You’ve setup your webshop and all your pages are SEO optimised. Now it’s time to get customers into your store which, in the highly competitive digital marketing world, can be tough.
Even with exceptional SEO, attracting organic traffic is a slow process and builds up gradually over time. Paid online advertising is one answer to this hurdle, and Google Shopping is a particularly effective way of getting your products in front of your target audience.
Google Shopping, which used to be known as Product Listing Ads, is a service that lets customers search, view and compare products. The best part about Google Shopping is that your ads are served to customers who are already searching for products you’re advertising. Of course, this makes them ideal traffic.
Items are displayed in the main search results page or in the shopping tab when a user searches for a product using Google. It is driven by two platforms:
- Google Merchant Center, where your product feed lives, and
- Google AdWords, which runs your shopping campaigns and where you specify your budget, manage bids and optimize based on performance.
I will cover these platforms in more detail further on.
“Before proceeding you need to be sure you have a process in place that will allow you to update your listed products regularly.”
This is an essential requirement for running a successful Google Shopping campaign.
If there’s a mismatch between your data feed, a list of product info required for Google Shopping, and your website, Google won’t display your ads. We’ll proceed with the assumption that you’re good to go.
Some of the benefits associated with Google Shopping campaign include:
- Better qualified leads – when you feature product information in your ads, the user can make an informed purchase decision. They will see an image, price and product information. When the user clicks, they are further along their buying cycle and more likely to make a purchase.
- Higher Click through rate (CTR)– when compared to text ads shown in the same location.
- Greater presence – A given search can display more than one of your Shopping ads.
- Not keyword dependent – Shopping ads use product attributes to display your ads on relevant searches.
- Reporting and optimization – Google Shopping provide detailed performance reporting at a granular level. This data can be used for optimization.
As with everything in search engine marketing, there are few things you need to do to extract the maximum benefit out of Google Shopping.
Optimise your product pages for Google Shopping
Online shopping is a visual experience which places a lot of emphasis on your images.
eCommerce businesses with the best quality, web-friendly product images are most successful.
“It’s worth putting a bit of effort into the quality of your images.”
The best advice we can give is to adhere completely with Google’s quality standard guidelines.
The rules are:
- Images must be 32 x 32 pixels or larger
- Apparel images must be at least 250 x 250 pixels
- Non-clothing images must be at least 100 x 100 pixels
- Images must be smaller than 64 megapixels
- Image files must not be larger than 16 MB
- No borders
- No logo, watermark or text overlay
- No scaling up of thumbnails
- Avoid dark, patterned or multi-coloured background
- Only include one product in the image unless it’s a bundle
You can improve your image quality by following these tips offered by Google:
- Utilise even, clear lighting
- Use a solid gray, white or light background colour
- Products must be shown at the correct scale, not too small or too big
- Image should fill between 75% and 90% of the whole image
- Image should be free of:
- Image artefacts like fringing, fading out and pixelation
Products will be removed from Google Shopping if they affect the user experience negatively. Quality issues will need to be sorted out before Google reintroduces it into its platform.
Create a Google Merchant Center account
The Google Merchant Center lets you upload product information and create shopping campaigns to promote sales.
“An additional benefit to the large online market Google exposes you to, is its location-based technology that also directs shoppers to your physical store.”
You need to make sure your business complies with the Merchant Center’s guidelines before setting up your Merchant Center account, and these are:
- Promote only products available for direct purchase – Products promoted in Shopping ads must be available for purchase in your shop.
- Make use of an official language – Use an official language of the country in which you are advertising your products. Where more than one language is used, make sure you submit product data and that link to landing pages in the same language.
- Inform customers of your return and refund policy – This policy needs to be clear and easy to find. It should include elements relating to:
- The circumstances under which you offer returns and refunds
- Timeframe during which you will accept returns
- When a refund can be expected
- Collect user information securely and responsibly – Refer to the latest guidelines and adhere strictly to them.
- Comply with the Shopping ads policies – Make sure that the content you plan on advertising complies with the Shopping ads policies.
- Verify and claim your site URL – This is to ensure you are the owner of the site.
- Website requirements – Refer to the site-level requirements and adhere strictly to them.
- Make sure that your data meets the product data specification – Your product data needs to be formatted to comply with the product data specifications guidelines.
- Sign in to your Merchant Center account regularly – You are required to sign into your account at least once every 14 months to keep it active.
Optimise your Google data feed
Products that you add to your Google Merchant account will include the following information:
- Unique ID
- Google category
- Product type
- And more
Follow Google’s guidelines as completing this incorrectly could affect the success of your listing.
As we’ve said earlier, if your data feed doesn’t match your website, Google will not list your products. This means that keeping these in sync is essential. You have the choice of using Google’s spreadsheet, a third-party service or your own software to keep your data feed updated.
Tips for a good data feed:
It needs to be descriptive and accurate so that Google knows when to display your product ad. Your product title should be similar to your Title Tag of a page on your site. You should:
- Include your main keyword in the title once only.
- Use the most common name for the product.
- Use brand, gender, size, colour, location to differentiate as this caters for longtail search terms.
- Include most important words upfront.
- Include things like model number if available.
- Do not add promotional information in the title.
- Be detailed in your description.
- Do not use all CAPS.
Google picks up from your description which keywords will trigger your ads. This means that it is extremely important to get your descriptions right. You should:
- Provide key information in the first couple of sentences.
- Describe the item accurately and concisely. Don’t write too much.
- Include your keyword once in the product description.
Google Product Category
Your product category will help inform Google of what your product is and will help in having your product displayed for the correct search terms.
There are over 6000 categories and subcategories so be sure you choose wisely.
The Product Type is also a way of clarifying your offer to Google. It is particularly important where you cannot find the perfect category fit.
Your ad will be displayed with competitor ads so make sure your prices are in line with theirs. High prices here will not work unless you have a clearly stated benefits the other products don’t offer.
Enter Google AdWords! This product allows advertisers to bid on search terms for their ads to display on Google and its advertising network. Although, with Google Shopping, you won’t be bidding on search terms for its ads to show. Advertisers set a maximum cost per click and will only pay when an ad is clicked.
Google Merchant Center is complimentary to Google AdWords and the two need to be linked. Your Shopping campaigns, which is how your products from your data sheet is advertised, can be created from the Merchant Center or AdWords. It must be managed within your AdWords account however.
We know it sounds a little complicated, but Google has an excellent guide for setting up all of this.
Shopping Campaigns do not use keywords to determine relevancy in the way that other Google ad campaigns do.
You still need to make it very clear to Google, exactly what it is you’re advertising.
For this reason, we strongly advise you to include your keyword in your product titles and descriptions.
It must also be appealing to the user who will view your ad. Google takes all of this into account when determining if your ad is suitable for a specific search query.
Create a Shopping Campaign
With your data feed completed and your Merchant Center and AdWords account linked, you’re all set to create your Shopping Campaigns.
Your Shopping Campaign is how you will reach out to your customers. You’ll select your target audience and how much you are prepared to spend. Your Shopping Campaign creates Product Listing Ads.
Shopping Campaign bidding
As mentioned earlier, bidding is not keyword based. So how is it possible to bid? Well, Google will decide which search terms are most relevant for displaying your Shopping ads based on your product types.
Google allows you to add promotional text, for example “20% discount” or “Free Shipping”, to your shopping ad. These promotions must match your website otherwise they won’t be displayed.
Remarketing, also called retargeting, allows you to track users who came onto your website and who left without completing a purchase, for example.
These individuals will then be served with your ads based on the actions they had taken on your site. They will be served ads on Google partner websites, it’s Search Network, Display Network and YouTube.
Google remarketing works well with Google Shopping. If a visitor came onto your site to look at a jacket, you could serve them that ad for that very jacket as they continue their digital journey.
Common practice is to offer the product with a discount, in an effort to make the user buy.
Google Shopping ads is an effective way of getting your ads in front of the right people.
You get to showcase your high-quality images which is always a plus for drawing attention and increasing conversions. It takes some effort to create and maintain, so be sure that this is what you want to do before embarking on the process.
Armed with this information, you’re ready to embark on your Google Shopping journey and open up a whole new angle of being successful in your SEM endeavours.
Remember, SEM is always an ongoing process and you need to keep on top of it if you are to succeed.
But follow these steps, stay focused and constantly update your campaigns and the benefits of Google Shopping ads will become crystal clear as you continue on your journey to online marketing domination.
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