February 27, 2015
Google Shopping is a powerful way to drive sales to an e-commerce store. Typically this channel has a lower level of competition simply because of the volume of work that’s involved in creating and maintaining the product data. This means that, for the meantime, advertising in Google Shopping is pure gold!
Today we’re going to take a look at a variety of techniques and best practices that I use to maximize performance in Google Shopping, and some that I use to minimize the amount of work time.
1. Give Google High Quality Data
Creating a high quality data feed is all about the accuracy, relevancy and specifics of the product data. You should always strive to include as much information as possible. Don’t just go with the minimum requirements – stuff your data feed full of every possible attribute that’s applicable to the product.
This means it’s likely that you’re going to spend a huge amount of time visiting product manufacturer’s websites to obtain additional imagery, collecting EAN/ASIN numbers for each product and even rewriting text such as product titles and descriptions.
As a basic set of guidelines for overall quality you should pay close attention to:
- Use the biggest, best quality images you have (maximum file size 4mb).
- Keep the aspect ratio square (1:1) with a minimum height and width of 800 pixels.
- Include additional product images showing different angles, positions, features etc.
- If your product has variations (color, size, shape) then obtain an image of each and list the variants individually.
- Include important specifics such as brand, color, size and manufacturer part numbers.
- Keep the most important parts of the title at the front.
- Avoid use of unnecessary words.
- Remember that Google “may use this text to find your item”.
- Include as much as possible about pattern, texture, shape and technical aspects.
- Keep your descriptions ~750 characters.
- Don’t include any sales-like / promotional text.
- Pay careful attention to grammar and punctuation.
2. Get A Reliable Source For Your Data
Another issue with data quality is freshness. Your data feed needs to be kept up to date to ensure you don’t go ‘out-of-sync’ with the website following a price change or the removal/addition of products.
Obtaining and populating all this extra product information can be a real strain on your resources therefore minimising the amount of time spent getting the basics put together is a must.
Below I’ve listed a few ‘shortcuts’ that I commonly use to compile the basic data for the feed, leaving you more time to focus on the quality of your data.
Content API For Shopping
I highly recommend this solution for any merchant with a product range that is subject to regular change. Although the initial development work involved can seem like a daunting task, the one-off time and cost will greatly outweigh the ongoing cost of your time spent manually compiling the data and keeping it up to date.
The API can send all your product data directly to Google Merchant Center and also send regular updates that will keep your data fresh.
If the Content API for Shopping can’t be installed you will need to build the data feeds manually.
Regular Exports From The Shopping Cart’s Database
Another quick way to obtain the product data is to request an export from the shopping cart’s database and piece it all together. Some merchant’s may not be happy for you to have direct access to the database as it can contain sensitive data such as customer contact details and transaction history. It’s always worth asking if they can export the product table from the database, or asking if the shopping cart has an export feature. Unless there is a common structure to URLs you will still need to obtain the product URLs manually.
Use The ‘IMPORTXML’ Feature In Google Sheets to Scrape Data From The Merchant’s Website
This is a less common method but, in my opinion, it’s one of the fastest. Google Sheets has a function called IMPORTXML that you can use to import data from an XML document.
In a nutshell you can use Xpath to locate data on a webpage at a specified URL and import the data into Google Sheets. You can build an ‘import template’ to scrape most of the data you will need and then re-visit this template later for updates to the information. The Xpath for each element can be found quickly within the ‘Inspect Element’ feature of your browser.
You should repeat this for each element of the product page (Name, price, description etc.) then populate the sheet with every product’s URL. Simply drag the formulas down the columns to grab the product information from all the URLs. Depending on the size and layout of the website you can normally obtain the URLs by using a spider program such as ‘Screaming Frog SEO Spider’ to crawl the website.
3. Optimize Your Data and Campaigns
Group Your Products
Now that you’ve perfected your data feed it’s time to look at how you’re using it. The first attributes that you should consider using, if you haven’t already, are custom labels. Custom labels will allow you to group and filter your products into different Shopping Campaigns in Google AdWords.
Profit margin, seasonal promotions, offers and many other groupings will help you to perform bid management and create highly relevant Product Listing Ads.
Split Your Product Groups
Splitting your product groups by Item ID will allow you to set your Max CPC bids at a product level and also show you exactly how each product is performing.
Although your overall ROI (or ROAS) from Google Shopping may be positive, you could be losing money on certain products whilst making good profit on others therefore you should always set your bids at a product level.
Example: Let’s say you have one product worth $100 and another product worth $1,000. To make a profit you need to spend no more than 20% of the product’s sale price on AdWords. You have a Max. CPC bid of $0.50 set for all the products in your feed. This means it will take just 40 clicks to lose money on your first product, but 400 clicks to lose money on the second.
Splitting your product groups by custom label, brand, category etc. will also allow you to see which products (or type of products) are under-performing. This can help you to identify issues with product data, the website itself or products that are falling down against competitors. Armed with this knowledge you can make informed decisions about excluding products, changing the data feed, changing the website or proposing new product prices.
Check Your Incoming Search Term Reports
This is crucial for the success of your campaigns. As you cannot add standard keywords to your shopping campaigns you must add in a level of control by using negative keywords. Google will determine the keywords that trigger your products based on a number of factors, but the most important are without a doubt the product’s title and description.
As a general rule of thumb I’ve found that ‘generic’ keywords (those used at the start of the purchase cycle) do not work well with Google Shopping so I normally try to exclude these as early as I can. I believe the reason to be that people at the start of the purchase cycle are not yet ready to buy. So showing them a picture of a product with a price will not make them buy because they haven’t actually decided exactly what they’re looking for yet.
Product specific searches are great because the people are ready to buy. A picture of a product with a price underneath is exactly what the searcher is looking for.
Example: Let’s say I’m selling Nike Trainers.
My product title is “Nike Air Max 90 Men’s Trainers” and my description reinforces the keywords in the product title.
On my search term report I see this:
As you can see the search term [mens trainers] has a much higher cost per conversion. This is because the term has more competition than a product specific search, meaning clicks cost more, and users searching the term haven’t yet decided on what they’re going to buy.
That’s it from me for now. I sincerely hope this article helps you to create, optimize and get the most out of your Google Shopping campaigns.