Imagine you and nine other people are reading this article right now, and I set you a challenge: Find me the best price on a Rolex Yacht-Master.
Statistically speaking, half of this imaginary 10-person sample will head straight for Amazon. But three (or, to be precise, 3.6) of you will google it.
Over one-third of all product searches begin on Google. So it’s hardly surprising that Google Shopping Ads account for 76.4 percent of all retail search ad spending in the US and 82 percent in the UK.
Google Shopping isn’t just a helpful tool for consumers—it also benefits retailers because when someone clicks one of those juicy product links, they’re sent straight to the advertiser’s e-commerce store.
If you’re not already advertising on Google Shopping, you’re missing out. And if you are, it pays to wring every last cent from your budget.
Either way, these seven Google Shopping best practices will help you out.
Table of Contents
1. Start Small, Then Scale Up
If you’re new to the world of Google Shopping, the best piece of advice I can offer you is to start out with very low bids until you’ve figured out what you’re doing.
The fact is, you will make mistakes. When you do, they’ll cost you money. So it’s far better to make them when the stakes are low because your bids and budgets are minimal.
There’s another benefit to this approach, too—it forces you to focus on quality over quantity. If you immediately plow a bunch of money into your ads, you’ll almost certainly bring in a ton of traffic but a lot of that traffic won’t convert.
On the other hand, if you force yourself to stick to a tight budget, you’ll have to be highly efficient to get eyes on your products. You’ll need to maximize click-through rates (CTRs), control your bidding to improve profit margins and reduce bounce rates.
This way, you’ll be bringing in a small but steady stream of quality traffic, not a flash-flood of irrelevant shoppers looking for stuff you don’t even sell.
Once you’ve reached that point, you can turn up the tap by increasing your bids and budgets because you know what you’re doing is effective.
2. Nail Your Campaign Structure
“Campaign structure” is one of the biggest ways you can level up the performance of your Google Shopping campaigns.
Let me explain why structure matters.
The most basic campaign structure would look like this:
- 1x campaign
- 1x ad group
- 1x product group
But there’s a problem with this approach. Because there’s just a solitary product group, you’re bidding exactly the same amount for every click—no matter the search query or product.
You might be happy paying €1+ per click for high-ticket items like my beloved Rolex, but what if your imaginary watch emporium also sells low-price products, like those springy bars that attach the strap to the lug? (Yes, “lug” is the right word, I googled it.)
They only cost a couple of euros, so your bids need to be a lot lower, otherwise, you’ll lose money with every click.
Clearly, it doesn’t make sense to have one bid for all product types. So you need to build multiple product groups, based on criteria like:
- Product type; and
- Item ID.
The next step is to use custom labels to factor in more granular information.
Now, you’re in a world where you can set different bid levels based on factors like sales volume and profit margin. So if you sell two types of watch strap spring bar at €3 apiece, but one makes you a profit of €2 and the other only makes you €1.50, you can set your bids accordingly.
As a general rule, if you’re not sure how to structure your campaigns, you’re best off replicating the structure of your e-commerce store, with different campaigns for different product categories, subcategories, and brands.
3. Optimize Your Product Imagery
Google relies on the imagery provided by retailers to populate its shopping adverts.
If your imagery isn’t up to scratch, people aren’t going to click your ads. What’s more, Google understands shoppers want to see quality imagery, so it actively blocks campaigns if the visuals aren’t good enough.
Meaning, you need to improve the standard of your product imagery before you’re ready to start advertising on Google Shopping.
Fortunately, Google is crystal clear about how it wants your product photos to look. Images should:
- Be set against a solid, light-colored background. White or light gray are best.
- Be clearly and evenly lit. Google Shopping is no place for artsy lighting.
- Show the product at the right scale. It shouldn’t be too big or too small, and should take up 75-90 percent of the full image.
- Not be overly edited. Steer clear of blurring, pixelation, and vignetting your imagery. It might look pretty, but it doesn’t help shoppers get a clear view of the product.
- Clearly depict the product being sold. Close-ups and rear views are fine as supplementary images but don’t use them as the main image.
Beyond these specific rules, there are a few other best practices you should follow with your product imagery where relevant:
- Try to show off clothing products on-body;
- Provide multiple angles; and
- Depict real people wearing or using it.
4. Use Negative Keywords
Every time someone clicks your Google Shopping Ads, it costs you money. So the last thing you want is for some of those clicks to be wasted on people who weren’t even looking for the product you’re selling.
Let’s go back to my Rolex example. (Maybe if I mention them enough times, they’ll send me a free one.)
Say, your e-commerce store exclusively sells brand new Yacht-Master watches. That means you definitely wouldn’t want your Shopping ads to show up on searches like:
- Used Rolex Yacht-Master
- Refurbished Rolex Yacht-Master
- Second-hand Rolex Yacht-Master
You might also want to steer clear of terms like “cheap Rolex Yacht-Master” or “Rolex Yacht-Master deals”, plus comparison searches such as “Rolex Yacht-Master alternatives”.
If you’re only targeting the term “Rolex Yacht-Master”, you could appear in every one of those searches, despite them being irrelevant to your store.
The solution? Negative keywords.
Trawl through your search terms report and look out for the following types of keywords to exclude:
- Competitor terms: Branded queries incorporating your competitors’ names. It can be tempting to bid on rival brands, but it’s often expensive and rarely effective.
- Irrelevant terms: You don’t want to be bidding on queries for products you don’t sell, or for things that aren’t even products.
- Extremely generic terms: Sure, you sell watches. But your Rolex store is unlikely to generate a lot of sales from people searching the term “watches”.
- Out-of-stock or unlaunched products: If you don’t have the Yacht-Master 42 in stock, there’s no point bidding for it.
Purge your account of terms like these by adding them as negative keywords, then you can expect to see healthy upticks in CTR, conversion rate, and return on ad spend (ROAS).
5. Monitor for Product Overlap
Let’s say your e-commerce store doesn’t exclusively sell Rolex Yacht-Master watches and accessories. You sell other Rolexes, too, plus products from a bunch of other watchmakers.
In that case, you could be running dozens, or even hundreds, of different campaigns simultaneously. This means there’s a good chance some of your products are appearing in multiple campaigns. That’s bad news and here’s why.
Say, you have a product that appears in two different campaigns:
- Campaign one has a ROAS target of 500 percent
- Campaign two has a ROAS target of 1,000 percent
Suddenly, you’re bidding against yourself and because Google settles for the lower target, campaign two is going to beat campaign one for that duplicated product. As a result, you’ll make less money.
6. Craft Engaging Product Titles
As I’ve already noted, imagery is extremely important to the performance of your Google Shopping Ads. Pricing is another crucial factor—if you’re selling the same product as someone else but at twice the price, good luck winning those clicks.
But there’s one more element that’s too important to ignore: your product titles.
The more relevant and engaging your titles, the higher your CTR will be, and the better your campaign will perform. But how do you tell if your product titles are good?
Fortunately, we don’t have to guess. Store Growers, a specialist in Google Ads for e-commerce, analyzed 151 product titles from 120 different advertisers across 13 industries, and identified the following best practices:
- Keep product titles to the optimal length. Google allows titles of up to 150 characters, but sticking to 75-100 characters works best.
- Write numbers as digits. Write “7” instead of “seven”. 97 percent of top advertisers do this.
- Capitalize product titles. 97 percent of top advertisers use this technique.
- Use symbols for ease of reading. 70 percent of top advertisers use symbols like hyphens (-), forward slashes (/), vertical lines (|), and commas (,) to make product titles easier to digest.
- Add extra (relevant) keywords. This tip is used by 32 percent of top advertisers.
- Include your brand name. This one’s most relevant to brands, rather than retailers that stock a range of brands. Still, 44 percent of top advertisers do it.
7. Ditch Unprofitable Keywords
The Pareto Principle—otherwise known as the 80/20 Rule—declares that most things in life aren’t distributed evenly.
Esteemed economist Vilfredo Pareto formulated his principle from the observation that 80 percent of land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population.
But it applies to a lot of other things, too.
In the context of Google Shopping, you’ll likely notice that a small subset of keywords is driving a high proportion of your returns. It’s in your interest to trawl through your account, identify the biggest “losers”, and mark them as excluded.
There are lots of reasons why you might want to exclude a certain keyword. For instance:
- It’s out of season: You’re not going to sell a lot of chunky parkas at the height of summer.
- It’s out of stock: If you don’t have it, you can’t sell it.
- It’s only available in obscure sizes or colors: If you’ve only got a t-shirt left in XXXL with a hot pink colorway, it might be time to exclude that keyword.
A lot of experts like to make Google Shopping sound extremely complicated, but it really isn’t rocket science.
Sure, there are some technical elements and complex terminology to get your head around. But once you’ve done that, getting it right is mostly a case of sticking to core marketing principles.
Showcase your product effectively through words and images. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by cannibalizing your own campaigns. Identify the activity that’s driving the best results, learn from it, and roll it out across the rest of your ad and product groups.
Keep doing the simple stuff and over time you’ll see a big enough return to afford your own Rolex Yacht-Master.