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Google Shopping
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
Summary
Google®
Shopping ads are the small, visually stimulating images (also known as
product-listing ads) you see on the right-hand side of your Google search results
page after performing a product search. These ads are driving close to 25 percent
of sales for some merchants which is perhaps reason enough for their increasing
popularity among retailers—however they’re also known to attract high quality
traffic, get the attention of shoppers that are ready to buy and often generate
more clicks at a lower cost than traditional text ads.
This Blue Paper®
will explore the history behind Google Shopping and will discuss
its growing influence in ecommerce. It will also help retailers determine whether
a Google Shopping campaign is right for them and it will discuss how to set up a
campaign, manage it and measure it.
Google Shopping: Working for retailers and
shoppers everywhere
Retailers who advertise online but have yet to try Google®
Shopping may
be missing out on one of the search engine giant’s biggest success stories.
Believe it or not—Google Shopping’s small image ads, also known as product
listing ads (PLAs), send many retailers close to 25 percent of their website traffic.1
And according to RKG™
Digital Marketing, these ads: “drove 29 percent of clicks
among the agency’s retail clients in the first quarter of 2014.”2
Most of the
growth these clients are seeing in paid search is coming from Google Shopping.
The agency’s spend on these campaigns is up 69 percent year-over-year, and clicks
are up 51 percent. Regular text ads, meanwhile, are only up marginally: 6 percent
for spend and 4 percent for clicks.
What’s driving this success? Google attributes it to putting images and pricing
information in front of buyers at the exact moment they are ready to purchase.
Natural goods online retailer Abe’s Market®
, for example, attributes this perfect
timing to their boost in revenue of 257 percent in one year’s time.3
1 Ballard, Mark. “Analyzing The Impact Of Amazon’s Departure From Google’s Search Network.”
Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://searchengineland.
com/amazons-departure-will-impact-googles-search-network-203172.
2 Marvin, Ginny. “RKG: Q1 US Paid Search Up 17 Percent, Fueled By PLAs; Smartphones Drove Just 7 Percent
Of Spend.” Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://
searchengineland.com/rkg-q1-us-paid-search-17-percent-fueled-plas-smartphones-drove-just-7-percent-
spend-189136.
3 “How CPC Boosted an Online Retailer’s Revenue by 257% in 1 Year.” Cpcstrategy.com. CPC Strategy, n.d. Web.
12 Dec. 2014. http://cpcstrategy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/AbesMarketCaseStudy.pdf.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
There’s got to be a downside to this, right? Before you imagine a nightmare of
having to make thousands of ads for your product inventory, or adding one more
complex online strategy, here’s some good news: Google makes the ads for you.
You still have work to do, providing Google with high-quality images and product
details, such as price and availability. But most of your time and energy will be
spent managing campaign performance, not churning out ads.
This Blue Paper®
will explore the story behind Google Shopping, reviewing its
history and growing influence in ecommerce. It will help retailers determine
whether a Google Shopping campaign is right for them as well as the costs
involved. Finally, it will consider not only what goes into setting up these
campaigns, but managing them as well.
What is Google Shopping?
Let’s start with a look at Google Shopping ads. A search for “men’s shoes” in
Google brings back a results page like you see in Figure 1. Those striking images
of shoes on the right side are the product listing ads we have been talking about.
These ads are often the most visually stimulating element on the results page,
helping explain their appeal. For buyers, what’s great about them is that they can
compare products immediately—they see the products, prices and sellers, without
having to visit unique websites. For sellers, the people who click on these ads
have had the chance to comparison shop and are often ready to buy when they
visit the website. And, the cost-per-click Google charges the seller, when someone
clicks on one of these ads, is often less than that of traditional text ads seen on
the left side of Figure 1.4
Figure 1: Google search results pages can be broken down into Google paid ads,
Google Shopping ads and organic results.
4 “New Way to Do PLAs.” http://cpcstrategy.com/. CPC Strategy, Jan. 2014. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. http://cpcstrategy.
com/google-shopping-campaigns-prelaunch/?utm_source=blogbillboard.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
Figure 2: Shoppers can filter products to find just what they are looking for within
Google Shopping
The history of Google Shopping
Google Shopping started in 2002 as a free service called Froogle that produced
nice search results. Google described it as the “most comprehensive product
search engine available on the Web.”5
This new service had Google’s usual touches—the products shown were decided
by algorithms, or mathematical formulas. Froogle collected product information
from two sources: retailer product feeds and webpage crawls. At the time, Google
was more interested in simply helping shoppers find products than in providing
quality information, customer reviews or any of that good stuff6
—how times
have changed!
The way it worked? Retailers simply registered with the service and started
providing product information. Google encouraged retailers to update their
information as often as possible, but there was no obligation or incentive to
keep it fresh.
In 2007, Google finally gave up on the cute but underperforming name Froogle
and became more serious about the service. Its new name, Google Product Search,
provided a clearer description of what the service was about. As well as changing
the name, Google made cosmetic changes to how the ads looked, based on
information collected about how people were using the still-free service.7
5 Sherman, Chris. “Online Shopping with Google’s Froogle.” Searchenginewatch.com. Incisive Interactive
Marketing LLC., 11 Dec. 2002. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/news/2067723/online-
shopping-googles-froogle.
6 Sherman, Chris. “Online Shopping with Google’s Froogle.” Searchenginewatch.com. Incisive Interactive
Marketing LLC., 11 Dec. 2002. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/news/2067723/online-
shopping-googles-froogle.
7 Sullivan, Danny. “Goodbye Froogle, Hello Google Product Search!” Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media,
Inc., 18 Apr. 2007. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. http://searchengineland.com/goodbye-froogle-hello-google-product-
search-11001.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
Google changes everything
In 2012, Google realized what it had on its hands: a service popular with
retailers and loved by shoppers. This time it not only changed its name to
Product Listing Ads, but also its business model.8
For the first time in Google’s
history, it took a free, search-related service and started charging for it.
Needless to say, retailers were none too happy with the new “pay-to-play”
model. Google countered saying it would provide users with a better experience:
“We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage
them to keep their product information fresh and current. Higher quality data—
whether it’s accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability—should mean
better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic
for merchants.”9
While retailers were initially unhappy with the changes, most boarded the
bandwagon. And, in a relatively short period, more retailers than before were
participating due to the service’s enhanced value. RKG says the share of ad
impressions from shopping campaigns more than tripled after they went paid.10
Google’s “enhancements” continued, and in 2013 it started rolling out Google
Shopping campaigns as we know them today. Product Listing Ads campaigns
became officially called Google Shopping campaigns, although the names are
often still interchanged. The purpose of this change was to integrate Google
Shopping into AdWords, Google’s online advertising service.
Risks versus rewards
Before we jump into setting up a Google Shopping campaign and providing you a
comprehensive “how-to,” let’s pause and look at a few of the risks and challenges
some encounter.
Google is always improving
Paid Google Shopping campaigns are fairly new and regularly showcase new
features and reports. You will need to keep up-to-date with these changes as they
may have a major impact on your campaigns. For example, you can now provide
8 Sullivan, Danny. “Google Product Search To Become Google Shopping, Use Pay-To-Play Model.”
Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 31 May 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. http://searchengineland.com/
google-product-search-to-become-google-shopping-use-pay-to-play-model-122959.
9 Samat, Sameer. “Building a Better Shopping Experience.” Googlecommerce.blogspot.com. Google, 31 May
2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. http://googlecommerce.blogspot.com/2012/05/building-better-shopping-experience.
html.
10 Taylor, Andy. “PLAs Key to Beating Amazon in Search as Retail Giant Enhances Paid Presence.” Rimmkaufman.
com. Merkle, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
Google with a Merchant Promotions feed highlighting special offers that you are
running. This feed adds a special offer line to your ads that shoppers can click on
to get details about an offer.
Shopping campaigns can be expensive at the start
Unlike regular text ad campaigns, where you tell Google the search terms your
ads should appear for, you have no such control in Shopping campaigns. Your ads
can display for any search query that matches a product you sell. And, Google
tends to be very liberal with your ads at the start, showing them for search
queries that are unlikely to convert. This can be expensive and why you need to
add unrelated terms to the negative keywords list. For instance, if you are an
eyeglass retailer, you may want to add the term “wine glasses” to your negative
keywords. Doing so will refine your ad exposure to be more aligned with the
right customers at the right time.
Google can suspend your campaign
While Google is likely to inform you if there is an issue with your campaign,
usually by email or a warning in the Merchant Center, your account can still
be suspended for any number of reasons. If this happens, reestablishing your
campaign can be challenging. You have to work with Google to ensure you
understand the issue and fix it. Issues often revolve around selling products
Google has decided to block or submitting a product feed that contains
information that does not match what is on your website.
Once you fix the issue, Google has to confirm it; only then will your ads start
appearing again. This whole process can take days or weeks. Subsequent
suspensions tend to take longer to resolve—as a kind of additional penalty. The
takeaway is that you need to stay on top of your product feed. Also, familiarize
yourself with Google Shopping policies, so you can spot potential problems
before they arise.
How to start your Google Shopping campaign
Are you ready to get started with Google Shopping? Here is a step-by-step guide
to help you build your campaign.
Step one—Send your data feed to your Merchant Center account:
In order for your products to show on Google Shopping, you have to send the
product information to your Merchant Center account. You do this through a
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
product data feed. You can learn all you need to know about product feeds right
here, but the basics are: You will use the data columns in your product feed to
divide your products into ad groups, so spend some time determining what you
want to include in your feed. Google has some obligatory columns that you must
provide, but there are also five columns, or custom labels, that you can use to
furnish additional information—for example best sellers or clearance items.
Step two—Set up your first shopping campaign:
Once Google has your product information, you’re ready to get started setting up
your first Google Shopping campaign. Simply log into your free Adwords account
to begin. If you don’t have an account, you can set one up here. Then, simply click
the “Campaigns” tab (see Figure 3), click on the red “+ Campaign” button and
select “Shopping.”
Figure 3: Shopping campaigns are now just another option under the
“Campaigns” tab in Adwords.
Step three—Set the campaign details:
Google offers a lot of different campaign settings (see Figure 4). You’ll likely not
use all them, however we’ll touch on each briefly:
1.	Name the campaign: When choosing your campaign name, it’s always a
good idea to include the word “shopping” to make it easier to find among
your other campaigns.
2.	Select the campaign type: Ensure the campaign type is still set at
“Shopping—Product Listing Ads.”
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
3.	Link your Merchant Center Account: Under “Merchant Identifier,” you’ll
select the Merchant Center account you set up for this campaign. All of your
products are now available for the campaign—simple as that.
4.	Set the “Country of Sale”: This option allows you to choose which country
you are targeting with your campaign. There are also some advance
location options, which we’ll get into a little later.
5.	Set the campaign priority: You can set the campaign priority to low,
medium or high in the event that you have more than one Google
Shopping campaign. If that is the case, and you have products in more than
one campaign, the priority level decides which ad will show—even if the
bids are higher in the other campaigns.
6.	Filter your products: The “inventory filter” setting allows you to limit the
products that feature in a campaign.
7.	Pick the ad networks: Your ad networks tell Google where you want your
ads displayed. By default, they will be shown on Google search results pages
and partner sites, including YouTube®
, Google Maps, AOL®
, etc. You can,
however, deselect the partner sites.
8.	Set your bids for mobile devices: By default, bids apply to ads that appear
on PCs, tablets and mobile phones. However, ads on cell phones do not
perform well for many campaigns. If this holds true for your product
ads, too, you can choose to lower your bids, in percentage terms, for ads
displayed to shoppers using their mobile phones.
9.	Set bids by geography: This setting allows you to change bids based on
a shopper’s location. If, for instance you are targeting the U.S., and you
determine that your ads do really well in Illinois, for instance, you can
simply tell Google to raise your bids for shoppers based in that area. You
can also treat shoppers differently based on whether they are in Illinois, for
example, or are somewhere else just looking for information on Illinois.
10.	Set your shopping channel: Google Shopping ads work for both in-store
and online retailers. Choose your shopping channel to let Google know
if you are advertising products from your website, your store, or both. If
you choose both, you will need to provide separate product feeds for your
website and your store.
11.	Set your bid strategy: Bidding is one of the things Google uses to
determine whether your products will show on search results pages. The
higher the bid, the greater the likelihood that your product will be one of
the first to be seen by shoppers. You can set bids manually or have Google
set them for you automatically using predetermined parameters. For
example, if you can’t afford to spend more than $5 on ads for every sale,
you can set a cost-per-conversion (CPA) target of $5. Google will automate
bids to deliver sales at that level. Bidding is really a science in itself; you
can read up on the basics here.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
12.	Set your budget: Google will continue to show your ads until your preset
daily budget runs out. It’s important to keep a close eye on this as you
don’t want ads that are performing well to stop showing because your
daily budget has been reached.
13.	Set your delivery method: Google shows your ads at either a standard or
accelerated rate. With the standard rate, ads are spaced out over the day,
based on your daily budget. This is a good option if you want to ensure
your ads show throughout the entire day. The accelerated rate shows your
ads every time they are eligible, until the budget runs out. Meaning you
may exhaust your budget first thing in the morning. Choose this option if
you want your ads to receive the maximum amount of impressions.
14.	Schedule your ads: You can set start and finish dates for ad campaigns, and
it’s also possible to customize your schedule to show ads on specific days
or during certain hours. For instance, if campaigns perform better over the
weekend, you can opt to raise bids for Saturday and Sunday.
15.	Exclude IP addresses: This setting simply allows you exclude certain IP
addresses from seeing ads. For instance, you may want to exclude your
own company’s IP address to avoid paying for ad impressions viewed by
employees.
16.	Add a tracking URL: This option allows you to add code to ad links in order
to track campaign performance in Google Analytics.
Figure 4: Fill out a name for your campaign and link your Adwords account to
your Merchant Center account.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
Figure 5: You have the option of creating one bid for All Products.
Step four—Determine product grouping:
If your products are in one group you can simply set a default bid, and ads
for single products will have the same bid. Voila—you’re in business. You can,
however, choose to break out additional product groups—by brand, for example.
Simply click on the pencil icon (see Figure 5) and a pop-up window appears (see
Figure 6). Here you can group your products based on the attributes in your
product feed. You have 10 options for creating your first sub-groupings. They are:
1.	Category—Google uses its own taxonomy of categories. For instance,
Apparel  Accessories, Media or Software. Each of these can be further
broken down into sub-categories. For a complete list, click on Google
Product Category.
2.	Brand—Categorize products by brand name.
3.	Item ID—Identify each item within your account with a unique item ID.
4.	Condition—Let shoppers know if your product is new, refurbished or used.
5.	Product Type—Categorize products by type; for instance, men’s shoes, men’s
boots, etc.
6.	Custom Label 0 to 4—Custom labels give you five additional ways to
categorize as you like; for example by margin, best-sellers, seasonality, etc.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
Figure 6: You can now start to subdivide your All Products group containing all
your products.
If you are unsure how to group your products, try using All Products and one
or two subgroups—best sellers and high margin, for example. Then, bid low
and wait. Once you know what’s working, raise your bids and build out
additional product groups—perhaps by medium margin and low margin,
for example, or seasonality.
And experiment with your product feed, too. Eyeglass retailer Zenni
Optical®
,which sells around 4,000 products on its site, revamped its feed and saw
a boost in revenue of 382.26 percent, website visitors by 79.68 percent and orders
by 302.56 percent.11
The team behind this revamp said: “Your feeds need to be in
tip-top shape. They’re the foundation for successful shopping engine campaigns
and will make-or-break performance.”
Step five—Further subdivide your groups:
Once you get the hang of things, try further subdividing your groups to create
a multi-layer campaign. Here’s a simple way to think about breaking down your
product groups. Pretend you’re running a shoe store. You may initially group your
products by category—men’s shoes, women’s shoes, kids’ shoes, for example. You
may then subdivide these categories by brand and then those brands by high
margin, medium margin and low margin. You now have a campaign with three
layers: category, brand and margin.
11 “How CSE CAMPAIGN Longevity Pays Off in Overall Increases of +382.26% in Revenue and +302.56% in
Orde.” Http://cpcstrategy.com/. CPC Strategy, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. http://cpcstrategy.com/wp-content/
uploads/2013/11/Zenni-Optical.pdf.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
You will notice when you are setting up these groups there is always an
“Everything else in ‘All products’” option. This is a catch-all for products that are
not assigned a category. It is a good idea to set a very low bid here, just to make
sure that all of your products are included in your campaign.
Managing your Google Shopping campaigns
Congrats! Your campaign is now up and running—groups have been set
and bids established. Now, you need to keep an eye on costs. Shopping
campaigns, especially at the start, can become expensive fast. Here are
some reports and figures to help you manage your campaign—and they
can all be found in Adwords.
Search term report
When you are starting your campaign, the “Search terms” report (see Figure 7)
may become your best friend. This report shows all the terms that shoppers have
used for which Google has decided to display your ads. You can download this
report, identify the terms you know will not work for your company, and add
them as negative keywords. Google will never show your ads again for those
terms. To add negative keywords, click on the “Keywords” tab, select “Add
negative keywords” and paste them in.
Figure 7: You can find your “Search terms” report under the “Dimensions” tab.
Benchmark CTR and max CPC
Google provides benchmark click-through-rates (CTR)—how often ads are being
clicked on—and benchmark maximum cost-per-click (CPC) data—the maximum
bids people are willing to pay for their ads to show. These numbers provide you
with industry averages for similar shopping campaigns. Be careful though; it’s
often good to bid lower than these benchmarks suggest and only raise your bids
if campaign performance warrants it.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
Impression share12
Your impression share tells you how often your ads are appearing compared to
how often they could appear if you were bidding more. For example, if a product
is selling well, but its ads are only showing 50 percent of the time, you should try
raising your bids.
Products tab
The information in the products tab mirrors what’s in your product feed and
provides a simple way of checking that the feed has been set up correctly.
Bid simulator
Google will often provide estimates of how your ads will perform at various
bid levels. This may include the number of expected ad impressions, clicks, and,
sometimes sales. This is not 100 percent accurate as it is a simulator, so taking that
into account is essential.
Auction insights13
With auction insights, you can see how often your ads appear alongside other
advertisers and how often your ads appear before theirs.
Bid modifiers
As the campaign develops and is producing results, it is possible to experiment
with either raising or lowering bids based on factors such as geographic location,
time of day and device (desktop or mobile). For example, you can decide to raise
bids in the evenings by 20 percent, or maybe you want to reduce bids on mobile
devices by 30 percent. Bid modifiers are available in campaign settings (see Figure 8.)
Figure 8: You can modify your bids in campaign settings.
12 Mulpuru, Sucharita. “US ECommerce Grows, Reaching $414B By 2018, But Physical Stores Will Live On.”
Forbes.com. Forbes, 12 May 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2014/05/12/us-
ecommerce-grows-reaching-414b-by-2018-but-physical-stores-will-live-on/.
13 Mulpuru, Sucharita. “US ECommerce Grows, Reaching $414B By 2018, But Physical Stores Will Live On.”
Forbes.com. Forbes, 12 May 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2014/05/12/us-
ecommerce-grows-reaching-414b-by-2018-but-physical-stores-will-live-on/.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
You can also set a flexible bid strategy for your campaign. For example, if you
set the bid strategy as “enhanced cost-per-click (CPC),” you are giving Google
permission to raise your maximum bid by 30 percent if it thinks there is a greater
chance of securing the sale. Google uses its knowledge of user behavior and many
other factors to determine whether to raise your bid.
Product exclusion
It is also possible to exclude underperforming products. You can lower your bids
on these products or exclude them from the group—just click “Excluded” after
clicking on your bid (see Figure 9.)
Figure 9: You can exclude products from your groups.
Product descriptions14
One last tip—but it only applies if you have a small number of products in your
campaign. When you are going through the search-term report, you may find
words that lead to sales but are not featured in your product feed. Try rewriting
the product descriptions to include these terms and see if there is a lift in sales.
The future of Google Shopping
What lies ahead for Google Shopping? It’s impossible to predict; however,
shoppers are increasingly turning to Google Shopping and Amazon®
to buy
products online. According to Forbes®
, U.S. ecommerce sales will total $294 billion
this year, and hit $414 billion by 2018.15
And, Google is well-positioned to get a
big slice of that pie. In one recent experiment, for example, Google presented
people who were shopping for popular brands with the option to browse those
brands’ product categories within Google Shopping, without ever going to the
retailer’s website.16
It shows Google is toying with the idea of developing Google
Shopping into a complete marketplace—one where shoppers can buy products on
search pages without having to visit retailer websites at all.
14 Newton, Jamie. “8 Tips To Optimize Your Google Shopping Campaigns.” Ppchero.com/. Hanapin Marketing
LLC., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://www.ppchero.com/webinar-recording-8-tips-to-optimize-your-google-
shopping-campaigns/.
15 Mulpuru, Sucharita. “US ECommerce Grows, Reaching $414B By 2018, But Physical Stores Will Live On.”
Forbes.com. Forbes, 12 May 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2014/05/12/us-
ecommerce-grows-reaching-414b-by-2018-but-physical-stores-will-live-on/.
16 Marvin, Ginny. “In A Big Shift, Google’s Latest Ad Test Drives Users To Google Shopping, Not Advertisers’
Sites.” Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://
searchengineland.com/google-shopping-ad-test-brand-search-category-pla-207735.
© 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved
4imprint serves more than 100,000 businesses with innovative promotional items throughout the United States,
Canada, United Kingdom and Ireland. Its product offerings include giveaways, business gifts, personalized gifts,
embroidered apparel, promotional pens, travel mugs, tote bags, water bottles, Post-it Notes, custom calendars,
and many other promotional items. For additional information, log on to www.4imprint.com.
A real retail opportunity
Google Shopping campaigns have a proven track record with retailers. They
grab searchers’ attention, can cost less and outperform traditional search ad
campaigns. If you sell products online, whether it is just a few items or thousands,
it may well be worth experimenting with them. There is a little bit of work
involved in setting the campaigns up, but once done, products are easy to
manage in AdWords.
Google is clearly putting a lot of resources into improving the shopping
experience for both retailers and searchers. This probably means Google will
continue to roll out new features to improve campaign performance. But it also
means you may have to spend more time staying up-to-date with campaign
developments. Ultimately, with many retailers reporting traffic of 25 percent
coming from these campaigns—that may be time well spent.

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Google Shopping Blue Paper

  • 2. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved Summary Google® Shopping ads are the small, visually stimulating images (also known as product-listing ads) you see on the right-hand side of your Google search results page after performing a product search. These ads are driving close to 25 percent of sales for some merchants which is perhaps reason enough for their increasing popularity among retailers—however they’re also known to attract high quality traffic, get the attention of shoppers that are ready to buy and often generate more clicks at a lower cost than traditional text ads. This Blue Paper® will explore the history behind Google Shopping and will discuss its growing influence in ecommerce. It will also help retailers determine whether a Google Shopping campaign is right for them and it will discuss how to set up a campaign, manage it and measure it. Google Shopping: Working for retailers and shoppers everywhere Retailers who advertise online but have yet to try Google® Shopping may be missing out on one of the search engine giant’s biggest success stories. Believe it or not—Google Shopping’s small image ads, also known as product listing ads (PLAs), send many retailers close to 25 percent of their website traffic.1 And according to RKG™ Digital Marketing, these ads: “drove 29 percent of clicks among the agency’s retail clients in the first quarter of 2014.”2 Most of the growth these clients are seeing in paid search is coming from Google Shopping. The agency’s spend on these campaigns is up 69 percent year-over-year, and clicks are up 51 percent. Regular text ads, meanwhile, are only up marginally: 6 percent for spend and 4 percent for clicks. What’s driving this success? Google attributes it to putting images and pricing information in front of buyers at the exact moment they are ready to purchase. Natural goods online retailer Abe’s Market® , for example, attributes this perfect timing to their boost in revenue of 257 percent in one year’s time.3 1 Ballard, Mark. “Analyzing The Impact Of Amazon’s Departure From Google’s Search Network.” Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://searchengineland. com/amazons-departure-will-impact-googles-search-network-203172. 2 Marvin, Ginny. “RKG: Q1 US Paid Search Up 17 Percent, Fueled By PLAs; Smartphones Drove Just 7 Percent Of Spend.” Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http:// searchengineland.com/rkg-q1-us-paid-search-17-percent-fueled-plas-smartphones-drove-just-7-percent- spend-189136. 3 “How CPC Boosted an Online Retailer’s Revenue by 257% in 1 Year.” Cpcstrategy.com. CPC Strategy, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. http://cpcstrategy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/AbesMarketCaseStudy.pdf.
  • 3. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved There’s got to be a downside to this, right? Before you imagine a nightmare of having to make thousands of ads for your product inventory, or adding one more complex online strategy, here’s some good news: Google makes the ads for you. You still have work to do, providing Google with high-quality images and product details, such as price and availability. But most of your time and energy will be spent managing campaign performance, not churning out ads. This Blue Paper® will explore the story behind Google Shopping, reviewing its history and growing influence in ecommerce. It will help retailers determine whether a Google Shopping campaign is right for them as well as the costs involved. Finally, it will consider not only what goes into setting up these campaigns, but managing them as well. What is Google Shopping? Let’s start with a look at Google Shopping ads. A search for “men’s shoes” in Google brings back a results page like you see in Figure 1. Those striking images of shoes on the right side are the product listing ads we have been talking about. These ads are often the most visually stimulating element on the results page, helping explain their appeal. For buyers, what’s great about them is that they can compare products immediately—they see the products, prices and sellers, without having to visit unique websites. For sellers, the people who click on these ads have had the chance to comparison shop and are often ready to buy when they visit the website. And, the cost-per-click Google charges the seller, when someone clicks on one of these ads, is often less than that of traditional text ads seen on the left side of Figure 1.4 Figure 1: Google search results pages can be broken down into Google paid ads, Google Shopping ads and organic results. 4 “New Way to Do PLAs.” http://cpcstrategy.com/. CPC Strategy, Jan. 2014. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. http://cpcstrategy. com/google-shopping-campaigns-prelaunch/?utm_source=blogbillboard.
  • 4. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved Figure 2: Shoppers can filter products to find just what they are looking for within Google Shopping The history of Google Shopping Google Shopping started in 2002 as a free service called Froogle that produced nice search results. Google described it as the “most comprehensive product search engine available on the Web.”5 This new service had Google’s usual touches—the products shown were decided by algorithms, or mathematical formulas. Froogle collected product information from two sources: retailer product feeds and webpage crawls. At the time, Google was more interested in simply helping shoppers find products than in providing quality information, customer reviews or any of that good stuff6 —how times have changed! The way it worked? Retailers simply registered with the service and started providing product information. Google encouraged retailers to update their information as often as possible, but there was no obligation or incentive to keep it fresh. In 2007, Google finally gave up on the cute but underperforming name Froogle and became more serious about the service. Its new name, Google Product Search, provided a clearer description of what the service was about. As well as changing the name, Google made cosmetic changes to how the ads looked, based on information collected about how people were using the still-free service.7 5 Sherman, Chris. “Online Shopping with Google’s Froogle.” Searchenginewatch.com. Incisive Interactive Marketing LLC., 11 Dec. 2002. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/news/2067723/online- shopping-googles-froogle. 6 Sherman, Chris. “Online Shopping with Google’s Froogle.” Searchenginewatch.com. Incisive Interactive Marketing LLC., 11 Dec. 2002. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/news/2067723/online- shopping-googles-froogle. 7 Sullivan, Danny. “Goodbye Froogle, Hello Google Product Search!” Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 18 Apr. 2007. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. http://searchengineland.com/goodbye-froogle-hello-google-product- search-11001.
  • 5. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved Google changes everything In 2012, Google realized what it had on its hands: a service popular with retailers and loved by shoppers. This time it not only changed its name to Product Listing Ads, but also its business model.8 For the first time in Google’s history, it took a free, search-related service and started charging for it. Needless to say, retailers were none too happy with the new “pay-to-play” model. Google countered saying it would provide users with a better experience: “We believe that having a commercial relationship with merchants will encourage them to keep their product information fresh and current. Higher quality data— whether it’s accurate prices, the latest offers or product availability—should mean better shopping results for users, which in turn should create higher quality traffic for merchants.”9 While retailers were initially unhappy with the changes, most boarded the bandwagon. And, in a relatively short period, more retailers than before were participating due to the service’s enhanced value. RKG says the share of ad impressions from shopping campaigns more than tripled after they went paid.10 Google’s “enhancements” continued, and in 2013 it started rolling out Google Shopping campaigns as we know them today. Product Listing Ads campaigns became officially called Google Shopping campaigns, although the names are often still interchanged. The purpose of this change was to integrate Google Shopping into AdWords, Google’s online advertising service. Risks versus rewards Before we jump into setting up a Google Shopping campaign and providing you a comprehensive “how-to,” let’s pause and look at a few of the risks and challenges some encounter. Google is always improving Paid Google Shopping campaigns are fairly new and regularly showcase new features and reports. You will need to keep up-to-date with these changes as they may have a major impact on your campaigns. For example, you can now provide 8 Sullivan, Danny. “Google Product Search To Become Google Shopping, Use Pay-To-Play Model.” Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 31 May 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. http://searchengineland.com/ google-product-search-to-become-google-shopping-use-pay-to-play-model-122959. 9 Samat, Sameer. “Building a Better Shopping Experience.” Googlecommerce.blogspot.com. Google, 31 May 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2014. http://googlecommerce.blogspot.com/2012/05/building-better-shopping-experience. html. 10 Taylor, Andy. “PLAs Key to Beating Amazon in Search as Retail Giant Enhances Paid Presence.” Rimmkaufman. com. Merkle, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 9 Dec. 2014.
  • 6. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved Google with a Merchant Promotions feed highlighting special offers that you are running. This feed adds a special offer line to your ads that shoppers can click on to get details about an offer. Shopping campaigns can be expensive at the start Unlike regular text ad campaigns, where you tell Google the search terms your ads should appear for, you have no such control in Shopping campaigns. Your ads can display for any search query that matches a product you sell. And, Google tends to be very liberal with your ads at the start, showing them for search queries that are unlikely to convert. This can be expensive and why you need to add unrelated terms to the negative keywords list. For instance, if you are an eyeglass retailer, you may want to add the term “wine glasses” to your negative keywords. Doing so will refine your ad exposure to be more aligned with the right customers at the right time. Google can suspend your campaign While Google is likely to inform you if there is an issue with your campaign, usually by email or a warning in the Merchant Center, your account can still be suspended for any number of reasons. If this happens, reestablishing your campaign can be challenging. You have to work with Google to ensure you understand the issue and fix it. Issues often revolve around selling products Google has decided to block or submitting a product feed that contains information that does not match what is on your website. Once you fix the issue, Google has to confirm it; only then will your ads start appearing again. This whole process can take days or weeks. Subsequent suspensions tend to take longer to resolve—as a kind of additional penalty. The takeaway is that you need to stay on top of your product feed. Also, familiarize yourself with Google Shopping policies, so you can spot potential problems before they arise. How to start your Google Shopping campaign Are you ready to get started with Google Shopping? Here is a step-by-step guide to help you build your campaign. Step one—Send your data feed to your Merchant Center account: In order for your products to show on Google Shopping, you have to send the product information to your Merchant Center account. You do this through a
  • 7. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved product data feed. You can learn all you need to know about product feeds right here, but the basics are: You will use the data columns in your product feed to divide your products into ad groups, so spend some time determining what you want to include in your feed. Google has some obligatory columns that you must provide, but there are also five columns, or custom labels, that you can use to furnish additional information—for example best sellers or clearance items. Step two—Set up your first shopping campaign: Once Google has your product information, you’re ready to get started setting up your first Google Shopping campaign. Simply log into your free Adwords account to begin. If you don’t have an account, you can set one up here. Then, simply click the “Campaigns” tab (see Figure 3), click on the red “+ Campaign” button and select “Shopping.” Figure 3: Shopping campaigns are now just another option under the “Campaigns” tab in Adwords. Step three—Set the campaign details: Google offers a lot of different campaign settings (see Figure 4). You’ll likely not use all them, however we’ll touch on each briefly: 1. Name the campaign: When choosing your campaign name, it’s always a good idea to include the word “shopping” to make it easier to find among your other campaigns. 2. Select the campaign type: Ensure the campaign type is still set at “Shopping—Product Listing Ads.”
  • 8. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved 3. Link your Merchant Center Account: Under “Merchant Identifier,” you’ll select the Merchant Center account you set up for this campaign. All of your products are now available for the campaign—simple as that. 4. Set the “Country of Sale”: This option allows you to choose which country you are targeting with your campaign. There are also some advance location options, which we’ll get into a little later. 5. Set the campaign priority: You can set the campaign priority to low, medium or high in the event that you have more than one Google Shopping campaign. If that is the case, and you have products in more than one campaign, the priority level decides which ad will show—even if the bids are higher in the other campaigns. 6. Filter your products: The “inventory filter” setting allows you to limit the products that feature in a campaign. 7. Pick the ad networks: Your ad networks tell Google where you want your ads displayed. By default, they will be shown on Google search results pages and partner sites, including YouTube® , Google Maps, AOL® , etc. You can, however, deselect the partner sites. 8. Set your bids for mobile devices: By default, bids apply to ads that appear on PCs, tablets and mobile phones. However, ads on cell phones do not perform well for many campaigns. If this holds true for your product ads, too, you can choose to lower your bids, in percentage terms, for ads displayed to shoppers using their mobile phones. 9. Set bids by geography: This setting allows you to change bids based on a shopper’s location. If, for instance you are targeting the U.S., and you determine that your ads do really well in Illinois, for instance, you can simply tell Google to raise your bids for shoppers based in that area. You can also treat shoppers differently based on whether they are in Illinois, for example, or are somewhere else just looking for information on Illinois. 10. Set your shopping channel: Google Shopping ads work for both in-store and online retailers. Choose your shopping channel to let Google know if you are advertising products from your website, your store, or both. If you choose both, you will need to provide separate product feeds for your website and your store. 11. Set your bid strategy: Bidding is one of the things Google uses to determine whether your products will show on search results pages. The higher the bid, the greater the likelihood that your product will be one of the first to be seen by shoppers. You can set bids manually or have Google set them for you automatically using predetermined parameters. For example, if you can’t afford to spend more than $5 on ads for every sale, you can set a cost-per-conversion (CPA) target of $5. Google will automate bids to deliver sales at that level. Bidding is really a science in itself; you can read up on the basics here.
  • 9. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved 12. Set your budget: Google will continue to show your ads until your preset daily budget runs out. It’s important to keep a close eye on this as you don’t want ads that are performing well to stop showing because your daily budget has been reached. 13. Set your delivery method: Google shows your ads at either a standard or accelerated rate. With the standard rate, ads are spaced out over the day, based on your daily budget. This is a good option if you want to ensure your ads show throughout the entire day. The accelerated rate shows your ads every time they are eligible, until the budget runs out. Meaning you may exhaust your budget first thing in the morning. Choose this option if you want your ads to receive the maximum amount of impressions. 14. Schedule your ads: You can set start and finish dates for ad campaigns, and it’s also possible to customize your schedule to show ads on specific days or during certain hours. For instance, if campaigns perform better over the weekend, you can opt to raise bids for Saturday and Sunday. 15. Exclude IP addresses: This setting simply allows you exclude certain IP addresses from seeing ads. For instance, you may want to exclude your own company’s IP address to avoid paying for ad impressions viewed by employees. 16. Add a tracking URL: This option allows you to add code to ad links in order to track campaign performance in Google Analytics. Figure 4: Fill out a name for your campaign and link your Adwords account to your Merchant Center account.
  • 10. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved Figure 5: You have the option of creating one bid for All Products. Step four—Determine product grouping: If your products are in one group you can simply set a default bid, and ads for single products will have the same bid. Voila—you’re in business. You can, however, choose to break out additional product groups—by brand, for example. Simply click on the pencil icon (see Figure 5) and a pop-up window appears (see Figure 6). Here you can group your products based on the attributes in your product feed. You have 10 options for creating your first sub-groupings. They are: 1. Category—Google uses its own taxonomy of categories. For instance, Apparel Accessories, Media or Software. Each of these can be further broken down into sub-categories. For a complete list, click on Google Product Category. 2. Brand—Categorize products by brand name. 3. Item ID—Identify each item within your account with a unique item ID. 4. Condition—Let shoppers know if your product is new, refurbished or used. 5. Product Type—Categorize products by type; for instance, men’s shoes, men’s boots, etc. 6. Custom Label 0 to 4—Custom labels give you five additional ways to categorize as you like; for example by margin, best-sellers, seasonality, etc.
  • 11. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved Figure 6: You can now start to subdivide your All Products group containing all your products. If you are unsure how to group your products, try using All Products and one or two subgroups—best sellers and high margin, for example. Then, bid low and wait. Once you know what’s working, raise your bids and build out additional product groups—perhaps by medium margin and low margin, for example, or seasonality. And experiment with your product feed, too. Eyeglass retailer Zenni Optical® ,which sells around 4,000 products on its site, revamped its feed and saw a boost in revenue of 382.26 percent, website visitors by 79.68 percent and orders by 302.56 percent.11 The team behind this revamp said: “Your feeds need to be in tip-top shape. They’re the foundation for successful shopping engine campaigns and will make-or-break performance.” Step five—Further subdivide your groups: Once you get the hang of things, try further subdividing your groups to create a multi-layer campaign. Here’s a simple way to think about breaking down your product groups. Pretend you’re running a shoe store. You may initially group your products by category—men’s shoes, women’s shoes, kids’ shoes, for example. You may then subdivide these categories by brand and then those brands by high margin, medium margin and low margin. You now have a campaign with three layers: category, brand and margin. 11 “How CSE CAMPAIGN Longevity Pays Off in Overall Increases of +382.26% in Revenue and +302.56% in Orde.” Http://cpcstrategy.com/. CPC Strategy, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. http://cpcstrategy.com/wp-content/ uploads/2013/11/Zenni-Optical.pdf.
  • 12. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved You will notice when you are setting up these groups there is always an “Everything else in ‘All products’” option. This is a catch-all for products that are not assigned a category. It is a good idea to set a very low bid here, just to make sure that all of your products are included in your campaign. Managing your Google Shopping campaigns Congrats! Your campaign is now up and running—groups have been set and bids established. Now, you need to keep an eye on costs. Shopping campaigns, especially at the start, can become expensive fast. Here are some reports and figures to help you manage your campaign—and they can all be found in Adwords. Search term report When you are starting your campaign, the “Search terms” report (see Figure 7) may become your best friend. This report shows all the terms that shoppers have used for which Google has decided to display your ads. You can download this report, identify the terms you know will not work for your company, and add them as negative keywords. Google will never show your ads again for those terms. To add negative keywords, click on the “Keywords” tab, select “Add negative keywords” and paste them in. Figure 7: You can find your “Search terms” report under the “Dimensions” tab. Benchmark CTR and max CPC Google provides benchmark click-through-rates (CTR)—how often ads are being clicked on—and benchmark maximum cost-per-click (CPC) data—the maximum bids people are willing to pay for their ads to show. These numbers provide you with industry averages for similar shopping campaigns. Be careful though; it’s often good to bid lower than these benchmarks suggest and only raise your bids if campaign performance warrants it.
  • 13. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved Impression share12 Your impression share tells you how often your ads are appearing compared to how often they could appear if you were bidding more. For example, if a product is selling well, but its ads are only showing 50 percent of the time, you should try raising your bids. Products tab The information in the products tab mirrors what’s in your product feed and provides a simple way of checking that the feed has been set up correctly. Bid simulator Google will often provide estimates of how your ads will perform at various bid levels. This may include the number of expected ad impressions, clicks, and, sometimes sales. This is not 100 percent accurate as it is a simulator, so taking that into account is essential. Auction insights13 With auction insights, you can see how often your ads appear alongside other advertisers and how often your ads appear before theirs. Bid modifiers As the campaign develops and is producing results, it is possible to experiment with either raising or lowering bids based on factors such as geographic location, time of day and device (desktop or mobile). For example, you can decide to raise bids in the evenings by 20 percent, or maybe you want to reduce bids on mobile devices by 30 percent. Bid modifiers are available in campaign settings (see Figure 8.) Figure 8: You can modify your bids in campaign settings. 12 Mulpuru, Sucharita. “US ECommerce Grows, Reaching $414B By 2018, But Physical Stores Will Live On.” Forbes.com. Forbes, 12 May 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2014/05/12/us- ecommerce-grows-reaching-414b-by-2018-but-physical-stores-will-live-on/. 13 Mulpuru, Sucharita. “US ECommerce Grows, Reaching $414B By 2018, But Physical Stores Will Live On.” Forbes.com. Forbes, 12 May 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2014/05/12/us- ecommerce-grows-reaching-414b-by-2018-but-physical-stores-will-live-on/.
  • 14. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved You can also set a flexible bid strategy for your campaign. For example, if you set the bid strategy as “enhanced cost-per-click (CPC),” you are giving Google permission to raise your maximum bid by 30 percent if it thinks there is a greater chance of securing the sale. Google uses its knowledge of user behavior and many other factors to determine whether to raise your bid. Product exclusion It is also possible to exclude underperforming products. You can lower your bids on these products or exclude them from the group—just click “Excluded” after clicking on your bid (see Figure 9.) Figure 9: You can exclude products from your groups. Product descriptions14 One last tip—but it only applies if you have a small number of products in your campaign. When you are going through the search-term report, you may find words that lead to sales but are not featured in your product feed. Try rewriting the product descriptions to include these terms and see if there is a lift in sales. The future of Google Shopping What lies ahead for Google Shopping? It’s impossible to predict; however, shoppers are increasingly turning to Google Shopping and Amazon® to buy products online. According to Forbes® , U.S. ecommerce sales will total $294 billion this year, and hit $414 billion by 2018.15 And, Google is well-positioned to get a big slice of that pie. In one recent experiment, for example, Google presented people who were shopping for popular brands with the option to browse those brands’ product categories within Google Shopping, without ever going to the retailer’s website.16 It shows Google is toying with the idea of developing Google Shopping into a complete marketplace—one where shoppers can buy products on search pages without having to visit retailer websites at all. 14 Newton, Jamie. “8 Tips To Optimize Your Google Shopping Campaigns.” Ppchero.com/. Hanapin Marketing LLC., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://www.ppchero.com/webinar-recording-8-tips-to-optimize-your-google- shopping-campaigns/. 15 Mulpuru, Sucharita. “US ECommerce Grows, Reaching $414B By 2018, But Physical Stores Will Live On.” Forbes.com. Forbes, 12 May 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2014/05/12/us- ecommerce-grows-reaching-414b-by-2018-but-physical-stores-will-live-on/. 16 Marvin, Ginny. “In A Big Shift, Google’s Latest Ad Test Drives Users To Google Shopping, Not Advertisers’ Sites.” Searchengineland.com. Third Door Media, Inc., 12 Nov. 2014. Web. 11 Dec. 2014. http:// searchengineland.com/google-shopping-ad-test-brand-search-category-pla-207735.
  • 15. © 2015 4imprint, Inc. All rights reserved 4imprint serves more than 100,000 businesses with innovative promotional items throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Ireland. Its product offerings include giveaways, business gifts, personalized gifts, embroidered apparel, promotional pens, travel mugs, tote bags, water bottles, Post-it Notes, custom calendars, and many other promotional items. For additional information, log on to www.4imprint.com. A real retail opportunity Google Shopping campaigns have a proven track record with retailers. They grab searchers’ attention, can cost less and outperform traditional search ad campaigns. If you sell products online, whether it is just a few items or thousands, it may well be worth experimenting with them. There is a little bit of work involved in setting the campaigns up, but once done, products are easy to manage in AdWords. Google is clearly putting a lot of resources into improving the shopping experience for both retailers and searchers. This probably means Google will continue to roll out new features to improve campaign performance. But it also means you may have to spend more time staying up-to-date with campaign developments. Ultimately, with many retailers reporting traffic of 25 percent coming from these campaigns—that may be time well spent.