Marketing

12 Expert Tips for Using Google Shopping Ads to Increase Sales

What can you do to take advantage of Google Shopping ads’ large share of Google search ad clicks? We asked 20 experts for advice.

Melissa King Melissa King on January 22, 2021 (last modified on January 25, 2021) • 12 minute read

If your eCommerce business doesn’t have Google Shopping ads, you’re missing out on some serious internet real estate. According to Merkle, 60% of all Google search ad clicks in the third quarter of 2020 came from Google Shopping ads.

So, how do you get a share of those clicks?

Like any Google platform, Google Shopping ads take some self-education, dedication and experimentation to leverage. A little help from online advertising experts certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

That’s where we come in. We’ll explain the fundamentals of Google Shopping ads and offer 12 tips from 20 digital marketing pros.

What Are Google Shopping Ads?

A Google Shopping ad is an ad that uses information from your Merchant Center to display information about one of your products at the top of a Google search engine results page (SERP). Unlike Google Ads, Google Shopping ads have pictures and display based on your product data instead of keywords.

Google Shopping ads example

As you can see in the above example of Google Shopping ads, they each include these components:

  • Product picture
  • Product title
  • Product price
  • Store name
  • Extra elements like average review score and applicable promotions

Since they appear at the very top of the SERP, Google Shopping ads can make your product the first thing potential customers see during a search — you just have to know how to optimize them.

Editor’s note: Did you know that you can use Google Shopping ads with Shopify? The Shopify + Facebook Ads + Google Analytics Dashboard Template delivers data on your site’s analytics, Facebook ads and Shopify stats to help you inform your Google Shopping ads campaigns.

Shopify + Facebook Ads + Google Analytics Dashboard Template

How Do I Create Google Shopping Ads?

To create a Google Shopping ad, you need to set up a Merchant Center data feed and connect your Google Ads account to make a Shopping campaign based on that data.

According to the Help Center’s Google Shopping ads guide, you can configure your shopping ads when you first sign up for Merchant Center or go to Growth>Manage programs in the left navigation menu. The process involves four to six steps:

  1. Add the products you want to advertise to a feed in Merchant Center
  2. (In the US) Add your tax information
  3. Set up your shipping service in Merchant Center
  4. Verify and claim your store’s website
  5. Link your Google Ads account for data transfer
  6. (Optional) Add promotions to display on your ads

The About pages in Google Merchant Center Help offer Google Shopping ads tutorials and links to relevant help topics to guide you through every step of setup and bidding. You can even get a Google Shopping ads certification if you’re serious about your knowledge.

Once you create Google Shopping ads, you’ll bid on them using cost-per-click (CPC) and maximum cost-per-engagement (CPE) bidding. In other words, Google will charge you based on the number of clicks your ad receives, and you can set a maximum CPE to establish the highest amount you want to pay for one of those clicks.

12 Ways to Optimize Your Google Shopping Ads for a Higher CTR

With the basics of Google Shopping ads under your belt, you can now try applying the advice we got from marketing professionals across industries. We talked to 20 experts and got these 12 takeaways:

  1. Perform keyword research
  2. Apply negative keywords
  3. Run separate campaigns for branded and non-branded products
  4. Advertise your best-performing products
  5. Target advanced demographics
  6. Include a handful of custom attributes for each product
  7. Import your website reviews
  8. Write titles that get results
  9. Bid based on performance
  10. Boost your ad performance with promotions
  11. Determine your top-performing brands
  12. Aim for the right impressions

1. Perform keyword research

Google Shopping ads may not use keywords like traditional Google Ads, but that doesn’t mean you should brush off your keyword research.

Jhonattan Gomez of Publicize points out, “Sometimes people tend to forget that beyond placing a product listing, product titles, product descriptions, and image names should match users’ top search queries in order to rank better and have a better Quality Score.”

According to Gomez, keyword research “would help define the campaign’s structure, competitors keywords to target, most profitable products to promote, and even negative keyword matches to put in the campaign.”

2. Apply negative keywords

You also shouldn’t sleep on Google Shopping ads’ negative keyword capabilities. As The Next Ad’s Sanne Kruis puts it, “With this function, the marketer has the opportunity to tell Google exactly what they do not want to show up for, which will lead to consistent results and improvements over time.”

“Negative keywords are going to help you when you are considering unprofitable products,” Rob Sanders from Local PPC Advertising explains. “You’ll want to review the terms that your product is being triggered for and determine its relevance. Understanding which keywords are unprofitable will go a long way to maximising your return,” they explain.

Sanders continues, “Working through the search term report will provide you with the search terms that are triggering your products in the search results. Understanding your niche will help you determine whether a term is a good fit and what should end up on the negative keyword list. Generic terms can also be considered added to the negative list, especially if it is spending far too much with little to no return.”

3. Run separate campaigns for branded and non-branded products

A few of the experts we talked to recommend creating different campaigns for branded and non-branded products.

Augurian’s Jasmine Hippe recommends creating “a standalone brand campaign to prioritize traffic that is already familiar with your products and may be more likely to convert.” Hippe suggests, “Be sure to add your brand name as a negative keyword to any other shopping campaigns you’ll be running at the same time to ensure branded queries only trigger your brand campaign.”

Jeff Ferguson from Amplitude Digital has plenty of experience with converting a single campaign into branded and non-branded campaigns for clients. Ferguson says, “On Day One with the client, we are usually greeted with a single Shopping campaign that might have a few negative keywords, if they’re lucky. In reality, a brand should have at least two shopping campaigns that focus on branded and non-branded search terms to allow them better control over budgets and bids.”

Ferguson recommends following these two steps for a direct-to-consumer campaign like this:

  1. “Create a duplicate campaign called “Shopping – Non-Brand” with Priority set to “High,” then add all your branded terms as negative keywords (i.e., exact or phrase) as needed.
  2. Then, for the original campaign, set your Priority to “Medium” and rename it to “Shopping – Brand.” Now all keywords that match the negative keyword list from campaign priority high will end up here. As you discover new branded terms, be sure to add them to the non-branded Shopping campaign.”

4. Advertise your best-performing products

Smart Google Shopping ad bidding involves knowing your priorities. “Don’t advertise all your products,” Blake Bobit from Solution Scout says. “If you’re new to Google Shopping, it’s okay to test promoting many of your products. But once you get reliable conversion data (around 20 sales per month), begin focusing your efforts on the better performing products to maximize your ROI.”

Editor’s Note: Databox dashboards collect the information you need to see your product performance at a glance. The Google Analytics (Ecommerce Overview) Dashboard Template includes product revenue statistics to reveal which products you should prioritize in your Google Shopping ad campaigns.

Google Analytics (Ecommerce Overview) Dashboard Template

5. Target advanced demographics

If you want to get as many eyes and clicks as possible on your ads, it helps to target both familiar and new customers. “Demographics are important and your ads should be set to target basic demographics (gender, age, location, etc.). But that’s the basic stuff,” Stewart Dunlop from PPCGenius says.

Dunlop continues, “To improve your game, you should also focus on the interests of the audience, the brands they like, and their behavior. Although the personalized audience is great for recruiting people who have already had an interaction with you, a similar audience allows you to target new users who do not yet know you, but who are likely to become your customers.”

Related: Everything You Can Learn from Your Google Analytics Audience Overview Report

6. Include a handful of custom attributes for each product

SoftwarePundit’s Bruce Hogan agrees, adding, “When creating your product feed that you upload into the Google Merchant Center, it’s critical to include a handful of custom attributes for each product. These attributes allow you to group products and create segmented Shopping Ads campaigns for each group.”

7. Import your website reviews

Have you noticed that some Google Shopping ads feature review scores? Importing reviews from your site into Google Merchant Center will add reviews to your Shopping ads,” Perfect Search Media’s Max Engler explains. According to Engler, reviews on Shopping ads can help them stand out to more people and increase traffic.

If you don’t use Google Customer Reviews or an approved third-party aggregator, you can add a review feed to your Merchant Center. The process involves uploading validated XML files pulled from your product reviews. 

Related: 14 Proven Ways to Encourage Customers to Write Reviews (According to 100+ Marketers)

8. Write titles that get results

Your Shopping ad’s title is one of its most important fields for gaining traffic. Why? “The key to what search terms your Google Shopping ads appear on is the product title. In other words, the product title is your keyword. In addition to the product image, the product title is most visible in Google Shopping ads,” Martin Theil Nielsen from Skjoldby & Co tells us.

Auto Accessories Garage’s Jim Milan has plenty of advice to share about title optimization. “Be sure to put the most important details of your product first, because Google will often only show a truncated version of your title. The titles have a maximum length of 150 characters, but, in many cases, only 70 characters will display in the ad itself,” Milan says about title order and length.

Milan also mentions two practices to stay away from: “Avoid unnecessary capitalization, because excessive capitalization is a spam signal to Google and can cause your ads to be disapproved. You won’t need to include info like pricing and shipping information, because that info can be included in other attributes of the ad.”

“Be sure to include the distinguishing attributes of your product. For example, if you are selling apparel, it’s a good idea to include color, size, and material. A good formula for the titles for apparel items is “Brand + Gender + Product Type + Attributes (color, size, material),” Milan concludes.

Distinguishing your product titles also allows you to prevent Google from indexing products with the same title, showing only one of your products. “If you have multiple products, make sure that they each have unique product titles,” Carlos Rosado from Outlook Studios recommends.”If you leave it to Google they will show one of the products and ignore the others, limiting how many times your products show up for a variety of search results, and your product may not appear as one of the top items.”

9. Bid based on performance

Just as you should prioritize which products to advertise based on their performance, you should focus your bids on your best-performing Shopping ads.

“If you really want to optimize your Google Shopping Ads campaign, use search level query bidding,” Nate Rodriguez from LIFTOFF Digital suggests. “With this account structure, you can set different max CPC’s based on how valuable a search query is for your brand. This ultimately increases ROAS (return on ad spend) tremendously.”

Acadian Windows & Siding’s Jack Landess says to adjust your budget as you learn about an ad’s performance. Landess recommends starting with Google Shopping ad campaigns organized by product category, explaining that “Different product categories should be put in different campaigns with budgets based on priority.”

Then, it’s time to adjust your ad spend once you get a few weeks of metrics to reference. “Then, after roughly 2-4 weeks of data, budgets should again be adjusted, but this time, adjustments should be made based on volume and performance in addition to priority.”

Related: 10 Tips for Executing a Cost-Effective Google Ads Bidding Strategy

10. Boost your ad performance with promotions

When you have a promotion going on for your advertised products, make sure that people who see your ads catch it with a merchant promotion. “Merchant promotions can make a big impact on your Shopping campaign performance, especially when you are up against Amazon and Prime shipping,” says Vedant Sharma from Stockarea.io.

Sharma continues, “These special offers give retailers an opportunity to highlight their products and better their chances of click-through rate and conversion. Online advertisers can feature coupons or promotions right in the search alongside their product or store information on Google’s PLA (product listing ad) grid.”

The Google Merchant Center Help page for promotions states that you can advertise three types of promotions on Google Shopping ads — discounts, free gifts and shipping specials.

11. Determine your top-performing brands

Coffee Semantics’ Jamie Hickey has this tip to offer: “Identify top brands.”

Hickey explains, “You can view your performance by taking advantage of the brand report in the dimensions tab. Just as you would with individual products you can check to see the brands that perform better than others. What you want to do is subdivide or create silos within your products to group them by their specific brand.”

“For example, if you were selling weighted vests you would only bid on the rogue brand since you were able to see in the brand report that it has the highest profit margin. Then you would exclude everything else in that accessories group, so that any weighted vest organic search would create a product listing (ads or PLA for short) that contains a rogue product,” they conclude.

12. Aim for the right impressions

While you might consider 100% impression share your top goal, it turns out that it might be more effective to focus on the best-quality impressions instead.

“During my 4 years of managing Google shopping campaigns, I’ve come to find that one of my top tips is to aim for the right impressions, not 100% impression share for what Google thinks are good impressions for your products,” says Matt Jantz from GoBeRewarded. “I’ve noticed Google will start serving ads for more vague terms when advertisers try to increase the budget simply to increase impression share and these vague terms don’t convert at a profitable ROI.”

About the author
Melissa King
Melissa King Melissa King is a freelance writer who helps B2B SaaS companies spread the word about their products through engaging content. Outside of the content marketing world, she writes about video games. Check out her work at melissakingfreelance.com.

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