If you’re like most online retailers, your company invests a fair amount of money in Google Shopping campaigns, and for good reason: Your ad will appear in the consumer’s viewpoint at the exact moment he or she is about to make a purchase.
But what happens if, despite your investments, your campaign dollars just aren’t delivering the ROI you expected? Rather than jettison your initiatives, spend some time troubleshooting your campaigns. It will take you some time and most of all, lots of testing, but it can make the difference between okay sales and a truly banner year.
A Few Words Before We Get Started
On the face of it, launching Google Shopping campaigns seam simple enough: generate a product feed, send it to the Google Merchant Center for verification, and watch the sales come in. We wish it were that simple, but it’s not.
The truth is, Google Shopping is inherently complex. If you’ve ever Googled “Google Feed optimization” you will have discovered numerous agencies dedicated to the task. And there’s no shortage of thought-leadership articles on the best ways to configure a feed by industry sector.
But if you plough through all of those thought leadership pieces you’ll understand an important take away: There’s no one prevailing approach that works best for all retailers. There’s simply no way to get around the trial and error that’s part and parcel to successful Google Shopping campaigns.
Get a Product Feed Generation Tool
The first step to launching a Google Shopping campaign is to generate a Google Shopping Feed (aka product feed), which can be notoriously complex and rule-ridden. There are many companies that offer Magento extensions to help ease the burden, and you should use one. At Something Digital, we like this Google Shopping Feed for Magento , which, by the way, is also recommended by the Google AdWords team.
Of course, there are others fine tools, such as ChannelAdvisor, but we prefer the aforementioned shopping feed because of the way it walks you through the entire process to ensure your Google Shopping Feed is accurate and complete before you submit it to Google Merchant Center. This is critical, since the Merchant Center checks your product feed to ensure it complies with all of Google’s requirements for campaigns. And it offers a terrific integration and configuration guide.
You can (and should) opt to regenerate your product feed on a daily basis to check for product or pricing updates. If you aren’t checking it daily and it’s out of compliance, you’ll need to spend time correcting it, potentially missing sales while you do so.
Once you’ve generated a product feed, you’ll need to link it to your Google Merchant Center, which you can do via your Google AdWords account.
Your product feed is used to generate the visual and informational components of your AdWords ads, and Google Merchant Center ensures it’s configured properly, and meets all of Google’s requirements. It will also tell you if you’re missing components or data that will help your ads perform better.
Troubleshooting Google Shopping Campaigns
There are many reasons why your Google Shopping campaigns deliver poor results, but some are more common than others. Let’s look at the issues we hear about most frequently.
Setting an Optimal Bidding Strategy
High spending with poor return is one of the most common complaints we hear. Poor ROI may be due to many different factors, and troubleshooting will be required.
Begin by examining your competitors on a campaign level. You may find, for instance, that you’re competing against an Amazon Google Shopping Ad, and that competition is driving up the price. That’s why it’s important that you look at:
- Who your competitors are
- What their bidding strategy is
- How much they are spending per click
This exercise will help you home in on your own bidding sweet spot. To find this data, go to the Details tab of the campaign from within Google AdWords. That tab offers an Option Insights section, which provides a breakdown of all the companies that compete with you for Google Shopping real estate. It also provides the impression-share percentage (the percentage of impressions that you and your competitors win).
From there you can do additional research to discover what your competitors bid for each click, but it will require additional tools that provide approximate bidding information.
What happens if you learn that deep-pocketed competitors – eBay, Amazon, Jet.com – are going head-to-head with you? You can:
- Stop running all of your products in your Google Shopping Campaigns and focus on niche products that are unique to you.
- Think of Google Shopping as a branding tool rather than a performance one. Of course it will lower your ROI, but it may raise awareness of your shop among consumers.
Product Grouping in Feed
Let’s say you’re a retailer that offers many different brands across a range of apparel items. There are many ways to group them: by brand, price and product category (clothing, shoes, accessories); which is right for you?
There’s no one answer for every retailer, which is why we recommend testing multiple configurations to see which delivers the best results. It’s entirely likely that you’ll have multiple product-specific campaigns, each using a different configuration.
For instance, you may need to compete on price for a popular style shoe, in which case, grouping these styles by price is the right strategy. Meanwhile, you may offer a wider variety of jackets than your competitors, and grouping them by category is the way to bring more shoppers to your store.
Touts & Shopping Promotions
Are your ads distinguished from your competition? Are they attracting consumers to your site?
Touts are callouts that draw attention to your ads. There are two types: promotion, such as free shipping, or consumer reviews. You can configure touts using Google Shopping Promotions Feed, but note that this is an additional step.
The Shopping Promotions Feed – like Google Shopping in general – has many rules that must be followed, and it can get rather confusing. You can’t simply offer site-wide free shipping because Google requires an offer code associated to each product There are ways to get around Google’s configuration requirements, but it’s a learning curve to figure out how to get the information you want to show up to actually show up.
Simple vs Configurable Products
This is an area where that may (or may not) make a difference in your site traffic volume. Depending on how your products are set up, you may have the option to configure your products so that your ads reflect the exact information a consumer searches on (e.g. “Joe’s Denim skinny jeans size 28”). This option is warranted if consumers typically want to ensure a site has their size prior to clicking on an ad.
The final issue we see occasionally is internal competition for ad space, which occurs when a retailer has multiple sites that offer common products. Be sure to check the impression share (mentioned above) on a regular basis to ensure you’re not sabotaging your own AdWords spend.
These are steps you can take on your own. If you check for these trouble spots and still can’t improve your ROI, then we suggest you engage an expert.
If you have questions about your Google Shopping Feed let us know!
Like this blog? Check out this blog on website personalization.
Written by: Lindsay Pugh, Digital Strategist