Boys & Girls of All Ages: The Google Shopping Exam is here!!

That’s right, step up and give it your best shot: Google has released its Shopping Exam and today you’ll be given all the major bullet points for your studying pleasure. For those of you who’ve already taken the existing exams, hope you’re ready for a fun one today! And for you all who are still figuring out just how many you can confidently tackle, take a look at the guides to the Fundamental, Search Advanced, Display Advanced, and Analytics Exams. They’ll give you just enough oomph to move into our latest test: Shopping.

So you wanna get certified…

To be certified, you must successfully complete the Fundamentals & the Shopping Exam. This tactic is great for small ecommerce accounts where you may deal 90% of the time in Shopping campaigns and 10% in Branded campaigns here and there. If this is you, breathe a sigh of relief that you don’t need to stress over the in’s and out’s of the Display Exam any longer.

As an active participant in the world of Google PPC, however, I would highly advise taking and passing all of the available exams. It’s great for improving your own management capabilities, and plus – who doesn’t love more street cred?

So let’s review the facts

  1. You have 90 minutes to answer 63 questions.
  2. No “preview” option – just pick your poison and continue the test. You will not be able to return to any previous question.
  3. Multiple choice answers, with the occasional multiple answer.
  4. The passing score is 80%.
  5. If you do not pass, you may retake the test in 7 days.
  6. Your passing score if good for 12 months.

If I haven’t scared you off yet, let’s move on to the question that is burning in your brain:

Am I Ready To Take It?

Sure the exam is available, but should you go for it yet?

Newbs: If you’ve never used Google Shopping Campaigns before, I’d suggest you give yourself 6 months or so before stepping up to the certification plate. You should immediately, however, begin using the study guides and other helpful resources to not only prepare for the test, but also to learn how to improve your Shopping performance.

Intermediate experience levels: After reading this post, you should have a strong idea about your preparedness. There are details covered in the exam that you may want look into a bit more before jumping into this test, but overall, I’d encourage you to go for it. Follow recommended steps for preparing for any exam, but give yourself a deadline to bite the bullet and do your best.

The “experts”: You know you’ve been waiting for this day. You’re confident you’ve got more than enough experience setting up, running, and optimizing Shopping Campaigns and you’re ready. And maybe you’re simply reading this post so you don’t get blindsided halfway through the 90 minutes. Don’t worry, I’ll put the important stuff in bold so you’ll be sure to catch it!

The Material

Because it’s only 63 questions and a whopping 90 minutes, you might think you’ll just take the exam and look up every answer one by one in the handy Google Shopping Guide. This is 2015 and we know people will find shortcuts to just about everything. Let me help you in not only finishing your exam without overusing the CTL+F function, but also in actually learning a thing or two in preparation for your test.

Introductory Stuff

There are a surprising number of questions about the overarching purpose behind Shopping campaigns.

Where do PLAs appear?

What is the purpose of a PLA?

What devices can see Product Listing Ads?

There are some very big picture, and easily reasoned, questions sprinkled throughout the exam. Do yourself a favor and don’t overthink them.

Merchant Center

When it comes to the Merchant Center, your best bet is to double check the account creation process: getting your website claimed & verified, submitting your business’ information, making note in your settings if you offer “adult” products (you’ll thank me for reminding you that this exists), and so on.

It’s also important that you understand how Google will get in touch with you if there are any issues with your feed. Does this happen within the Merchant Center interface? Might they email you as the primary contact or reach out to a technical contact directly? This is important to know anyway, but for the sake of the exam, check into this detail.

Product Feed

In my opinion, it’s this category that separates the intermediate from the experts. Although not everyone has to build their own data feed from scratch, the content in the Google Shopping exam certainly assumes that you’re familiar with it.

Be sure to fully understand the processing that occurs upon submitting a first time or an updated feed, including using a test feed first. There are so many columns of data to include in a feed, you’ll want to review the required areas as well.

Although you may sell your products to any of the countries listed in the Google Shopping Help Center, you must always coordinate your feed to include products whose prices are listed in the currency of that country and in the language of that country, too. Failure to do so can get you suspended, so beware.

Surprisingly, a large focus has to do with the unique product identifiers, mpn’s and gtin’s specifically. Everyone, experts included, should be very versed in how to properly use these identifiers when stepping up to the Certification Exam plate.

Product details are also important. Although many sell new products, it’s possible to sell custom made items or antique or vintage goods. When this happens, the condition may be different, but you’ll also need to use the “identifier exists” attribute. And if your product happens to fall into multiple categories, don’t both listing them both; select one.

Save yourself some time and skim through both this and this link when it comes to feed details.

The final area to be familiar with is the proper use of custom labels. These allow for segmentation of your products once they reach the AdWords interface. This can range from “Holiday” labels to grouping your “Top Sellers,” both of which allow for further optimization and segmentation once in a Shopping Campaign. These questions surface time and time again, so be sure to take a moment when completely your exam to search for “custom label” references.

Creating & Segmenting Your Shopping Campaigns

In creating a Shopping campaign, the goal is to identify what works and how to get more of it.

When it comes to your certification, be sure to focus on the purpose product groups. What is the benefit here? What can you accomplish at the product group level that you wouldn’t at the campaign level, such as tiered bid settings?

Similarly, be sure to familiarize yourself with campaign priority settings. This can be a powerful tool is guiding Google where to start when considering products for an auction. Because Shopping campaigns may have several overlapping products, the use of bids and priorities gives direction on where to first look for eligible products.


The main strategies in Shopping campaigns at this time revolve around:

  • Segmenting products into campaigns and product groups
  • Setting more or less aggressive bids based on performance
  • Changing your budgets to better accommodate the traffic you’re encountering

Most of the “strategy” questions within this exam focus on these 3 concepts so be sure you fully understand how these approaches might be applied in varying circumstances.

When it comes to using Google-provided tools, there are three of these as well:

  • AdWords Dimension tab
  • Bid Simulator
  • Benchmark performance

Much like Google Search & Display, you may not have sufficient data to utilize all 3 of these products, at least not immediately. But as you’ve accumulated enough impression, clicks and sales, you’ll see your performance relative to your competitors. You’ll be provided with suggestions for how to improve your bidding. And, my personal favorite, you’ll be able to dig through the Shopping tab within your Dimensions report so that you can identify all the little details that will allow for improved performance, such as sales by search term and product type.


This test is a little tricky. Although I have full faith in any person who believes he or she is ready, this 90 minutes went more quickly for me than the other tests I’ve covered in past blog posts. The wording is a little jumbled, the answers a little more misleading. The content coverage, however, was spot on in the way it incorporated PPC fundamentals with the logistics of entering the PLA game and on to the bigger picture uses of these campaigns.

Overall, this new addition to the Google Certification process keeps our minds sharp and reminds us of the various ways Shopping campaigns come together to form such an important part of today’s ecommerce PPC.