This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
Last month, I discussed how to use proper segmentation to optimize the performance of Dynamic Search Ads campaigns and why segmentation is vital for success. Segmentation also plays a large part in the success of shopping campaigns.
If you’re not already familiar, shopping campaigns promote your online inventory of products by matching search queries to ads that feature these products. These ads, known as product listing ads, can appear in Google search results or on the Google Shopping results page.
Shopping campaigns generally benefit from high click-through rates and low CPCs. With segmentation, the value of shopping campaigns increases. Reporting on specific product performance becomes even easier. Product bidding becomes more accurate. And, overall product management improves through better organization.
If you’re a digital advertiser new to shopping campaigns, the steps below can help you successfully leverage this campaign type.
Proper segmentation doesn’t actually begin in the AdWords interface. The foundation of a highly organized and structured shopping campaign truly starts with the data feed. The data feed contains all the product data that’s uploaded to the Google Merchant Center. The Merchant Center essentially houses all the product data and makes it available to Google and Google Shopping.
To make sure proper segmentation within AdWords is possible, include as much data as possible for each product. For segmentation purposes, it’s vital to include the brand, condition, Google Product Category, and product type attributes. You also have the ability to include up to five custom labels that you can segment by. We’ll touch more on that later.
I strongly recommend having values for not only the required data attributes, but as many of the optional attributes as well. Google is more likely to reward products with rich data with a higher impression share and better ad position. So, there are incentives for fleshing out your data feed as much as possible, beyond just functionality.
Once your foundation (accurate product data) is set, you first need to figure out what type of segmentation makes the most sense for your business. To go back to the online luxury jewelry store from my last article, if I’m selling different brands of jewelry, I know that select brands are more popular than others. Because of this, I want to be able to bid differently for each brand in my inventory.
So, for this example, it makes sense to first segment, or subdivide, my shopping campaign by the Brand attribute. Selecting the correct starting subdivision immediately improves my ability to bid better, as I now have organized product groups that provide insightful data that allow me to bid more accurately than if they were grouped together.
Let’s imagine my online jewelry store sells Cartier, among other brands. After first subdividing all my products by brand, I now have a product group specifically for Cartier products. While this is great, I know that I get different returns from different product types, such as rings, bracelets, or necklaces. So, I want to be able to set bids for each individual Cartier product group.
What I would then do is segment that Cartier group by the product type attribute. Now, I have the ability to bid for Cartier rings separate from Cartier bracelets. Once you have your first subdivision completed, you can continue to subdivide until you believe you have the correct product organization for your business.
Keep in mind that each time you subdivide by another attribute, the bid will be placed at the resulting product groups. While this gives you improved bidding and a clear understanding of what products drive revenue for your business, you don’t want to subdivide too much. This could make the product group too small to get any valuable data from and optimize around.
Earlier, I mentioned that in addition to the Google required data attributes, you have the ability to create up to five custom labels for each product. Utilizing these labels allows you to be a bit more creative with the segmentation of your shopping campaign than the standard parameters Google allows, and to better segment by attributes that make the most sense for your business goals.
For example, let’s say my jewelry store categorizes products by expected popularity. A product could be given a rating of High, Medium, or Low. By including this rating in the custom label column, I could then subdivide my initial brand segment by this custom label, and bid up for the most popular products and bid low for less popular items.
Let’s say my jewelry store sells Cartier watches. Imagine these product listing ads have a great click-through rate but a poor conversion rate due to the high price point. Over time, these clicks result in wasted spend and drag down the efficiency of the account. To avoid a poor ROI moving forward, I can exclude Cartier watches from my shopping campaign.
Product exclusion is an effective way of improving performance by removing items from your shopping campaign that carry low ROI. Product exclusion can also be used to organize your shopping campaigns. To exclude products, click the max CPC column for that particular product group and then check Excluded.
Each year, the US Search Awards recognizes the best and brightest brands among the world’s leading search and digital agencies and professionals. We compiled advice from eight of this year’s judges on what every brand should do to optimize their PPC campaigns.
This year’s awards will take place at Paris Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 7th. For more information and to enter, visit the US Search Awards website.
Inbound Marketing Manager, Cisco Systems | @DPease
Monitor Your Extension Performance
With all the hype around ad extensions, we can sometimes get caught up in “extension excitement” – putting site links, callouts, and location extensions on our ads to provide a better user experience. But it’s important to monitor the performance of your extensions, to ensure they’re really working for you in the way you want them to. Create a reminder – and check on a bi-weekly basis. If you have an extension that’s not performing, make adjustments or try removing it. Extensions are a great way to expand your ad, but they need to be monitored.
Head of Strategy for America’s Advertising, Google | @Matt_Mcgowan
RLSA. Do it. It amazes me how many clients don’t add the tag to their sites. For free, you can bring together intent, context, and audience to help your business drive sales and leads with great ROI. With remarketing lists for search ads, you can modify bids, ads, and keywords for past site visitors. For example, people visit your sports apparel site to check out available styles, and look at the shoe section of the site. You could add these shoppers to a “Shoe category” list. Then, the next time they search for running shoes on Google you could bid more for them. More here.
UK Industry Expert | @Smartrich
You absolutely have to be leveraging Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP) these days. At a recent SAScon event, Larry Kim highlighted the low CPCs that early adopters of the format have benefited from. One great tip is to run a campaign targeting Gmail accounts containing newsletters from your competitors, remembering to negative your own keywords to avoid upsetting existing customers.
Global Head of Biddable Media | @Jimbanks
Anticipate the device your users will be on and have ads that reflect that context. If someone is on mobile, then having the CTA as “Call” or “Tap” will get higher CTR (TTR – Tap Through Rate) than “Click”. Dayparting is now a 168-hour a week function, and device, location, and time of day/day of week will help or hurt more than keyword, bid, or ad.
Digital Marketing Strategist, Author, Speaker, Networker, and Columnist; Sustainable Digital Marketing | @SEOPllyAnna
Look at the performance of high-volume, general PPC ads and test the content for titles and meta descriptions. For example, the shipping message “same day shipping” performed better in Paid than the message “fast shipping”. Test the better performing message CTR and conversion to see if you get lift in Organic Search the same way you did in Paid Search.
Senior Account Manager, Hanapin Marketing; Founder of #PPCChat | @Matt_Umbro
In order to quickly find keywords that are costing too much and not providing enough (or any) conversions, create an automated rule. I’ll generally create a rule that runs weekly and looks at the last 30 days’ worth of data. I’ll set the rule to identify all keywords that have seen at least 50 clicks and zero conversions. I’ll have these keywords emailed to me so I can choose whether to change my bids, pay particularly close attention to the search queries, and/or pause the keywords all together. You can adjust the filter as you see fit, but this rule helps to easily find poor performing keywords.
Bing Ads Evangelist | @Jmgagnon
To bid or not to bid? Bid. And, there’s finally concrete data. Bing Ads completed a study measuring the number of clicks a brand received when they were the top organic spot alone, versus the top organic spot plus the top paid ad.
After looking at three million impressions on brand searches for retail during 2014, the study found advertisers saw an incremental 31 clicks for every 100 brand searches when a paid search ad was used in combination with the top organic result. That’s huge!
Only 11 of those clicks would have been received anyways. Adjust your CPA lower by about 18% to account for the overlap – and you have a concrete strategy for bidding on your brand terms.
Owner, Beetsonomics | @Beeston
If you’re a retailer, then of course you’re running Shopping campaigns. But your campaigns will only be as good as the product or inventory feed that powers them. Spend as much time optimizing your feed as you would any other part of the campaign, making sure you have the right imagery and search-friendly titles. As you can use the feed with Bing Shopping Campaigns (now in beta), Facebook Product Ads, and Google Shopping, the optimization will pay off more than once.
The deadline for submitting an entry to one of the 22 categories in the US Search Awards is the 17th of July, so download the entry form today and you could be a worthy winner at the glittering Las Vegas event in October during Pubcon!
Now that you are well-versed in the changes coming with Google Shopping campaigns, you are probably busy preparing to make the upcoming transition. However, given the changes Google has made to the way campaigns are structured, it can be confusing to figure out how to best set things up to suit your business needs.
In an effort to make Shopping campaigns easy to use, Google decided to structure them in a hierarchical format. This means that users can essentially break down their entire inventory into different product groups all under a single over-arching ad group. While this is indeed easier to implement, large advertisers may find this new structure to be more restrictive and struggle with how to best optimize their campaigns to achieve maximum ROI for each campaign segment or product line.
Maintaining all your campaigns in a single ad group will confine them – regardless of their different objectives and outcomes – to a single economical goal, which ultimately prevents bidding flexibility. This is where Marin can make a big difference. Using Marin’s flexible folders, you can easily create and control bidding strategies for ad groups based on their performance and efficiency goals. This is beneficial for many retailers that wish to bid different shopping campaign segments or product lines to different efficiency targets.
Additionally, savvy advertisers should use the mobile bid adjustment setting at the ad group level to optimize their campaigns across devices. Marin’s mobile bid adjustment recommendation (MBAR) tool can facilitate this task at scale on shopping campaigns with multiple ad groups.
The big takeaway? By simply breaking out your Shopping campaigns into multiple ad groups, you will be able to leverage the power of Marin’s bid optimization tools and have better control of your advertising budget, while enjoying all the perks that Google Shopping campaigns has to offer!
Google Shopping campaigns are a great opportunity for retail advertisers to review their current PLA campaigns and optimize them for even better results. However, as many retailers are managing sometimes millions of products across thousands of brands and hundreds of feeds, adapting to and mastering the new Shopping campaigns system can seem like a huge undertaking.
Below we’ve provided seven tips to help you succeed during (and well after) the campaign migration process:
Going beyond basic campaign management strategy, advertisers can obtain additional control and visibility over Shopping campaigns by following more advanced tips:
For more best practices to ensure a seamless transition to Google Shopping campaigns, check out our full-length guide here.
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the new changes and functionalities you can expect from Google Shopping campaigns, it’s time to nail down where to start in your transition prior to the August rollout.
The first thing to note is that regardless of how an advertiser’s existing PLA campaigns are set up today, there are several steps that they will need to take to migrate these campaigns over to the new Shopping campaigns in a smooth and seamless manner. Here’s where to start:
Once Google Shopping campaigns are up and running, advertisers should monitor and analyze performance metrics to ensure that they are getting their desired results. These performance metrics should also be used to determine how to best optimize their campaigns going forward.
While the features of Google Shopping campaigns are aimed at providing advertisers with an improved and more streamlined user experience, you should also be aware of the changes that have been made to some existing functionality with the same objectives in mind. Below is a rundown of what’s changed:
Now that you’re armed with the tools to begin making this transition, be sure to stay tuned for tips on how to get the most out of your Google Shopping campaigns once you’ve gotten started.
In February, Google Shopping campaigns became available to all advertisers globally. Shopping campaigns redefined the way retail advertisers manage and report on Product Listing Ads, offering additional flexibility, visibility, and control marketers truly appreciate. Though advertisers can continue managing standard PLA campaigns successfully, Google announced today that all advertisers must fully transition to Shopping campaigns by late August 2014. After this date, advertisers will no longer be able to manage PLAs through standard Search campaigns, and all remaining PLA campaigns will be automatically upgraded to Shopping campaigns. This transition, similar to enhanced campaigns, represents a challenge and opportunity for retail advertisers.
What Do I Need To Do?
From now until the transition date, advertisers can continue managing and optimizing PLAs through standard Search campaigns. Since the auction landscape for PLAs was not affected by the introduction of Shopping campaigns or the mandatory transition, advertisers can continue running standard campaigns without adversely impacting PLA performance. Keep in mind Shopping campaigns and standard campaigns can run in tandem, ensuring the transition process can be executed successfully over time and according to retailers’ business needs.
How Do I Migrate?
There are five critical steps for transitioning to Google Shopping campaigns:
1. Prepare your feed for transition.
Review your product_type, adwords_labels, and adwords_grouping values. Products you plan to target as a group and bid on using product_type should have exactly the same value in the product_type attribute. Keep in mind that product types can only be subdivided five times.
For shopping campaigns, adwords_labels and adwords_grouping attributes aren’t supported. The new custom_label attribute can be used instead; however it’s limited to five labels per product.
2. Plan your transition process.
Take time to plan out your transition and consider restructuring your PLA strategy according to best practices and business needs. For advertisers managing a large number of product targets, a phased transition schedule is recommended.
3. Create a Google Shopping campaign.
For a single transition, create a Shopping campaign and subdivide product groups based on performance and business needs, then pause the old PLA campaign.
For a phased transition, create a Shopping campaign and systematically subdivide high volume and top performing products; pausing old PLA targets as new objects are created in your new Shopping campaign. If new groups don’t map directly to existing targets, you’ll need to have both PLA campaigns active, setting the new Shopping campaign priority setting to “high.”
4. Subdivide products within your new Shopping campaign.
Keep in mind that advertisers get performance data at all levels for all products, regardless of how product groups are organized. However, since product groups can only be subdivided five times, how these groups are organized becomes very important. It’s recommended that advertisers subdivide product groups first by product attributes that support more granular, subsequent subdivisions. For example, product_type > brand > id.
5. Analyze and optimize.
As with any transition and migration, be sure to monitor performance and ensure all of your products are receiving consistent coverage and driving similar outcomes. Review and familiarize yourself with the new CPC and CTR benchmark metrics as well as impression share. These will provide insight into the auction landscape and enable you to make smarter decisions when optimizing bids and product groups.
For additional guidance, please review Google’s recommended steps for transitioning to Shopping campaigns and work with your solution provider to establish an appropriate timeline.
What’s Marin’s Timeline for Support?
A beta program for Google Shopping campaigns will become available well in advance of the transition date. General availability for campaign management, streamlined reporting, URL Builder functionality, and integrated bid optimization is scheduled shortly after the conclusion of the beta. For more information on Marin’s Shopping campaigns beta, release schedule, and transition plan, please contact your customer engagement and customer success teams.
Google’s Product Listing Ads represent a highly effective channel for online retailers of all sizes, exposing new buyers to your products and driving purchases. Listing products on Google Shopping with rich product information such as price, image, color/size, SKU number and your brand name creates an engaging user experience that is difficult to get on other marketing channels available today.
I’ve managed PLAs in the past for online retailers and marketplaces and gained a lot of insight from my experience in building campaigns from scratch and analyzing performance data to make decisions. Here are five quick ways to optimize your PLA campaigns to ensure your spend yields positive returns and to get ahead of your competition.
1. Use search query and negative keywords to stop wasting spend. Since Google doesn’t allow you to specify keywords to target for PLAs, and because search results appear based on the information you have within your data feed, I recommend using negative keywords to add in some control. Negative keywords essentially tell Google what keywords you do not want products to show up for. This is useful because you don’t want to pay for clicks not relevant to your products.
For example, let’s say you’re online book retailer. Even if you’re trying to sell “The Hunger Games” book, Google will show your product ad to people searching for “Hunger games DVD.” Because you don’t sell the DVD and because the search isn’t relevant to the ad displaying, you will want to add “DVD” as a negative keyword.
To figure out what keywords you may want to exclude, you need to generate a search query report. In AdWords, do this by going to your Keywords tab within your PLA campaign. Then navigate DETAILS> SEARCH TERMS > ALL. This will populate the report you need in order to make your decision.
To kick it up a notch, use performance data with the search query report to evaluate which keywords are truly working or failing. Install the Google Conversion Tracking pixel on your conversion pages to see conversion data tied with the search queries generated from the report. This way, you can see what keywords are performing poorly and optimize for a better experience or pull the ad.
2. Regularly send a high quality data feed. It’s very important that you send Google the most updated feed with all fields populated. If you know the frequency of how fast your inventory will move or when price changes occur, it is best to submit in those feed changes immediately. This can vary, depending on whether you’re a small retailer with fixed pricing and few price specials, or a marketplace where pricing is controlled by individual sellers. It’s best to schedule the feed when your website and/or products get updated. Keep it fresh!
3. Ensure the product landing page matches up to the description in your data feed. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve encountered a bad data feed due to data processing errors, such as incorrect product information scrapped from the database or incorrect prices. It’s crucial to ensure that the product to landing page experience is flawless and what the customer expects to see. Even a slight price difference from the ad to the landing page – or worse, an out of stock item – may be a bad enough user experience to make users bounce away.
4. Test new product images. If you’re one of the online retailers that uses stock images for your products, then keep in mind that you’re not helping yourself stand out from the competition. If you’re looking for a boost in CTR and want to drive clicks away from your competitors, consider using your own product images.
For example, let’s say you’re an online retailer specializing in outdoor apparel with a product line of North Face jackets. Differentiate yourself by using your own models; humanize the products instead of showing the standard stock image that everyone else uses. If you’re a retailer that has hundreds to thousands of products, this may not be feasible so focus on your highest revenue potential products.
5. Identify products with the most clicks. Due to reporting limitations of PLAs, it’s difficult to pull a report that lists out products that have generated the most clicks. Given this, it’s important to make sure your own web analytics tools are set up to properly track and evaluate performance. Using your web analytics or third party tool, generate a report to get an understanding of which products are generating the most clicks. You will then be able to evaluate the performance, good and bad, and make a decision on how to optimize.
The rule of thumb for this exercise is to identify winners to bid higher. Or identify losers wasting spend to kill or improve. If the product ad performance is not as you expect, be sure to test out that experience to see why people are not converting as expected.
These five actionable items will ensure a great start to a healthy PLA campaign that will allow you to rise above your competitors. To learn more about Product Listing As, check out our latest whitepaper:
The State of Google Shopping: Mobile Shoppers & Record PLA Spend Drive Success for Retailers.
2013 marked the first full year of Google Shopping since the transition to a commercial model built on PLAs. With Google Shopping campaigns slated for release later this quarter, retailers must not only prepare for the upcoming changes to AdWords, but also familiarize themselves with shifting PLA trends in the new shopping landscape. To help advertisers remain competitive and win the battle for revenue online, Marin has released the 2014 annual research brief, examining the current state of Google Shopping. Analyzing year-over-year performance, with a focus on the holiday season and consumer engagement across devices, this reports provides a comprehensive breakdown of PLA performance in 2013 and insight into what retailers should expect in 2014.
Our research started by analyzing the meteoric increase in spend on PLAs throughout 2013, especially during the holiday season. Significant year-over-year increases directly linked to the rise in competition as more advertisers increased invest in PLAs, drove CPCs to historic levels. With advertisers continuing to allocate more budget towards PLAs and away from text ads, the search industry is undergoing a dramatic shift. The seemingly overnight success of PLAs and the emergence of hotel price ads (HPAs) foreshadow a search landscape where advertisers, whether in retail, automotive, or financial services, will have at their disposal richer and more engaging, industry-specific ad formats. These will undoubtedly emerge over the next two years.
The findings in this report not only impact advertisers across industries, but also how advertisers engage their customers across devices. During the holiday season, retailers witnessed shoppers favoring smartphone PLAs over its desktop and tablet counterparts. Not only were they cheaper, but smartphone PLAs also outperformed PLAs delivered on desktop and tablet devices from a CTR perspective. If 2013 was the year of mobile, or more accurately, enhanced campaigns, then 2014 is certainly the second year of mobile. Marin predicts that by December 2014, 40% of all PLA clicks will occur on smartphones. That’s a lot of clicks that retailers will need to provide a mobile optimized shopping experience for.
For more 2013 PLA trends, findings, and predictions, download our 2014 annual report, The State of Google Shopping: Mobile Shoppers & Record PLA Spend Drive Success for Retailers.
In October of 2012, Google successfully transitioned Google Product Search in the US to a commercial model built on Product Listing Ads (PLA). Though this enhanced shopping experience was faced with both criticism and praise when it was announced in May 2012, advertisers have seen PLA campaigns perform with a great deal of success. In fact, by the end of September 2012, over 100,000 retailers had inventory in Google’s new shopping model just in time for the holiday season.
One month ahead of the transition, the impression share of PLAs to standard text ads was 3.9% to 96% respectively. By the end of December, PLAs were receiving 60% more (6.1%) of the total impressions. This rapid growth in impressions share was not only due to more online retailers deploying PLA campaigns, but also the increase in product related searches during the holiday season.
However, the steady increase in click share from 2.1% in January 2012 to 6.6% (210% growth) in December indicates that shoppers are finding these PLAs, rather than standard text ads, to be more relevant to their search queries regardless of seasonality. The enhanced shopping experience and increase in relevancy is further supported by the gradual increase in click-through rate (CTR) from January 2012 through December. As seasonality became more of a factor in Q4, CTR for PLAs surpassed that of standard text ads in November and December.
This trend has far reaching implications as standard text ads cost more per click than PLAs during Q4 2012. For retailers, this means that PLAs are not only cheaper, but they perform far better than standard text ads during the busiest shopping season of the year. Of course, with the increase in PLA adoption by online marketers and increase in clicks by shoppers during the holiday season, the share of spend by PLA campaigns jumped from 0.36% in October to 2.5% (600% growth) in December. In fact, in Q4 alone many retailers allocated as much as 30% of their total spend on Google towards PLAs. This speaks volume to the incremental growth in spend on Google as a result of the Product Search transition. In 2013, online retailers will undoubtedly allocate additional budget towards PLAs, continuing to build on the momentum gained in 2012.