mozCon 2014 - Learn about Google Shopping with a presentation for non-PPC marketing. Technical difficulties, a little history and some similarities with SEO to achieve success. PDF download has annotations.
Yes, that’s Gehgis Khan. Circa Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in the sporting goods store. If you were born before 1990….
it’s based off a mall theme, since it’s Shop till You Drop, so look for clips and scenes from movies and one TV show throughout to help illustrate the topics.
Now if you’ll excuse the pun, we’re going back to the future
Google Product Search’s original tagline “search for stuff to buy” pretty much sums it up. On the left side here are all of the names that the platform has basically gone through over the years, the first 2 referring to where product feeds are uploaded, the next 3 to a free service where product search fell under organic traffic, controlled by product feeds, the last is now entirely paid. Google Shopping should be defined as where products display in the SERP on google.com or google.com/shopping. A Product Listing Ad (PLA) is the name of the ad unit served by AdWords into Google Shopping.
In October of 2012, Google switched all previously “free” traffic to paid
Well, besides making Google even richer than they already were, to the tune of about $500 million out of the gate, it cost sites and companies using the organic service thousands, if not millions of visits and drastically changed the PPC landscape for any ecommerce advertiser. Companies in most cases, shifted their spending budgets dramatically away from the standard text ads to these new units, including having to invest in the resources to do them, which I will cover later in this presentation.
Silent Bob attempts to explain Hot Dog on a Stick
When you set up Google Shopping, you are required to have the first 3 Google Products, though in my opinion, it’s all 4. So it’s not just a matter of having an AdWords account.
Some things that might impact your success…
We all know a slow site melts revenue like ice in the desert and so it goes for Google Shopping and it directly affects the Quality Score we could be assigned. Since PLAs don’t have a visible Quality Score, it’s even more frustrating, but we know that landing page experience/relevance affects it and if the user comes to site and leaves before the page loads, that hurts. If you’re looking for a free tool to help illustrate how much money you’re losing based on site speed, check out TagMan’s Conversion Loss Calculator, it’s based off their own internal data, but you’ll get the idea as to correlation.
Every damn cart is a snowflake. All it takes is a custom installation or the cart doesn’t allow custom product names or creates seemingly infinite nonsensical URL strings to create technical difficulty nightmares. So where SEO runs into technical difficulties on site changes, so does PPC. Including the ability to export all of the products out of the shopping cart and into a product feed to be submitted to Merchant Center.
In PLAs, we need to be able to pull a “clean” feed, meaning that it most often mimics site architecture and all the required attributes for Google need to be there and sometimes aren’t, which is why we also need the ability to manipulate those attributes and add if needed. The more information we can supply to Merchant Center, the better able Google is to categorize and match products to search queries. This is an example of a WordPress feature that comes with an ecommerce plugin that I paid for. It looks simple and harmless enough, but when viewed, it’s pretty terrible and incomplete. I can’t edit anything and telling people to just “sign up for a Merchant Center” account is completely misleading.
Another thing you need for a good feed and SEO are good product descriptions. Or one at all in this case. Often what will happen with situations like this is someone sets up a “fix” that pulls in the product name and a boilerplate piece of text like “Nike shoes are great.” So that you have 100 products with the same text. Never do this.
Here’s an example of a product with that similar feature of some boilerplate text on every single product page and two sentences of unique text that is formatted in a way that makes my eyes bleed. This is actually what it’s going to look like in a result unless it gets edited.
Here’s the URL structure for that same site and the navigation. I can only theorize a horror of horrors when it comes to trying to adjust that feed at all, like removing the letter/number designations in the attributes – which is why there are companies who’s entire business it is to clean up feeds before submittal to Google Merchant Center, I’ll talk about those later on.
What this means is that we need a little developer help too and coordinating your efforts together or going in on that case of scotch that will be needed to bribe someone, isn’t the worst idea ever.
A couple of other items that fall into our shared interests are that of Local Inventory Ads which links with Google Express, an awful, terrible “quick start” AdWords tool – and Google Places. Local Inventory Ads are US only at this time and with select merchants, in a nutshell, when you search for whatever and there is a merchant nearby to you that has it in stock, in store, you’ll see that little red marker. Local Feeds are actually a separate feed that is still submitted the same way, but is required to be updated more frequently than the 30day min of regular Google Shopping.
Google Trusted Stores. Believe it or not, Macy’s is not a Google Trusted Store, but Overstock is. So Overstock gets to be front and center on this particularly popular item. Google Trusted Stores requires many hoops to be jumped through around shipping times, order fulfillment speed and returns. It takes a minimum of 45 days to qualify for the program as after you enroll and begin the hoop jumping, there has to be a certain amount of time and orders that go through. For those of you that don’t like Google being able to see that deeply into your business, even though they probably have it anyway, it’s not a great option – but if you’re hurting from the switch to paid and competition is fierce, you may not have other options.
First of all, remember that you’re targeting queries using attributes, the columns that are in a feed, not keywords, which means that you’re bidding by the options provided by Google like the category or sub categories of the products, a specific product ID number, brand, condition (new or used) or custom label or attributes that you have defined on your own and added as a column or attribute to the feed. For example, you might have a group of products that costs less than your cost of shipping. You could add a column to your feed, give it the custom label designation of 0-4 (5 is the maximum allowed), say in this case we pick custom label 1 and the identifier is “shipping” – you can than have that identifier be placed in each row of a product that is under that amount. Then, when you go to set your bids, you can bid lower for that group of products. And you don’t have to do it by custom label, maybe there’s a brand that you carry that you’re really strong for, bid more for products under that brand.
This chart is illustrating in the blue triangles the main targeting attributes, there are more as we just went over, but these are in descending order of the amount of traffic being targeted. You’ll note that on the bottom, there’s “all products” and that is because every Google Shopping campaign in AdWords starts with the target of “all products.” It’s from there that we are going to slice up and determine which attributes or categories are going to get what bids based on importance. You can’t opt out of all products, but you can and should make it the lowest overall bid. Custom labels can apply to any of the levels shown here and more.
While you might have a single product that creates crazy amounts of traffic or revenue that needs to be targeted and bid for separately, it’s the other thousands of products we’re concerned about controlling. Trying to bid on a per product basis or try and guess what Google will show with which query and if people will buy what Google shows will drive you into the madhouse. So while search queries are useful, they’re not everything and you’ll have to break that “keyword” habit and honestly, be OK with being a little blind in the whole thing. As a control freak, I hate that, but if you have a catalog of 3million SKUs, how else are you going to scale this? Think in portfolios or groups of products. That can be by category, custom labels you create, product types or brands, but just know that is where to start.
Then, as you get fancier, you can layer bids. Meaning that a single product can exist in more than one portfolio or category and appear for multiple queries, depending on what the searcher is looking for. For example, I have a sweatshirt that I can bid at the subcategory of “Activewear” and also under a custom label for a promotion that I’m doing and also under a brand name. Technically meaning that that singular product has 3 possible bids for any number of queries. Which means that this can get messy, fast. I recommend keeping it simple out of the gate and then getting fancy, sticking to groups or portfolios of products.
You can use negative keywords like with text ad PPC, but do so with caution. Negative keywords, restrict, or take away traffic. You won’t keep those impressions, you’re telling Google you don’t want them, so they won’t go and find another product to show instead. You want to use negatives to push away queries around things you don’t even sell or aren’t even related to and instead use attributes to “sculpt” traffic around your feed.
Remember how earlier I was alluding to companies that all they do is clean up feeds? Well, here are a few of them. Each one is very different, not in how they necessarily work, each has their own proprietary secret sauce, but at the end of the day, they all do the same thing – get the best product feed uploaded into comparison shopping engines and Google Shopping. How they differ is how they charge and depending on what you have to invest in this endeavor will dictate where you start. It ranges from flat fee, percentages of spend and revenue share. But what these platforms do; that would be of particular interest to you; is if you have those technical cart difficulties around getting a clean feed. These types of tools will not only help clean up and do things like change the color “BLK” to “black” and implement a template for product names that make sense, edit product descriptions and add custom labels- they can set floors and ceilings for which products get sent to Google Shopping and which ones don’t. Ideally, you don’t need to, nor should you, send every single product you’ve ever carried. These platforms can suppress products that you’re low on, out of stock, cost less than the shipping fee or are simply not profitable, based on margin.
One thing that came up while doing this presentation was whether or not Schema markup effected anything on Google Shopping – the answer is, it would have, IF they hadn’t gone to paid. And it was having some effect on the few situations in which it appeared but since October of 2012, it’s all database/feed based through Merchant Center and is unaffected.
If you’ve got a robust affiliate program or list your products on Amazon and it’s stealing your traffic (an “Amazon” problem) and are having trouble competing with yourself and affiliates, you SHOULD be doing this. In general, very few companies are doing it anyway as it is. While you can’t A/B test images through your feed, you most certainly could and should have a separate folder on your server of images for PLAs that you can serve uniquely to help stand out in the crowd. You cannot however, add text to those images and promote sales or discounts. Just the picture of the product.
Some of you already know about this, but for those that don’t, submit your catalog to Google Catalogs. Why not? It’s not shown at this time to directly influence Google Shopping, but we all know it’s going to be connected and some point, if not already.
Not to be outdone, Bing launched their version in March of this year. They’ve made it extremely easy to get started on if you’re already running Google PLAs and in fact, they removed a step entirely and nested their Merchant Center in the Bing Ads account, so you don’t have to have a whole other platform involved. Bing mimics the required attributes, upload process and bidding in a way that makes it a no brainer to try. I would recommend starting simple and NOT doing a bunch of layering and robust targeting until you see what kind of traffic volume you get. I’m finding you either end up with a pittance of 3-4% volume of Google PLAs or a healthy 20%.
This is free and in the Bing Ads interface. So if you don’t want to do Bing Product Ads, you can still submit additional product info to Bing to appear in the SERP. Just upload the feed through Bing Ads Merchant Center, click the checkbox for Rich Captions and off it goes. It will get attributed to Bing organic traffic and is not directly trackable at this time.
Google Analytics, that’s a no brainer. But separating out PLA traffic from search text ad traffic is not.
This is a custom Google Analytics PLA dashboard built at Portent by our analytics architect, Michael Wiegand. It is available for free (no sign up wall) on our blog and also in the bit.ly bundle. You should report and analyze PLA revenue and traffic separate from search text ads. Simply install and enjoy – you will need to have named your Shopping campaigns with “shopping” or “PLA” and not something weird like “Google Sucks.”
SuperMetrics does lots of things, but my two favorite are the 3rd party cost data import into GA feature, like if you do Bing Ads or Bing Product Ads and want to adjust that fancy dashboard to include ALL Shopping data or just run reports without having to login to 3 platforms. Yes, it can pull in Facebook too.
Which you can then use their Excel plugin called Data Grabber to build excellent reports.
This isn’t actually what their log file management product is really intended for, but this and Windows GREP is what I ended up playing with it - which is trying to find comparison shoppers. So Google Shopping does this cool thing where they don’t discount you on clicks if someone clicks multiple times on your product through to your site. And while they try and provide various grids and charts that help you comparison shop from within the Google Shopping UI, people are all weird and need to open multiple tabs on sites, which costs you.
People like my mom. (That’s original artwork, by the way.) So, to see if you have a problem with this, that you can’t do really anything about other than bitch, this a great way to do it, but seriously it does also help you explain how people are using Shopping and your site and if you need to reconsider how you measure the success of Google Shopping and it’s costs.
Speaking of comparison shoppers and measuring the cost/benefit of Google Shopping, make sure you’re looking at Assisted Conversions. What we are seeing more often than not, is that Shopping is definitely NOT all about last click. We know people are touching sites and brands in multiple ways before the conversion, this is just one way to help you see how much and derive a weight in which to measure the value.
They’re still wandering around that parking lot today…
If you’re not already set up with some kind of 3rd party review system and a process in which you either ask for them or review the reviews, you are going to get stomped. You’re already late to the party, so don’t wait any longer and figure out a mainstream platform that Google scrapes and aggregates from so that when you appear in a field like this, you’re not the “no rating” place. We all know that opinions of others matter when it comes to buying, so don’t be a stranger.
You can review search queries in AdWords for PLA impressions and clicks, but as I was saying earlier, you want to focus more on the portfolio approach and not get hung up on these. If you were to review the list of queries, you’ll see that they have varying length and detail and here’s why- some are not people.
Using this fancy pantyhose example, I grabbed that very specific query that included a brand name, a feature, a product description and a style number. Granted, there are some people that would have searched for that, but the numbers are small. Think of all of the searches you’ve performed and how often you perform that detailed a search versus when you don’t. The reason is that those “queries” are actually ads that appeared on a search partner network site.
I was able to visit Kohl’s, and pull up these ads for Rachel Ray cookware right alongside products they were selling. These ads are not PLA queries, but the product name from their product page will, when an impression occurs on the Kohl’s site act as a query. If you want to see a detailed deep dive on how this works, I recommend a presentation done by PPC Hero given at HeroCon this year. You’ll find it in the bit.ly link bundle.
So why would you do this? We answered if you could, but not why. And I think we all really know why, it really comes down to playing the game. Right now, that game is Google’s, like it or not and they like money. When this rolled out in October of 2012, right before holiday, Etsy financed that holiday season’s PLA clicks themselves to keep their vendors in Google results, knowing that not doing it would equal huge amounts of confusion and lost business for their crafters. That’s how important it was to stay in the game and it’s not going to go away any time soon.
The good news is that there are lots of PPC nerds out there. Turns out where there’s copious amounts of money, there is copious amounts of research being done. So, if you want to stay on top of what is going on, what is changing, particularly in a big picture sense, these are the companies that I would follow. RKG manages the most in spend in the entire USA when it comes to PLAs and they are highly scientific, data driven people. Their blog posts, white papers and quarterly reports are paid nerd heaven. Wordstream handles millions of dollars in spend, mostly for SMBs and does great analysis of every new Google feature that rolls out. Check out their infographics as well if you get a chance. Marin is a 3rd party bid management platform that will put out studies and analysis of the millions of dollars that flow through their platform, though you might have to sign up to get one, so ask your PPC nerd friends first, don’t get on that mailing list. And while I don’t have millions of dollars, I do sort of know what I am doing.
If you don’t see something there that I mentioned, hit me up on Twitter or in person, I seriously LOVE to talk about PPC. Come find me, let’s nerd out.
mozCon 2014 - Shop 'til You Drop: Google Shopping PPC
Elizabeth Marsten • Portent, Inc.
Shop 'til You Drop:
@ebkendo • email@example.com
Google Shopping PPC
MeVice President of
PPC, SEO, Social,
8 Years and counting.
(Yes, I work with Ian Lurie.)
NO SEOS WERE HARMED IN THE
MAKING OF THIS PRESENTATION
HOW YOUR TOUR OF
THE MALL WILL GO…
How we got “here” and why as an SEO
you should care.
What did that do to SEO?
Went away Oct. 2012…
Marin Software Study
How does it work, technical difficulties
The Food Court
Where PPC & SEO Overlap