Google Shopping is growing in importance, but it can still be a relatively new tool to use for the Lead-Gen PPCer with that first e-commerce client. I’ve seen (and written) posts that go over Google Shopping campaign strategy on one end of the spectrum, or go over in-depth aspects of Shopping on the other end. My goal with this post is to be slightly more practical, as well as random. Sometimes it’s just helpful to get an insider’s view of where to focus your energy and this is my attempt at doing that for you.

Rely More on Ad Groups Than Product Groups.

When I see other Shopping Campaign builds, I often see the following.

1 Campaign
1 Ad Group
4,765,543,334 Product Groups

You know it’s overkill when you have to expand by clicking a dozen times in a Product group. One of the problems with this is that you can’t see any sense of conversion data for lower level categories (or products) so you end up having to click 101 times just get basic info!

Also, remember that Ad Groups have that beautiful piece of optimization opportunity… the negative keyword!

My suggestion here is to spend more time in account creation and build out a well named, well organized account that will help you immensely moving forward in account optimization. Keep in mind, just being able to name Ad Groups saves time since you can see at a glance the context of what is in there!

Save a puppy, use more Ad Groups in your Shopping Campaign.

Use Google Merchant Center Rather Than The GMC Interface in Adwords.

Getting client permission and access to another account can be a hassle, so just use the Google Merchant Center (GMC) interface handily provided in AdWords. Right?

Problem #1: You don’t get access to all important information in the AdWords interface and most importantly, you don’t get access to the feed. I find a surprising number of times where it’s easier for me to go directly to the feed to get information I need, especially if the client has a history of feed issues.

Problem #2: You don’t see all of the product feed fields in the AdWords interface. Before I had GMC access, I once suggested to a new client to add apparel variants and group product ids. He sent back a rather puzzled email saying he thought they were already present. Once I got access I checked out Google Merchant Center (the real deal) and sure enough, they were all there (no, he hadn’t added them since our conversation).

In fact, I just checked one of their products and GMC shows 21 fields for a certain product while that same product shows 6 fields in the Adwords GMC interface!!

If you want to do the best job you can, you really need full Google Merchant Center access.

There is a Google Shopping Quality Score.

…and now you know as much as I do about it. But seriously, Google holds this one even tighter to the chest than their search Quality Score algorithm. Frederick Vallaeys wrote a helpful on this in Search Engine Land last July: How To Improve Shopping Ad Performance & Quality Score in Adwords. As far as I can tell, no one really knows exactly how feed optimization helps Google Shopping but it does help. Along this line, Dave Schwartz at DataPop wrote an article about optimizing your feed: Yes, You Can SEO Your Product Feed.

So, dig into this more if you want. Become the Larry Kim on Google Shopping Quality Score if you like. Just know that this is part of the equation and it’s more than just bidding.

quality score rebellion ppc meme

Use Campaign Priority As Part Of Your Strategy.

Google Shopping includes a helpful new setting called Campaign Priority.

google shopping campaign priority

With this setting, a campaign with a higher priority, but lower bids would win an auction over a campaign with a lower priority setting but higher bids. Clearly, this can be very helpful with a solid Shopping strategy. For instance, Martin Roettgerding (sorry Martin, I always have to copy/paste your name) revealed his go-to strategy involving brand keyword negatives and campaign priorities that I have found helpful: Taking Google Shopping to the Next Level.

Think carefully when first creating your campaigns how campaign priority will fit into your Shopping strategy, as well as your overall PPC account strategy.

Avoid the All Products Trap of Optimization Death.

I have written on this in detail elsewhere: Is This One Checkbox Killing Your Google Shopping Strategy?. The gist of it is that the “Everything else in ‘All products’ product is by default always set to run when you create a Product group.

product group all products product

Also, even worse IMO, is that you cannot choose all products in one product group (let’s say to bulk adjust bids) without also selecting the “Everything else in ‘All products’ product, even if has been excluded. If you’re not careful, these “All Products” will start sniping all your traffic and then all your strategizing was for naught since everything gets blobbed into those.

Use Negative KWs to Funnel Traffic Between Ad Groups & Campaigns.

This may seem obvious, but I’ve observed that Google Shopping can throw your brain a little. It’s different enough that you wonder what practices from Search are good and what should be eliminated. Actually, in terms of optimization, using negative keywords for traffic funneling is one of the more powerful optimization tools in your Google Shopping belt aside from feed optimization.

Shopping can have multiple ads shown in the same SERP!

Here’s the one crucial difference between Shopping and Search campaigns where negatives are involved: Shopping can have multiple ads shown in the same SERP! In other words, don’t over-optimize so you kill of the chance for more of your relevant products to appear in the feed. However, do use negatives to prevent irrelevant or low-selling products to appear.

multiple offers in shopping serps

There is an SQR in Shopping, So Use It!.

Negative Keywords are significant means of optimizing your Shopping Campaigns. So how do you find those negative keywords? Well, just like with normal Search campaigns, by using the SQR of course!

search query report in google shopping campaigns

Make Your MPN Your Product ID.

Scenario: A client sends me a link to a product. “We want to put more emphasis into this product. We lowered the price and want you to spend some time optimizing the feed, see if you can tweak the title, description, whatever.” Me, “great!” I hop into Google Merchant Center and look for that product… oh dang, that’s right you can only search by Product ID. Let’s see, uhhh… pull open the feed, search for the product title. That’s not helpful, too many similar named products. Search for the SKU. Aha, ok now find the product ID, ok copy that, paste into GMC… there we go! That’s what I need to get an idea of what is there already.

Suggestion: Instead of giving your product IDs that would be more likely to appear in a Yugoslavian coding class, consider using the SKU or MPN that appears on your website and all literature for that product. It sounds dumb, but you would be surprised how much time this will save. I realize this isn’t possible all the time. But when you can, simplify your life!

Edit 3/24/15: Thanks to Sam Gordon for a warning regarding the ID in the comments below. I thought it was so helpful I wanted to get it into the post itself. Sam correctly notes that changing the Product ID will impact the historical data. Frederick Vallaeys writes in the previously mentioned article that this is because Quality Score is tied to Product ID. Therefore, while I don’t like crazy-looking Product IDs, I do suggest you refrain from changing all your Product IDs in an established account without being fully aware that your historical data for those products will be erased. As Frederick notes, this could be a benefit if your CTR and product history is terrible, but be warned!

Shopping Is Different.

Finally, keep this in mind. Shopping acts differently than your other campaigns and your offline channels. Obviously, results may vary, but it’s not uncommon to hear clients say “we don’t want this put up on Shopping because it’s not a high-seller for us.”

The thing is that Shopping is a little bit crazy. What if that lower volume product actually has a decent amount of searches and little Shopping competition? What if your feed is better optimized for those products since “everyone knows this product doesn’t sell well” and your products consistently appear at the the top of SERPs at low CPCs? What if? 🙂

Don’t be afraid to do a little experimentation with Shopping. I suggest still beginning with the status quo (especially on larger accounts with thousands of products), but holding that loosely and identifying a strategy for seeking out and bringing surprise converters to the forefront of your budget.

What about you? What are some other Shopping tips you would toss out to those getting in the game?