confident in your product titles, but can’t seem to win, you may be falling victim to the Mob Effect.

Why Does the Mob Effect Happen?

The Mob Effect happens when a couple of particularly searchable products steal the lion’s share of your budget and bring you little to no conversions in return. Because your budget’s being bogarted by those select products, your top-sellers and customer favorites are hidden away from browsing shoppers.

If pouring money into something in exchange for peanuts isn’t mob rule, I don’t know what is. Let’s put some numbers to the story. These numbers are from an actual account that was stuck under the Mob Effect:

As you can see, four products are taking up more than half of the budget and only contributing less than a tenth of the revenue. Even if this account were already profitable, imagine how much more it could achieve. And it did. From one 60-day period to the next, spend decreased by 27% while revenue increased 71%:

Same store, same products, better campaigns

In the next sections, we’re going to be covering campaign-level and ad group-level strategies to help take your campaigns to new heights. There are multiple ways to go about saving your campaigns from the Mob Effect, after all.

Win Search Terms with the Gold Pan Technique

Remember the main problem with Google Shopping we talked about? That you can’t control the searches your ads are triggered for and how much you pay for those clicks? Well, that was kind of a lie. You can, it’s just not obvious, and it’s not done the way you’d think.

At KlientBoost, we use what we call The Gold Pan Technique to help mine for the most profitable search terms captured by the shopping campaigns we manage and suppress generic searches that convert less often — kind of like Search!

You have to get your hands dirty if you want to find your most profitable search terms

Because the product feed will always determine how your ads are served, we can’t take the easy path and target keywords outright. We have to work backward. We’re going to use negative keyword lists, Shopping campaign priorities, and shared budgets in order to funnel our traffic from a generic campaign to a specific campaign. This will help us pay less for generic clicks, and maximize traffic for the more profitable search terms. Before diving into how it all works, let’s look at a graphic that shows it works first:

In a nutshell, the Gold Pan Technique is using one shopping campaign with lower bids to absorb the generic traffic that doesn’t matter as much to your profits. Then, it’s using a list of negative keywords made up of your most favored search terms.

Those negative keywords force traffic for those search terms to go to a lower priority shopping campaign that’ll target only your prized searches: the golden nuggets. As a bonus, you’re free to bid higher in your lower priority campaign to maximize traffic for your top-converting terms.

An important note: your two shopping campaigns have to have matching ad group structures and settings for your traffic to be funneled appropriately. A mismatch could result in a leaky gold pan (and leaked profits). An efficient way to make sure your structures match is to create one Shopping campaign (or use an existing one) and duplicate it, which you can do in Editor or the interface:

Just select your campaign and copy! Very handy

So, now that we have two campaigns, what profitable search terms do you add to the negative keyword list attached to your Generic campaign? To start, you could use one of two common methods:

  • Exclude brand terms from your Shopping campaign
  • Download a search query report with a sufficient amount of traffic, isolate the highest performing search queries, and add those as negatives to your Generic campaign

If your brand falls into the sweet spot of high traffic volume and relevance, exclude your brand terms from your Generic campaign. After applying this method to a client who fell in the sweet spot, we saw 295% higher ROAS from the branded Shopping campaign:

If your brand name falls outside of the sweet spot, use a report of historical top-performing searches and exclude those from your Generic campaign.

This is important, too: the final piece that ties everything together is a shared budget. This makes sure that your group of Shopping campaigns always stay in the same auctions and hold your gold pan together. Without the shared budget, everything falls apart.

You might be wondering, “Why wouldn’t we just use separate budgets so we can allocate a lower amount to the Generic campaign and a higher amount to the High ROI campaign so I can just make more money and call it a day?”

Let me put it like this. If the only thing holding back a flood of generic traffic from your High ROI traffic is another campaign ahead of it with a negative keyword list attached to it, what’s going to happen to your High ROI campaign when the Generic one runs through its daily budget?

You guessed it: unless you can think of every negative keyword in the universe immediately, the High ROI campaign will start to take in all the Generic traffic and won’t be a High ROI campaign anymore. It’s so much easier to just use your shared budget, negative keywords, and priorities appropriately.

You might also be wondering, how exactly do Shopping campaign priorities work and what are they? If you’re showing ads for the same product in multiple campaigns, priorities tell Google which campaign you want to promote your product first. Priorities don’t affect your search relevance or the likelihood that your product will show for a certain query. In this case, priorities just help us assign the different pieces of our Gold Pan.

All of this stuff about priorities, negatives, bids, etc can be a lot to remember, so here’s a quick guide that recaps how your Gold Pan Technique should be arranged:

If you’re still scratching your head, don’t worry. Search has trained us to be familiar with using straightforward keyword-targeting and some advertisers have gotten by with just a couple of campaigns. This is a counterintuitive concept since the nature of the product feed forces us to work backwards and use multiple campaigns to funnel our traffic. And we haven’t even touched on ad group structure yet! Let’s dig in.

Why Every Retailer Should Use Single-Product Ad Groups (SPAGs)

Do you know which searches trigger your best-selling products? Here’s a quick answer: If you’re not using single-product ad groups (at KlientBoost, we call them SPAGs) you don’t.

And without that information, you’re missing out on data that can improve your Search campaigns and fuel for your Gold Pan Technique.

First, let me clarify: every retailer should use SPAGs, but not every retailer should use only SPAGs. If you have a catalog of 120,000 products like Walmart, managing 120,000 individual bids and ad groups would be a pain. But, even with a catalog that large, you may still have your top 10-30 products that sell so well you want to make sure they live in their own campaign.

In that scenario, or if your store sells 30 products or less, SPAGs can help you manage bids for each individual product for optimal profit and help you see the exact search terms each individual product is triggering. To create a SPAG, you’ll want to:

  • Create an ad group
  • Name it after your product ID or title (whichever helps you stay organized)
  • Subdivide your product group by Item ID
  • Select the ID you named your product group after
  • Exclude “everything else”

The last step is critical to making sure your SPAG is truly a SPAG. Without excluding everything else, you’ll essentially be targeting all products in your ad group. Here’s a quick GIF walkthrough:

The key is that you’re isolating your Item IDs in your SPAGs

Pro Tip: If you don’t see the option to subdivide by Item ID and there are other products in your product group you may be trying to subdivide at a level that’s already below Item ID. To see Item ID, subdivide at All Products or the next highest level.

If your store sells a large catalog of products that would make it too inconvenient to use SPAGs all around, try to get more granular than just “All Products”. The closer you can get to SPAGs without sacrificing time and efficiency, the better off you’re going to be.

Shopping campaigns with one ad group targeted to all products are the number one cause of the Mob Effect. So instead, analyze your performance by brands or product categories to keep things manageable but still achieve better bidding efficiency.

Combine SPAGs and the Gold Pan Technique to Win Big

Having one campaign set up with SPAGs or one set of campaigns to achieve the Gold Pan Technique puts you in a better spot than most retailers. But you don’t have to stop there. What if I said you could combine the two techniques across multiple campaigns?

To push things to the next level, you can set up:

  • One set of Gold Pan campaigns for your top-sellers
  • One set of Gold Pan campaigns for all products
  • Depending on your business model: a set of Gold Pan campaigns for products that are on sale, or a catchall campaign to help you keep up with frequent inventory changes

If you’re wondering whether this is absolutely necessary, go to your product performance report in Google Analytics, then check against those Item IDs in Google Shopping. If those products are already getting a healthy amount of traffic, congrats!

But if not, a dedicated top-sellers campaign is a great way to ensure your top-sellers aren’t getting smothered by other products. To set a set of Gold Pan campaigns that include products on sales, here’s a view of what your overall campaign Shopping structure would look like:

If promos don’t really suit your business model as well as a catchall campaign would, assigning the higher priorities to your top-sellers and all products campaigns can help ensure your catchall doesn’t get in their way. If a product you’re not already targeting elsewhere becomes eligible, your catchall campaign will be the only one eligible to serve it.

With these strategies for managing your campaigns and ad groups, we’ve still yet to tap into one of the most exciting new features for showcasing your bigger sales events: Merchant Promotions.

4. Advanced Google Merchant Center Features

If you’ve read this far, you’ve covered the basics of the Google Merchant Center, and know that you need it to house your product data. But there’s more to the GMC than diagnostic data about your products and basic business data. In this section, we’ll cover the more advanced features that can actually enhance your campaigns and make your life easier.

How to Create Google Shopping Merchant Promotions

Until recently, creating promotions for Shopping campaigns has been about as fun as pulling one of your own teeth. But Google’s recently released a new Merchant Promotions program that’s made it easier than ever to highlight your bigger promos:

Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a Special Offer?

To set these up, you’ll first need to opt-in to Google’s Merchant Promotions program. If you’re an admin in your Google Merchant Center program, you’ll go to Merchant Center programs under the 3-dot menu:

So far, so good

Next, you’ll see a screen with different Merchant Center programs and you’ll scroll to the bottom and enable the Merchant Promotions:

Note: this isn’t yet available in all countries

This will take you to a short application where you’ll fill in some basic details, and Google approves most stores within a few days. Once Merchant Promotions are approved in your GMC account, we get to the fun part. Creating promotions for your Shopping campaigns used to be an intensive process that involved adding promotion IDs to your product feed even for sitewide sales. Now, you can start by clicking the ‘+’ here:

You can also filter for “All Live” and “All” promotions

Then you’ll select your country of sale:

If you’re enrolled in Google Shopping Actions, you’ll be able to select that here too

Next, you’ll define what kind of promo you’ll be running. Google gives you the option to select between:

  • Amount off
  • Percent off
  • Free gift
  • Free shipping

You can also set sub-rules for your promo, like minimum quantities or purchase amounts

Lastly, you’ll name give your promo a title, an ID, tell Google which products are part of the promo, specify a promo code if applicable, and schedule the dates for your promo:

If you’ve been relying on promotion IDs and have an easy system for them, you still have that option too

Your promo title is shown in the “Special Offer” link for your ads, so treat this like you would any other ad copy. For the promo ID, you’ll need to use a unique value so that Google understands how this promo is different from others. To help yourself keep track of these, it’s worth sticking to a naming convention that’ll help you remember and organize your promos when you look back at them.

Pro Tip: While this new interface for creating promos is much easier than the old method of applying promotion IDs to all the necessary products in your feed, there’s still one major pitfall that could result in your whole promotion getting disapproved.

When you submit a Promotion through the Merchant Center, there are two layers of approval that it has to go through. The first is a basic policy approval, which is submitted to Google when you submit your promotion. As long as the title in your promo is clear, accurately describes conditions for the promotion, meets basic editorial standards, and isn’t misleading in any way, you should be good here.

The second one is promotion status (or validation review), which isn’t submitted to Google until the promotion is active on your site. For this step, Google testers will confirm whether the promo works on your site as described. If your promotion is item-specific, Google will also look to make sure your promotion’s IDs are mapped to products appropriately.

You don’t want to see this on the morning of your promo

If this is a concern for you, there’s a way around it. If you want Google to test for validation review before your promo actually starts, you’ll need to do things the old-fashioned way and create a promotions feed. In the promotions feed, your promo’s start date is actually split into two distinctions:

  • Promotion effective dates: when your promo technically starts
  • Promotion display dates: when your promo is actually shown in ads

To trigger an early review, you’d set your promo effective date to a few days beforehand, make the promo technically possible so that Google’s testers can verify it, and set your promotion display date to begin when your sale actually starts. This’ll give you a head start on the review process, and you can head into your sale with the confidence of knowing your Shopping promos are approved.

How to Create Merchant Center Feed Rules

Remember when we talked about creating campaigns just for your products that are on sale? If you wondered, “well, how is the feed going to know what’s on sale?” then this is for you.

Feed rules are an easy way for you to create new attributes or improve data in your product feed. Rather than having to manually add data to your feed, feed rules allow you to add new information based on data that’s already there. To find your feed’s rules, you’ll want to go to your GMC account and go to feeds:

When you create your first rule, you’ll see a new supplemental feed appear

Once there, click on your feed, and go to the section marked “rules”:

Just below the blue explanation screen, click “Create Rule” to create your first rule

Here, we’ll create a feed rule to assign a custom label value called “sale” for any products that are marked down. From the processed attributes menu, I selected custom label 0, because that’s where I want to assign my “sale” value. Next, we have to define how these products are going to get picked. If you’re thinking this is just like setting up an “if-then rule” you’re exactly right.

To make sure only sale products are selected, I set the value to only include products with “sale price” greater than 0. In this case, if a product isn’t marked down, it won’t have a sale price - just a price.

You’ll usually want to pick from the “Processed attributed” menu in the dropdown

Because I want marked down products to have custom label 0 set to “sale,” I’ll use the rule “Set to” and type in “sale”.

Using one constant value for this custom label will make sale products accessible for campaign management purposes

Once you make this change, the GMC gives you the option to run a test of your rule will be applied so you can be sure that it makes sense for your products and strategy.

If you’re new to feed rules, tests can also help you make sure your rule is valid

Here, we can see that applying this rule will affect 27% of products in the feed:

You can also use the drop down under the change summary to see specific products your rule applies too

This is just one case of how you can use feed rules. For example, if your brand name fits into the sweet spot where it should be included in product titles, but your feed is missing it like Linksoul’s is, then you can also use feed rules to prepend or append your brand in the title. Feed rules are here to make your life easier, so take advantage of them!

5. Advanced Google Shopping Tactics

We’ve covered massive ground in the world of Google Shopping, but we can’t stop before covering a few advanced tactics and questions around them. Let’s on keep rolling.

Should I Use Smart Shopping?

If you’re asking this question, it’s probably been on your mind throughout this whole post, and you might’ve thought, “dude, what’s the point of all this convoluted Gold Pan stuff when we can just break out the Gold Vacuum with Smart Shopping?”

If you’re not familiar, Smart Shopping is the newest campaign type to hit Google Shopping. Unlike traditional Shopping campaigns, Smart Shopping ads can be shown across all of Google’s major networks:

This includes search, Display, YouTube, and Gmail

Consistent with other types of Smart campaigns, Smart Shopping doesn’t give you much room for optimization other than setting a daily budget, target ROAS, and visual assets you want to use outside of Search.

The ongoing optimizations don’t get much deeper than this

At this point, you’re either thrilled to let Smart Shopping take off on auto-pilot and bring the sales in, or your stomach’s turning at the thought of a campaign you have little to no control over. Before you go and put the cart before the horse, you can rest easy knowing that Smart Shopping (like other Smart campaigns) isn’t for everyone.

Smart Shopping isn’t inherently smart - it relies on conversion data to make educated guesses about what to bid and where. This means that if you don’t have a huge volume of conversion data to serve as the brains behind your Smart Shopping campaign, it’ll look real dumb real fast.

Google requires you to have at least 20 conversions over the last 45 days and at least 100 active users on your remarketing lists in order to serve. But, if you ask me, 20 conversions over a month and a half isn’t really sufficient to build the brain for a serious sales machine, despite how promising Smart Shopping can start.

Here’s a case where Smart Shopping started off at a full sprint only to collapse way before the finish line:

I wish I could say this the only time I’ve seen this happen

Remember when Google asked for 20 conversions over a month and a half? This account, while not even the biggest, averaged over 150 conversions per week before Smart Shopping launched.

This is 50 times Google’s required amount but still wasn’t enough to sustain Smart Shopping consistently for more than a month. Also, just because Smart Shopping brings in other networks that Shopping campaigns normally don’t, don’t expect it to bring you totally new traffic.

In a few cases we’ve even seen Smart Shopping cannibalize ongoing Shopping campaigns, including this example where Smart Shopping in its prime hindered overall Shopping growth month-over-month:

Not all situations with Smart Shopping are like this one, and there are retailers who will see longer-term success with it, but remember this story as a cautionary tale. Smart Shopping isn’t a PPC cureall (yet).

Can I Use RLSA for Shopping?

If you’re sticking around for these advanced tactics, you’ve probably used remarketing lists for search ads in some capacity before. RLSA helps you target people who’ve visited your website in some capacity. If you haven’t used RLSA before, the advantage is being able to reach people who are actively searching and are already familiar with your brand and products, and therefore more likely to buy.

Google Ads gives you two options for using RLSA:

  • Observation (formerly called bid only): This gives you the option to layer audiences onto your existing campaigns, target people on your lists in addition to new visitors who match your other targeting, and bid uniquely for people on your lists
  • Targeting (formerly called target and bid): This gives you the option to target exclusively people who are on your list

In general, Observation has more traffic volume to offer since it includes new visitors, but Targeting can offer you more efficiency since it’s just audience members. To put this better in context, here’s a sample of over 250,000 clicks in one account that looks at the differences in return on ad spend and revenue per click between:

  • New visitors
  • People part of a list in campaigns using audiences with Observation
  • People in a standalone RLSA campaign that’s using Targeting only

While RLSA-only isn’t going to be the biggest volume-grabber in your account, who doesn’t want some incremental sales with 50% better ROAS than what new visitors bring? To set up a standalone RLSA Shopping campaign, I usually copy my higher priority Gold Pan campaign. Why that one specifically? First, your lower priority Shopping campaign is already absorbing your high-performing search queries, and you might as well let it keep at it. Second, you’ll want to use a high-priority for this campaign to be sure it shows first to the visitors on your audience lists.

There’s one more advantage to excluding your brand name and less generic top-performing terms from your standalone RLSA campaign. If you’ve been around the block with RLSA, you’ve probably coupled Search RLSA and Targeting audiences with broad match keywords. That gives you the chance to score new search terms you might not have thought of while keeping a controlled environment.

Think of your standalone Shopping RLSA the same. Use it as an opportunity to grab more non-brand impression share that may not convert as efficiently without the power of audiences. As a bonus, you can take any new search terms that convert and try targeting them in your Search campaigns to grow your account even further.

Use audiences and watch your account take off

What Bidding Strategy Should I Use for Shopping?

We’re almost at the end of our Google Shopping journey. Something that’s been around as long as bidding strategies might seem like a curious way to wrap up our advanced tactics, but Google’s made so many strides with their smart bidding strategies, this post would feel incomplete without it.

These are the basic bid strategies Google gives you now:

Maximize conversions is unavailable for Shopping

And here they are as Google defines them:

  • Target ROAS: Use this if you want to optimize for conversion value
  • Maximize clicks: Use this to get the most clicks possible within your budget
  • Enhanced CPC: Automatically adjust your manual bids to maximize conversions
  • Manual CPC: Manage your max CPC bids yourself

Target ROAS sounds like the most logical option for Shopping campaigns. But remember our Smart Shopping example from earlier? Target ROAS relies on your conversion data the most for these bidding strategies. And account-level data isn’t good enough, because Google’s smart bidding strategies learn from conversion data on a per campaign basis.

To use Target ROAS, Google requires 20 conversions over a month and a half but recommends 50 conversions a month in the past 30 days for the campaign where you want to use it. In a campaign that met the requirement but didn’t have 50 conversions within 30 days, Target ROAS causes this campaign to flatline:

So much for 20 conversions in a month and a half

Obviously, result like that wouldn’t work in the long-term. We needed to pivot. So here’s how the next couple of months looked when switched the bid strategy over to maximize clicks:

Maximize clicks helped bring revenue back from the dead

Some of you might be wondering, “why did you just go for max clicks when you could’ve just enhanced CPC and had some actual control over your campaign”? In most cases, I probably would, but with this being an RLSA-only campaign, max clicks was a safe way to bring back traffic after Target ROAS tanked.

For Gold Pan campaigns, manual CPC or enhanced CPC tend to be the safest bet so that you can make sure your bids are properly differentiated between high priority and lower priority campaigns.

For RLSA or other standalone campaigns, experiment with your bid strategies, but if you’re heading toward Target ROAS, err on the side of having more conversions in your campaign over a 30-day period.

Google Shopping Recap

If you made it all the way here, congratulations. You’ve reached the end of a behemoth of a post on Google Shopping! You now know how to prioritize optimizations in your product feed and a strategy for how to handle your brand name in your product titles. You know the biggest problem with Google Shopping — the Mob Effect — and how to overcome it to put forth your best-selling products and best-converting search terms.

And you even know some advanced tips for handling your product data without getting your hands (too) dirty, as well as how to cope with the ups and downs of automated campaigns and bidding.

Now it’s time to put this knowledge to use and get to work on your own Google Shopping campaigns. If there’s anything here that wasn’t covered, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


About the Author

Reese Garcia is the director of ecommerce at KlientBoost, a hybrid pay-per-click and conversion rate optimization agency. He loves building close relationships with his clients, is obsessed with helping them grow profits, and loves watching his team do the same.

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