With recent research showing that 82% of retail ad spend in the UK was driven by Google Shopping, it’s imperative that Ecommerce companies master this form of advertising. Here is an overview of how to ensure your campaigns do not waste advertising spend and are correctly targeted to get the best ROI.

Negative keywords

If you’re new to Google Shopping, one of the first things that you need to get used to is the absence of keyword targeting – as are used for text ads.

However, negative keywords still play a crucial role in your optimisation strategy.  You need to be ruthless in going through the search query report and adding keywords that you do NOT want your ads to show up for.

There are a number of instances where you’ll want to use negative keywords.  These include:

  • Irrelevant search terms – If the search term is not related to your products, add it as campaign-level negative keyword
  • Low-converting keywords – Download a sales report by search query and identify terms that get lots of impressions/clicks but do not result in sales
  • Wrong product shown – sometimes the search term is relevant to your product catalogue but the wrong product is being shown. In this case, set up your products in ad groups and apply ad group level negative keywords.

Bid management

Bid too high and you will be wasting money. Bid too low and your ad may not show up at all.  So how do you find the sweet spot? Google provides us with a couple of crude tools for helping with this.

The first is an estimate of the amount competitors are bidding on similar items – the Benchmark Max CPC.  You can find this under product groups. If your bids are widely above or below these, you may want to consider revising them.

Alongside this you’ll find the Benchmark CTR, which you can use to measure yourself against the competition (see pink arrows below).

benchmark cpc

The second tool is percentage Search impression share.  This gives a percentage of the number of times your adverts were actually shown compared to the number of times they were eligible to be shown.  The higher you bid, the higher your impression share will be.

Don’t try to go for 100%, unless you have money to burn or millionaire investors backing your company. Continually increasing your bids without checking your return on investment (ROI), is a rookie mistake that is often made.  Your budget will be better spent elsewhere in your advertising account.

Manual bid management is possible for small and medium sized stores with dozens or hundreds of products. But what about enterprise level stores that have 250,000 products or more? At this level, there are software tools that can help with the bid management process and help ensure that you are making the correct decisions.  Examples include Whoop and Optmyzr.

Optimising Titles and Descriptions

Google uses attributes in the datafeed to determine which products show as adverts in Google Shopping.  The product title is probably THE most important attribute to optimise for more relevant traffic and visibility.  The product description is also another attribute that you can tweak to be more relevant.

If you’re time-limited (who isn’t?), the 80/20 rule for allocating your resources would be to spend most effort on optimising your product titles.

Here are some guidelines for improving your product titles:

  • Use Keywords: Describe the product using relevant keywords
  • Positioning: The more important the keyword, the further to the left it should appear
  • Do include: brand names and colour variants (e.g. Ted Baker shirt, blue)
  • No promotional text: Don’t mention price, offers, savings, delivery dates etc, otherwise your ad could get disapproved
  • Max 150 characters: Although this is the maximum allowed by Google, it’s generally recommended to try and get the most important keywords into the first 70 characters, as Google will only display this limit in the ads.

Compared to optimising your titles, improving your descriptions is likely to have a smaller effect on your visibility. Here are tips on how you can optimise your product descriptions:

  • Max 5,000 characters: This is a huge number that most retailers will not need. If you do have large descriptions, ensure that the most important information/keywords are in the first 160-500 characters
  • Use synonyms: The description is an opportunity to describe the product using alternative words that may be searched for by users. You can use your Google Ads search query report or the Keyword Planner to find out what terms visitors are using
  • Describe the product only: Don’t use the large character limit as a chance to blather on about how wonderful your company is, or the history of your business
  • Don’t include comparisons: The description should focus on the product only and not include additional editorial such as how it compares to X product
  • No promotional text: As with product titles, do not include information about the price, offers or delivery details.

Check Google Merchant Center

Some people think that Google Shopping is a ‘set it and forget it’ form of advertising. But you could seriously come a cropper by taking this attitude. Keeping a regular check on the Google Merchant Center (GMC) is an important part of the ongoing management of your campaign. One of the basic features of the GMC is to show you problems with your datafeed and products that have been disapproved.

It’s not uncommon to find products that you have been advertising for months suddenly get disapproved for ‘violating’ one of Google’s many guidelines. Sometimes these disapprovals are legitimate but other times they are mistakes made by an automated system. It’s vital to be vigilant to these disapprovals, so that you can ensure that your products are always available for advertising.

The image below shows an example of products which have been disapproved for reasons that can be fixed by the merchant.

google shopping disapproved

Data feed management

If your data feed is poor quality, has missing data categories or contains many items, you may want to consider using a data feed management system. These are software solutions that help you optimise your feed and then distribute that feed to multiple channels such as Google Shopping, Facebook Ads and Bing Shopping. Examples include Data Feed Watch and One Feed.

These solutions allow you to produce a feed that complies with the rules of each channel and can save you time in the distribution process.

Another benefit is that you’re able to optimise attributes such as the title or description without having to go on to the site and change the text on the page. There may be various reasons that you want to do this.  For instance, you may want to use the full 150 charters of a title attribute to help your chances of being found in Google Shopping searches, but you don’t want a long title to appear on the site, which may hamper conversion rate.

Another reason is that in some organisations, the work of uploading new inventory is undertaken by the internal merchandising team, whereas online advertising is carried out by an external agency. It’s simply quicker for the agency to optimise the feed themselves and it will be carried out to their satisfaction.

It’s also useful if you have 10,000’s of products, because you can set up rewrite rules, which will save a lot of time. Here’s an example of a rewrite rule:

Title on website:   15mm Target Patches, White

Rewrite rule:          [title] – [category] by [brand]

New Title:               15mm Target Patches, White – Shooting targets by Gehmann

In the above example, the rewrite rule allows us to include the brand name and the product category, both of which could be useful in getting found by customer search queries.

You may be thinking ‘Bad titles don’t apply to me’. You’d be surprised how sloppy merchandisers can get when putting products up on to their website.  Below is an example of a one-word product title (yikes!). Whatever you do, don’t do this!

google shopping title

Use a Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) Partner

Want to save around 20% on your Google Shopping advertising fees? Surprisingly, this is possible if you work with a CSS Partner. Spoiler Alert: This typically only makes sense for higher spending accounts (£5,000+ a month), as you need to account for CSS Partner fees.

Here’s the background to the recent rise in CSS Partners. In the middle of 2017, Google was fined £2.1 billion in an EU antitrust ruling regarding their online shopping practices. Their response was to make it easier for comparison shopping sites like Kelkoo and others to compete with Google Shopping. Google are offering favourable CPC rates to advertisers that use the new CSS format. The main benefit is that click costs can be up to 20% less.

If you use a CSS Partner, Google Shopping ads are still managed through an AdWords account although the Merchant Center will need to be from a CSS partner. The only change from a customer’s point of view is that adverts will say the comparison site brand name rather than ‘by Google’.

css partner

It’s important to note that this service is only available to EU advertisers operating on EU comparison sites.

The next steps

If you would like help in implementing any of these optimisation strategies to save money on your Google Shopping Ads, or increase sales, get in contact with us for a no-obligation chat.