The argument could be made that the Internet, in all its many applications in our daily lives, will most importantly always be a marketplace. Think hard: what is not available for purchase online? No, you can get those. That too. And, strangely enough, that’s also available.
As the planet’s marketplace, it isn’t hard to believe that Google, in their quest to have the lion’s share of everything web traffic related, has made a concerted push into the realm of e-commerce. Google Shopping, first released as Froogle in 2002, was a key growth driver of Google’s advertising revenue before it transitioned into its current “pay to play” model in mid 2012.
If you work in the realm of online retail, you are undoubtedly familiar with Google Shopping. The platform is one of the biggest revenue drivers for both its users and Google itself. Its engaging, user-friendly format commands a high click-through rate. With this, and unfortunately for you, the retailer, the ROAS (Return on Advertising Spending) can be incredibly lucrative, but competitively quite fierce. The average cost per click (CPC) has increased rapidly and only continues to rise.
So how can you, as someone looking to begin or improve their Google Shopping strategy, easily and effectively work in this sphere?
When CellularOutfitter.com began using Google Shopping, revenue was a trickle. But as we optimized our campaign structure, through hundreds of tests and iterations, we gradually developed a structure that was optimized at the highest level.
Here’s how we did it:
CLEAN YOUR FEED
This easiest and important thing to do: Clean your feed. Elite performance in Google Shopping begins (and possibly ends) with the quality and cleanliness of your feed. Google harvests and indexes your feed, serving what it deems the most appropriate match to a user’s search query. If your feed is cleaned and optimized, you will have a key advantage in the impression share, cost per click, and click-through rates.
Start with the Item title. Most e-commerce companies will simply import their product titles into this column. However, Google Shopping results will present keyword matches in bold in an effort to help users easily find what they are looking for. Be savvy and harvest your top search queries (in terms of revenue or traffic) and optimize your product titles for visibility and impression share.
We had a high performing query of “Galaxy S5 TPU cases” in our text ads. We modified one of our products to be titled with this exact keyword, which gave this SKU more visibility in the Google Shopping results.
Next, focus on your item description. Do the same thing with your descriptions as you did with your titles. Find your high performing keywords and incorporate these into your descriptions. For example, when we found that “Up to 88% off Retail Prices” gave us the highest click-through rate and conversion rates, we changed our ad copy to incorporate this in our SKU descriptions.
After this, focus on optional fields. Many companies are simply too lazy to fill these out. By adding fields such as color, product variants, and product sale information, you allow users to better narrow their search results as well as allowing Google to index better information about your products.
Lastly, make good use of the “Google Label” fields. These fields allow you to segment your feed into different sections that you can use for different optimization techniques. For example:
- You can segment your SKU catalog into different profitability buckets. If you have differences in your gross margin profile within this catalog, label your SKUs with a “low”, “medium”, or “high” margin designation.
- You can segment your SKU catalog by category. This will play a big role in our Alpha/Beta campaign (see below). In addition, you’ll also be able to quickly discern performance differences between the categories and make adjustments.
- You can segment your SKU catalog by sale velocity or revenue contribution. Some SKUs sell massive quantities daily while others collect spiderwebs. By developing a metric for sale velocity attached to an SKU, you can ensure that those driving the business receive a strong, concerted effort for maximum impression share in the Google Shopping marketplace.
IT’S ALPHA/BETA TIME!
I wrote a whole article on how Alpha/Beta structure can dramatically improve an AdWords campaign <<link to blog post>>. This method is also incredibly effective for boosting your Google Shopping structure. By default, when you set up your feed, you instantly give Google a lot of control. They decide which SKUs appear for each search query. They decide what is served in what proportion. You really only have a few options to influence performance.
So how can you drive your SKUs into your customer’s search results?
The Alpha/Beta structure allows you to continuously gain insights about your campaign and maximize performance, while taking the control back from Google. Here’s a handy map of how this process looks:
We start with the “catch all” campaign. This campaign will simply bid on all the products in our feed at the lowest acceptable bid possible that garners a decent amount of impressions.
For example: we have a catalog of 500,000 clothing SKUs and we set the bid to .50 cost-per-click. The priority will be “low” (this setting allows Google to better make sense of how it should deliver traffic if there are multiple campaigns utilizing our feed).
The goal of the “catch all” campaign is to monitor and harvest our feed for new SKU optimizations. If a segment or individual SKU is performing well, we’ll harvest that SKU and build it out into its own ad group. If it is performing poorly, it would be a red flag for us to monitor.
After the “catch all” campaign, we’re going to utilize either the Google custom labels or the Brand/Category columns for our first layer campaign.
Continuing with our clothing store, we’ll next build out campaigns that represent the next tier of keywords that might present themselves in the sales cycle. The first layer should be designed to secure search queries at the upper layer, so the campaign structure might appear as such:
- Catch All
- Category – Socks
- Category – Ties
- Category – Pants
- Category – Shirts
These categories should have the following attributes:
- A medium priority. This sets them apart from the “catch all” campaign. If our “catch all” was set to .50 CPC, we’ll set this category bid to .65.
- Promotion text. Since we are beginning to figure out this user, we will construct specific ad copy that matches the user’s intent. For example, for socks, we’ll craft something like “Choose from over 50,000 socks at prices up to 88% below retail.”
- Create the campaign. Set ad group settings and add a category, brand, or Google Custom Label filter to only allow a certain group of SKUs to be shown.
As your “catch all” and “first layer” continue to collect data, they will begin providing you with enough insights for you to craft more and more specific layers to your campaign. Eventually, you’ll be able to create SKU-specific ad groups that target one ID. For example, you’ll begin setting campaigns for specific colors and styles of socks and seeing the ROI on them. This data will inform how you structure your bids (still set to “medium”) as you continue to refine.
This moves our Alpha/Beta campaign to the final layer, which is SKU specific. This is the most important, as it gives you total control over the performance of these SKUs and allows you to monitor each nuance. This campaign, refined to perfection, should have its priority set to “high.” This will ensure that AdWords will always show the SKUs you want, when you want.
As your SKU-specific campaigns gather more data, you will start to exhibit complete control over your Google Shopping traffic. From here you can constantly re-evaluate your “Alphas” so that your high performing SKUs stay in focus.
TIPS AND TRICKS
After running Google Shopping campaigns for many years and spending millions in ad spend, I have a few insider tips, tricks, and techniques for improving the return on investment in your own campaigns.
- SKU Exclusion Tool. No matter what, there are always a few SKUs that lose money. The duds, so to speak. Since we don’t want to waste too much time figuring out why this occurs, we might want to just completely exclude them from being served. Doing this manually can be a pain; but creating an automatic SKU Exclusion Tool can be easily built and implemented. Simply add the SKU to a list in .CSV format, and when your feed is generated nightly, those SKUs would be completely removed from our feed.
- Negative Keyword Tool. We built a tool that would quickly use an Excel file to build a negative keyword list. By adding a host of broad/phrase match negatives to the Shopping campaign, we would save thousands of dollars in unprofitable ad spend per month and be able to immediately reinvest this in more profitable areas of the AdWords account.
- Query Mapping. Export your list of search queries from your Google search campaigns into one Excel file. Then export another list of your Shopping campaign search queries into another. Perform a VLOOKUP and find mismatches in the files. These represent proven opportunities that you can quickly exploit for profit.
A high performing Google Shopping campaign can be evasive, but with a little work, you can rise to the top. Aim for hyper-specific, optimized campaigns that annihilate your lazier, broader competition. Take the time to clean your feed and run Alpha/Beta campaigns. Do this and watch your profitability jump.