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Google Shopping: Product Listing Ad & Feed Optimization Tips & Best Practices [Videos]

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google-shopping-cartGoogle Shopping's move to a paid shopping channel has generated a large amount of confusion and questions in the ecommerce world, particularly for online merchants.

In a series of six videos, CPC Strategy's CEO Rick Backus answers some of the major questions and issues surrounding Google Shopping, including Google Shopping data feed best practices, reasons why you might not want to list on Google Shopping, and how to troubleshoot issues with your Product Listing Ads.

Is There Any Reason Not to List on Google Shopping?

Listing on Google Shopping can be daunting for many online merchants. Challenges with budget, management time, and data feeds can seem like insurmountable hurdles to listing on Product Listing Ads. In this video, Rick touches on some major barriers merchants encounter when deciding whether to list on Google Shopping.

Transcript:

Is there any reason not to list your products on Google Shopping? Most people call them Google Shopping product listing ads, or PLAs.

1. Too Expensive

The first one is that it's too expensive. A lot of retailers will say that they don't have the money to pay for this channel that used to be free, and realistically, that's only a reason or an excuse if you don't understand how the program works. You can get pretty cheap traffic from this program that's really qualified, moreso than almost any other sales channel. So if your reason is that it's too expensive, you can cross that one off the list.

2. It Takes Too Much Time

The next one is too much time, you don't have time. It went from free to paid, therefore, I'm not going to manage this. You can turn Google PLAs into a program similar to Amazon, or a marketplace, where there's a locked in margin for your products. It's a way to get into PLAs, and take that excuse away.

3. Can't Create a Feed

The next one is that you can't create a feed. That's a really common reason that we hear. The problem with that one is that that's going to continue being a problem for your business if you don't address it; if you have no digital representation or no digital file of your products, then that's going to continue to become a bigger and bigger problem. If you can't create a feed, you really need to figure that out independent of the PLA program.

4. Google Sucks!

The last reason we hear a lot is that Google sucks. It used to be free, and Google's turning evil, all they care about are their margins. We hear that a lot, that Google sucks, that we don't like Google anymore. These are typically the same people who say Amazon sucks. They're typically the same people who say eBay sucks. At a certain point in time, where are you going to sell your products?

I think it's up to each retailer to realize that they're in business to make money. They can hate Amazon and they can hate Google, but you need to figure out how to work within that ecosystem, because that's where the shoppers are coming from.

Why is Bidding So Important on Google Product Listing Ads?

Prior to paid Google Shopping, where an online merchants listings appeared on Google search was wholly up to Google. Product Listing Ads bidding on paid Google Shopping allows merchants to influence where they rank on Google Shopping, and how much exposure those product ads get.

In this video, Rick highlights some major reasons bidding is important on Google Shopping, and how that affects your online listing exposure.

Transcript:

Why is bidding so important on Google product listing ads?

1. Now You Can Bid

The first reason is that you weren't able to bid on Google shopping previously, which was really frustrating for a lot of retailers, a lot of agencies. The traffic was free, which was great, but you had almost no control over the outcome in terms of where Google showed your products. If you had a product that was converting really well, you couldn't give it more exposure.

2. You Have Control Over Product Exposure

That leads us right into the second reason, which is that bidding allows you to gain control. It's awesome to be able to look at all of your products within Google product listing ads, figure out the right bid, see how that product is converting and adjust the bids accordingly. That's an option that just wasn't there before.

You can try to be as sophisticated as you want to be on Google Shopping when it's was free, and ultimately it was up to Google on how much exposure they gave your products. That's still true to a certain extent, but the bidding has shifted that responsibility over to you, and so if you're outsmarting your competitors with your bidding strategy, you're actually benefiting from that.

3. You Can Get a Top 3 Average Position

The third reason is that you can get a top 3 position. All these reasons relate to control, but getting into the top 3 position on Google product listing ads, we've seen, can give your products significantly more exposure. Google is rotating its product listing ads. Sometimes they show 3 products, sometimes they show 6, but within your average position going from 3.2 to 2.8, it can have a really big difference on how often Google is showing that product.

What Are Some Best Practices On Product Listing Ads?

Since Google Shopping is a relatively new paid shopping program, tutorials and best practices aren't as widely available as say SEO guides. In this video, Rick goes over three important elements which you should consider when managing Google Shopping.

Transcript:

What are some best practices on Google product listing ads? We get a lot of retailers who contact us who can't necessarily afford the service, or they're not an ideal fit for us to manage their campaigns, and so they just ask us what are some best practices? So, I wanted to go through the top three things that we tell to retailers when they ask for that.

1. Optimize Your Data Feed

Oftentimes, we'll look at the data feed that a retailer can provide, and it's absolute crap. It doesn't matter how sophisticated Google is, to take that feed with the information they have in it and give those products exposure, is not happening.

A lot of times when it's for smaller retailers who may only have a few hundred products, go in and rewrite the titles and go in and rewrite the descriptions and bring in someone who has SEO expertise to build up that feed. On a larger scale of 30-50,000 products, that becomes much more difficult, but if you have a small feed, that's totally realistic and that's a really good use of your time. It's a high-leverage activity, even for the business owner. That's the first tip, is to optimize your feed.

2. Monitor Your Budget

You need to have a really good idea of what you want to spend on Google product listing ads, because if you start the budget too high, Google is usually pretty good about figuring out ways to spend that money. Have an idea of what the budget is, and then start actually tweaking the bids.

3. Tweak Your Bids

You have your budget, you've optimized your feed, now figure out what you need to be bidding.

Oftentimes you have to up your bids to the point of, we've done it for some clients where we put $6 or $7 bids just to get to the rotation for Google. Your average CPC and what they will charge you won't actually be $6 or $7. Oftentimes, it's going to be 0.80 or $1. But it gets you in the rotation.

You can see where your average position is and then you can usually back off the bids a little bid and lower the average CPC. Just in general, for the same keywords on AdWords, on Google product listing ads, you can usually bid about half as much and Google's doing a really good job of only showing those products for very qualified searches. If you look at the conversion for product listing ads versus AdWords, minus branded campaigns in AdWords, product listing ads is going to convert much better. At least at this point in time, it's a really good investment.

Those are some best practices. That's a general overview, something that we would tell to someone who's new to Google listing ads.

Why Make Changes to Your Google Shopping Data Feed?

Google Shopping's ad program Product Listing Ads gives online merchants a lot of control in managing product visibility. It is imperative that you also control your Google Shopping data feed if you want to utilize Google Shopping properly. In this video, Rick outlines the importance of making data feed changes, such as creating feed labels, and avoiding Google Merchant center errors.

Transcript:

Why do you need to make changes to your data feed to impact the Google Product Listing Ads program? We get a lot of retailers who are trying to manage product listing ads but someone else is sending out their feed or there's agencies, a lot of AdWords agencies that are this program product listing ad's has kind of been thrust upon them from their clients. They look at it as a great opportunity because if they're charging a percentage of spend, they're going to make more money as an agency. A lot of times, they don't have control of the data feed. It's absolutely crucial to your success on Google Product Listing Ads to control the feed.

1. Feed = Labels

The first reason, the most important reason really is that within the feed, you can create labels. Those labels will correlate to ad groups within the Google AdWords login.

You can do anything you want with labels. We come up with really sophisticated strategies for our clients to have labels for seasonal products or we have labels for best sellers, or you can do price buckets, a label for all your products between $0-20, between $20-40, between $40-60.

These labels in breaking up your ad groups into these different groups, it helps you a lot to figure out what's performing well. A lot of agencies list an all products bid or they use categories. It depends on the merchant, but for the most part using labels is a huge advantage. You can get much more sophisticated with your strategy. That's the first reason is that the data feed and control of the data feed helps you to use labels to build ad groups.

2. Address Errors in Google Merchant Center

The next reason is errors in the Google Merchant Center login. That feed controls the errors that you're going to see within Google Merchant Center. Guess what? If you don't address those errors and you don't know which ones actually matter, Google can kick you off of Google Product Listing Ads at any time. That's usually when the frenzy starts and we get people contacting us that, "I got kicked off on Google Product Listing Ads. I don't know why." You're like, "OK, well are you managing your own data feed?" "No." "Well who's managing the feed?" "I don't know." "Well, where's your Google Merchant Center login?" "I don't know." Like, "that's why you got kicked off. You need to control the feed to be able to control the errors in the Google Merchant Center just to make sure your products are still live on Google Product Listing Ads.

3. No Feed Means No Control

The last reason and kind of the overarching theme is that if you don't control the feed as an agency or as a retailer, you really don't have any control over your Google Product Listing Ads campaign. If you actually want to make it work and you want to be sophisticated and you're an agency that wants to make sure that other agencies don't take the feed from you or don't take the client from you, or you're a retailer that wants to outsmart your competition, you have to control the feed. If you don't, then you're giving your competitors a huge competitive advantage.

How Can I Actually Get Help From AdWords Support?

Having difficulty getting a response from AdWords Support about your Google Shopping campaign? In this video, Rick reveals the best ways to get support to respond, and how to effectively communicate your issue.

Transcript:

How can I actually get help from AdWords support? We've miraculously broken through the Google barriers and now we have direct contacts. It definitely, as an agency, it took a long time, and makes our lives a lot better. Even when we didn't have a direct contact, we were able to get through. We figured out techniques that work for Google. Google reps, if you're watching this, I'm sorry, but we're outing you guys on what actually works.

1. Be Persistent

The first thing is to be persistent. If the Google rep doesn't reply to you, keep calling them and keep e-mailing them; and as annoying as it is and as much as it makes you feel like you're not important, in Google's eyes, you're not important, realistically. Just be persistent and make sure you continue to follow up with them. We've seen a trend that by the fourth or fifth time you follow up with them, there's some sort of cue that tells them, "OK, actually respond to this person, because we need to get them to stop contacting us."

2. Give Thorough Explanations

The next thing is to send really thorough emails, or, if you're on the phone, give really thorough explanations. If you can include screenshots, do so. The more thorough of an email it is, the easier it is to understand, the more likely that person is to respond to it. You can actually think of it like a dating site.

Realistically, Google's kind of like a hot chick, all these reps that are answering e-mails, they're getting hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of emails per day. You have to stand out. You need your email to be thorough to the point where you feel like you could send it to your grandma and she could read it and understand it. These people don't have time to figure out the context, they're getting contacted so much.

So, if you're persistent, if you're clear with your e-mails and you're really thorough, you're much more likely to get Google to respond to you.

What Are Some New Features On Google Shopping?

Google Shopping developers are constantly creating and refining features to facilitate the online shopping experience. In this video, Rick talks about some of the most recent Google Shopping features, including 360 images, shortlists, and Shopping Catalogs.

Transcript:

What are some new features on Google shopping?

We get asked this a lot from our clients and other agencies and retailers just, you know, "What are the new features?" And to be honest, Google is changing this stuff really fast. It is obvious that their product development teams and their developers are actively working on Google Shopping and product listing apps, which is refreshing; because when it was free, the speed and the cycle of development of these new features was really slow and so we're just going to take you into the new features.

360-Degree Images

So some of the ones that we think are really cool are the 360-degree images. Google has actually gone out, got the images from retailers and manufacturers, and they've created a really cool experience.

I know they filtered out for toys. We saw awesome conversion rates in Q4 for toys, and I think the 360-degree images had a big part in that. They're going to roll it out to other categories as well and like I said it's a cool feature, hopefully they continue to do it because it's been great for conversion rates.

Short Lists

They also have these things called short lists, and so, as Rick, I sign up for a Rick Backus short list or a CPC Strategy short list, and I can add the products in there that are relevant to me, same way on Amazon, that they have lists and there's this functionality on a lot of other sites, but it's cool that you can actually do this on Google Shopping now. And so the guy behind the camera is Chris, and Chris potentially could add stuff to my short list, or we could create a CPC Strategy one, where all the employees could add stuff to that list so it's a pretty cool feature that they've added and I would imagine it helps people to become a lot more loyal to Google Shopping.

Catalogs

The last thing that we're going to discuss in this video is the catalogs. And so, these are mostly built out through apparel but they're really cool. They replicate a catalog-like experience on Google Shopping and so you'll see it for a lot of apparel merchants, a lot of the traditional catalog companies, Google has reached out to them. They've established a relationship where Google can create an experience on Google Shopping that's very similar to what the catalog companies were doing before.

Want to learn more? Check out this Product Listing Ads Guide For Agencies.


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