What is a conversion rate, and what does it really mean for you as a business owner? In this guide, we’ll break down the definition of a conversion rate, show you the formula for calculating conversion rates, and help you identify whether your conversi…
What is a conversion rate, and what does it really mean for you as a business owner? In this guide, we’ll break down the definition of a conversion rate, show you the formula for calculating conversion rates, and help you identify whether your conversion rate is low or high. At the end of the article, […]
In this guide, we’re diving into Google Shopping campaign setup and execution. Here we’ll teach you the nuts and bolts of setting up, optimizing, and executing your ads campaigns.
In this guide, we’re going to share the strategies and tactics we use to help our clients set up and run top-performing Google Shopping campaigns. We’ve previously written case studies and strategy articles (which we link to below) around Google Shopping, but in this piece, we’re diving into campaign setup and execution and linking to our other resources for readers looking for more detail on any particular topic.
Google Shopping consists of two platforms—Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) and Google Merchant Center. Google Merchant Center is where your product data feed lives and Google Ads is where you can build and optimize your campaigns, set your budget and adjust your bid strategy.
Here’s what we’ll cover to teach you the nuts and bolts of setting up, optimizing, and executing your Google Shopping ads campaigns:
(Who We Are: At Inflow, we work with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase traffic, conversions, and sales. You can talk to one of our Google Ads specialists to see how we can help you increase ROAS. Get started now.)
What Are Google Shopping Ads
Google Shopping campaigns—also known as Product Listing Ads (PLAs)—are somewhat of a hybrid between dynamic search and dynamic remarketing ads. You upload your product feed to Google and then Google automatically displays your ads based on searches it deems relevant. You might think this is bad since you aren’t creating the ads and bidding on keywords. However, if you are doing the work of optimizing your data feed frequently, this can work in your favor as you are showing up for only the most relevant searches at a fraction of the cost of PPC search ads.
Say you sell Levi’s blue jeans. While there is nothing wrong with this text ad per se, it does lack most of the purchasing triggers like high-quality product images, product descriptions, and customer reviews.
Whereas with Google Shopping ads, it looks and feels like you are on an eCommerce listing page already. You have all the info: images, price, review ratings, details, size information, etc.
So you can browse and find the one you want instead of two text ads offering little information. In addition, the ad takes you directly to the product you see as well, instead of a more generic landing page. So, you send traffic further down the funnel and decrease the amount of clicks to final purchase.
Speaking of relevant, when you take the time to optimize your data feed, you can make sure you show up for the long-tail keywords that are the most likely to lead to a sale (such as Levi’s men’s black jeans, size 38) and deliver a shopping ad that specifically takes traffic to a jeans product page with that size and color.
Creating Your Google Shopping Campaign
Choose Your New Campaign Goal
The first step is choosing your goal or objective such as:
If you are first starting out, we’d recommend choosing this goal. If you want to change it later on, it’s easy to adjust.
Leads (and showcase shopping ads)
After selecting “Sales” you can then proceed to “Shopping,” choose your merchant center, and finally select the “Standard Shopping” campaign option to proceed. The next part of the campaign setup includes items like geo targets, budget, bidding strategy, campaign priority and device specific bid adjustments. (We’ll cover these shortly.)
Set Up Your Ad and Product Groups
You will now be able to create ad groups and product groups. This should be influenced by your business, product performance, as well as your data feed. One quick way to start is to create multiple ad groups, each of which covers a category of products.
For instance, shoes vs pants vs shirts etc. Make sure to pull out the appropriate category and exclude the rest. To make sure you have your bases covered, we recommend having a very low bid, catch-all ad group as well (in case you forget to pull out a specific category).
You’ll want to adjust this approach as you collect data, incorporate more insights and take advantage of custom labels for attributes such as product margins, seasonality, sales, etc.
Pro Tip: If you want to brainstorm additional campaigns, ad groups, or product group structures, check out this article.
While automated bidding can be effective as you can set it to either maximize clicks, enhance CPC, or target ROAS, it can also lead to some wasteful spending if not managed properly. You also need to reach a minimum conversion threshold to use many of the automated strategies. It’s usually best to start with manual bidding until you have a better idea of how the products will perform (conversions, conversion rate, ROAS levels). Then based on performance, you can test out automated bidding more selectively.
In addition to starting with manual bids, it’s a good idea to review the “Products” report for your campaign regularly. Filtering products with low or zero impressions can help you identify opportunities to bid higher on products with little data. You can also filter based on product status (in case products are getting little-to-no impressions due to warnings or disapprovals), which you’ll need to fix in Merchant Center.
You can also build campaigns that specifically target seasonal products (for example, snow blowers) and implement geographic bid modifiers for regions where your products are more relevant such as in North Dakota and Minnesota. By doing so, you can maximize your exposure in those regions while maintaining a more cost-effective bid in other regions (or removing them entirely).
You can also do this with device bid modifiers, as they tend to perform at different levels. In general, while you can use bid modifiers to increase or decrease bids, you can also use them to remove a device/region/audience entirely, particularly if you have to be budget conscious.
Pro Tip: Before you start running any campaigns, make sure your ad account is properly linked to Google Analytics and you have set up eCommerce conversion tracking.
In addition, it can be easy to get carried away with all the segmentation, which we’re typically fans of! The big thing to keep in mind, however, is that granularity should be dictated by volume of data as well.
For instance, if a product category is getting few impressions (5000/month), it probably doesn’t make sense to group this one in its own campaign, which has multiple campaigns based on regions and device types. That’s overkill, unless you have all the hours in the day to manage it
Set Up Promotions
One way to increase conversions is to run promotions. There are four types of promotions you can run for specific products including:
Offering a monetary discount (ex: $10 off)
Offering a percentage discount (ex: 10% off)
Including a free gift with purchase (ex: Buy one pair of jeans and get a free pair of socks)
For example, say you sell wooden desks, you could offer $20 off to anyone who sees your ad on Google.
Enable Product Ratings
Another tip for increasing sales is to enable product ratings, which allows customers to rank your products from 1 to 5 stars.
To enable product ratings, you need to apply within your Google Merchant Center account. This feature is open to anyone with 50 or more customer reviews. In your application process, you’ll have to upload your review feed or link to one of the many third-party review aggregators.
Smart Shopping Campaigns
Smart Shopping campaigns are fully automated campaigns powered by Google AI and machine learning algorithms. You set your desired goal target ROAS (so be sure to group products that perform at similar ROAS levels in these campaigns) and then Google automagically surfaces the most relevant products to potential customers across search, display, YouTube and Gmail.
While these campaigns may save you a ton of time, we wouldn’t recommend throwing your entire product catalog and ad campaigns to Google AI.
For one, Google optimizes for transaction history. If your eCommerce store doesn’t have a lot of data, this can lead to subpar optimizations. In general, you have little-to-no control outside of choosing the products and setting the ROAS target. You can’t add negative keywords. You can’t create product-specific bids in case you’re more concerned with outranking a competitor. You can’t add any bid modifier for device type, etc.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is, you can’t really do too much analysis either, no search queries or network placements to determine what specifically is working. All that said, it’s still worth testing.
It is for these reasons that we recommend starting small with only one ad group, letting it run for at least 15 days and then analyzing the results.
Set Up Remarketing for Your Google Shopping Campaigns
Another way to increase sales is through remarketing. There are two types of remarketing campaigns — Dynamic Remarketing and Remarketing Lists for Search/Shopping Ads.
Dynamic Remarketing is display ads that follow shoppers across the web on the Google Display Network. These ads also create dynamic image sets of products people have viewed or added to cart (i.e. YouTube Ads and Google Display Ads).
RLSA—Remarketing Lists for Search/Shopping Ads—to use this targeting, you build audience lists either via Google Ads or Google Analytics based on pages someone visited on your site, time on site, specific goals you create, sources of traffic, etc. Most segments you create in Google Analytics to do analysis can be turned into an audience. Once you build this audience, you can attach it to either a Search or Shopping campaign and add a corresponding bid modifier (or leave it in observation mode just to collect data). From here, if someone meets the criteria of your audience list AND searches for one of your targeted keywords (or product), you can decide to bid more aggressively on them, or you can even create a search campaign that only targets this audience and deliver custom messaging.
Data mismatches between the product feed and the website. For instance, the price may not match, or the image may not be correct. A dynamic feed solution can help deal with this stuff before it becomes a problem.
Optimizing Your Google Shopping Campaign
To increase sales, make sure your campaigns are set up effectively. There are several tactics you can use with product groups, priority settings, and negative keywords.
Set Up Product Groups to Increase Sales
Instead of manually building ads and bidding on keywords as you have with text ads, with Google Shopping campaigns, you have product groups.
You can then divide your products into groups based on 8 categories:
If you are not sure where to start, structure your ad/product groups by product type. This gives you more flexibility to optimize your campaigns and adjust your bidding strategy.
How you structure campaigns should be catered to your eCommerce business’s objectives, seasonality, margins, etc. For example, if you have product-specific margins, then you can create a custom label that tells you what your margin (percent or dollar value) is for each product, and group products into those tiers so you can optimize towards profitability. If you have a blanket margin, then you can be a little more flexible with your setup.
Use Negative Keywords and Campaign Priority Settings to Increase Conversions
An additional way to increase sales is through negative keyword lists and adjusting your campaign priority settings.
Campaign Priority Settings
There are three levels for any campaign—high, medium and low. Google will serve the campaign with the highest priority.
Campaign/Ad Group negative keywords will prevent your products from appearing in certain Google searches for that campaign or ad group. These can be exact, phrase, or broad match.
Exact Match– only the exact keywordyou select will be excluded. If a search query contains more terms before or after keyword you select, it will not be excluded.
Phrase Match– only the exact keyword you select will be excluded in addition to the search terms that contain your keyword in that exact order with any terms that precede or follow your keyword.
Broad Match– as long as every word in your negative keyword can be found in the search term, in ANY order, it will be excluded.
We recommend updating your negative keyword list at least once a week. Some good negative keywords to include are any search terms with low buyer intent.
A more advanced tactic is using a tiered strategy. Say you have an online business selling Men’s Levi’s Boss Jeans, you can use a tiered strategy using campaign priority settings and negative keywords to bid higher on specific long-tail search queries and lower on more generic ones.
So if you know that when someone searches for “jeans,” they convert at a low rate, but after performing analysis, you find that when the search term contains “Levi” in addition to “jeans” it performs at a higher ROAS, and when it also contains the term “Boss” on top of the brand name, it does even better, then you have the opportunity for 3 campaign tiers.
The first campaign (tier 1) will be high priority and low bid—intended to capture general search terms. You can use negative keywords to remove brand and style terms.
The second campaign (tier 2) will be medium priority and medium bid—and will catch all brand and style terms to start with. However, you will want to use negative keywords to remove style/model terms (like “boss”) so that this tier will only capture brand terms without the style modifier.
The third campaign (tier 3) will be low priority and highest bid—intended to catch whatever you negated from the prior tiers, including the combination of brand + style terms.
Once you secure the proper negatives in place, then you can focus on tiers. However, be careful when you optimize. There is always the possibility that you bid too low in tier one and general terms go to tier 2, which you’re bidding more aggressively on.
Also, if you exclude a product in tier 1 but not the other tiers, that product’s general terms will go to the other (higher bid) tiers. So you have to make sure your campaigns are set up with the same products and that you keep a close eye on them.
Analyze Google Shopping Campaign Ad Data Regularly
It is always important to review your ad data on a regular basis. There are several segments you can review in Google Ads, and there’s endless performance data you can review using Google Analytics.
Google Ads can help you understand traffic potential (search impression share), competition (auction insights) and so much more. Google Analytics is excellent for reviewing other engagement metrics, attribution (how does your channel play with all the others?), etc. You should use your findings to:
Update Negative Keywords regularly
Analyze conversion rates by product group (such as by product id, product category or product type)
Perform geographic and device analysis
After collecting enough data, test bidding strategies including dayparting.
This will help you steadily increase ad performance over time.
In summary, these are some ways to improve Google Shopping ads performance, lower cost per click, and generate more sales.
Note: You can talk to one of our Google Shopping experts about how we can help you improve your ad performance by reaching out here.
Here is a list of questions you may — and should — ask before you choose the best conversion optimization consultant for your online business. Maybe you have exhausted your resources or maybe you’d rather have CRO experts maximize your prof…
Here is a list of questions you may — and should — ask before you choose the best conversion optimization consultant for your online business. Maybe you have exhausted your resources or maybe you’d rather have CRO experts maximize your profits. Whatever your situation, it’s time to pick a conversion optimization consultant for your online […]
“How do we get our customers to do what we want them to do?” Digital marketers get asked this question all the time. But it’s the wrong question. What businesses should really ask is, “How do I help my customers achieve their goals on my website while still achieving mine?” Focusing on that question is the […]
“How do we get our customers to do what we want them to do?” Digital marketers get asked this question all the time.
But it’s the wrong question.
What businesses should really ask is, “How do I help my customers achieve their goals on my website while still achieving mine?” Focusing on that question is the starting point for building a customer journey map.
A customer journey map is an illustration or diagram of all the touchpoints your customers have with your company, online or off.
When it comes to your website, it can reveal exactly where your site is helping visitors succeed—or letting them down.
Why do you need a customer journey map?
Kerry Bodine, a customer experience consultant, explained the purpose of customer journey maps in a Moz Whiteboard Friday:
The goal of the customer journey map is really to get a holistic view of what the customer is going through from their point of view and really what it’s like for them on a personal level, that human level.
You can watch the full talk here:
What does a great customer journey map look like?
No two journey maps are exactly the same. Depending on the customer experience expert you follow and the business (i.e. product or service) you’re mapping, the design will differ.
Adaptive Path, a UX/digital design agency that was acquired by Capital One, talks in terms of “experience maps.” Their visualization has two parts:
Shows how a customer moves through each phase of interaction.
As you can see above, they start the customer mapping process by defining the behavioral stages a typical customer goes through. Then, they add granularity to each touchpoint.
With that in place, they bring in their customer personas to create a “lens” through which to view the journey. Each persona can yield its own map—becoming the reference point from which they base the journey.
To help their client, Rail Europe, understand how North American travelers engage with the company across all touchpoints—not just when booking tickets—Adaptive Path built this customer journey map form that initial diagram:
A customer journey map helps crystallize where customers get stuck or frustrated on their path to purchase and beyond. It’s a visual representation that synthesizes data on personas and user behavior.
While journey maps can cover all interactions with a business, this post focuses on how to build a map to optimize your website. And, as the Adaptive Path example suggests, it starts with personas.
You can’t map the customer journey without data-driven personas
What motivates your customers? What are their needs, hesitations, and concerns? Knowing whom you’re talking to is the starting point. Guesses or anecdotes aren’t enough.
To build viable personas, you need data. Today, the most successful companies dig deep into their data to build personas. A decade ago, few did. Indeed, a CMO Council study from 2008 found that:
Over 50% of global marketers report that they have fair, little, or no knowledge of the customer demographic, behavioral, psychographic and transactional data. Just 6% say they have excellent knowledge of the customer.
By 2019, according to the CMO Survey, the trend toward data-driven decision-making had shifted. Still, marketing data is used in decision-making less than half the time:
If you haven’t yet created data-driven personas for your business, take a look at these posts. Each will help you build a customer persona based on research, not conjecture:
Or, go in-depth with a full course. Once you have your personas, you can combine that data with an in-depth look at user behavior on your website. The outcome will be your customer journey map.
How to build a customer journey map in 5 steps
Step 1: Define the behavioral stages.
Depending on your business, customers may go through different stages while navigating your site. A B2C ecommerce company may have just a few clearly defined phases; a B2B SaaS company selling to the Fortune 100 may have more.
Your personas should give you a pretty good idea of the process that customers go through from their first landing to an eventual purchase and subsequent interactions.
The next step identifies which interactions fit into which stages.
Step 2: Align customer goals with each stage.
This may be the most critical—and, in some cases, most difficult—step when creating a customer journey map.
What do customers want to achieve as they move through each behavioral stage? You can mine a number of data sources to get that information:
Then, you’ll be able to see if your website supports each of those goals.
Step 3: Plot the touchpoints.
Think of touchpoints as places where customers engage with your site and where you support the completion of their goals. These touchpoints will be grouped under the relevant stage in your customer’s journey.
For retailers, a common touchpoint might be a product description page; for a service business, it may anything from a pricing page to a contact form.
You can identify touchpoints along the user journey in two reports in Google Analytics:
Step 4: Determine if customers achieve their goals.
This is where you take the data you’ve collected and measure it against how easily your customers can get done what they need to do. Ask yourself the following types of questions:
Where are there roadblocks?
Do tons of people abandon their carts on the checkout page?
Do users go to your opt-in download page but not fill out the form?
The Google Analytics reports you’ve mined for insights will show you where issues crop up. The existing qualitative research you have—the same research you used to build your personas—should help you understand the why behind the problems.
Analyze the actions (or lack thereof) of your customers. How well are their needs met at each touchpoint and during each phase?
Spreadsheets may not be sexy, but they’re ideal for organizing data. Your customer journey map doesn’t need to be complicated—or beautiful.
Remember: It’s a tool to help you understand how users interact with your site, where they get stuck, and how to improve trouble spots.
Above is an example I put together to represent the journey a customer may go through with a SaaS company. Each stage has a corresponding customer goal, along with the relevant touchpoints.
Keep track of the reports and surveys you reference, along with the stages they illuminate:
Get as granular as you like. Add annotations where you find that customers seem to miss steps or loop back. Then, add your analysis of the journey under “Key Findings” and the hypotheses to test under “Recommendations.”
Case study: How improving the customer journey lifted more than just the bottom line
The guys at TrackDuck, a SaaS company with an web-based tool for feedback and bug tracking, gleaned insights from customer comments to improve registrations.
They recognized that users had difficulty registering. They reduced the 10-step registration to a four-step process—increasing registration completions by 120%.
TrackDuck realized that their qualitative data could improve revenue and set their customers up for success at the same time.
If you are working on an app for developers, be ready for a high bounce rate at the user-registration stage. Converting a visitor into a customer is really difficult. To achieve this, it’s essential that the visitor figures out how your app works in the first 3–5 minutes.
How your customers interact with your website or your brand isn’t a linear process—no matter how much you might want it to be. Getting people to move from Point A to Point B without jumping ship or missing a step doesn’t always happen.
But taking the time to understand as much as you can about your customers’ goals—and how they move through your website—can go a long way toward keeping them happy. It will also grow your business.
Let’s dive into a brand new online marketing concept: Contextualization. Thanks to AI and ML, we have come a long way from creating customer segments. To improve conversions, we also need to understand context. Read on. I predicted years ago that…
Let’s dive into a brand new online marketing concept: Contextualization. Thanks to AI and ML, we have come a long way from creating customer segments. To improve conversions, we also need to understand context. Read on. I predicted years ago that my business would be using machine learning for much of what we do manually […]
E-commerce is a pure service business that demands utmost precision, patience, and persistence to survive the industry’s ever growing competition. The goal is not just to help shoppers find good products, but also provide an exceptional customer experience that forces them to convert into repeat buyers.
Also, customer actions serve as a valuable source of data at every stage of an e-commerce’s funnel. What you do with these customer insights to improve the overall shopping experience and conversion rate, is typically what makes or breaks a deal for your business.
Most marketers suggest using multiple qualitative and quantitative analytical tools to do so. But, not all of them have the prowess to give you the kind of information you would need to study user experience.
This is where heatmaps come into play. Let’s see how heatmaps can improve your E-commerce business!
What are heatmaps?
Heatmaps serve as one of the best qualitative tools to collect relevant customer data, especially in terms of understanding their actual behavior across your web platform.
Think of heatmaps as X-Ray films. They show a detailed picture (in the form of graphical representation) of how users interact with your site or store. You can observe how far users scroll, where they click the most, and the products or pages they like or dislike.
Such data is precisely what you need to make your platform more user-friendly, drive more traffic and improve your conversion optimization strategies.
But, if you think that any heatmap would work wonders for your e-commerce site, you’re absolutely wrong!
E-commerce websites are highly dynamic in nature. They have more interactive elements and “behind login page” elements such orders, cart page, etc. than any other site. Such pages shed visitor interaction and information, which typically serves as the primary data for businesses to use to draw page performance conclusions, find elemental distractions, and improve overall customer experience.
This is where Dynamic Heatmaps save the day!
What are dynamic heatmaps?
Unlike static heatmaps which can only be plotted on static web pages such as the Home Page, Product Pages, Landing Pages, Category Pages, etc., dynamic heatmaps give you the leverage of studying real time customer behavior on pages which are beyond the scope of static heatmaps. In other words, dynamic heatmaps can be easily plotted on live websites with dynamic URLs such as My Profile, Orders, Cart, Account Settings, etc. to gather in-depth customer activity data.
In general, a typical dynamic heatmap offers four primary features, namely, click maps, scroll maps, click areas, and element list. Each of these allow you to look at a web page’s hot spot areas in a detailed manner.
Let’s now understand the scope of dynamic heatmaps for e-commmerce using some examples!
Studying Cart Page Insights Using Dynamic Heatmaps
The image below gives us an insight a dynamic heatmap plotted on an e-commerce site’s Cart page. It shows that in general, most people, after adding products to their cart, click on the product image, cancel button, postcode section, ‘Go To Checkout’ icon and discount codes.
Such information helps you draw multiple conclusions. Some of which are as follows:
Customers might want to see the product images once more before proceeding to final payment gateway.
They may not like their chosen product(s) and hence, remove the item(s) from the cart. Or, since they’re not able to view the product image (in zoom) on the cart page, they abandon their cart.
They’re most interested in availing discounts. Therefore, the area is hotter than other page elements.
Furthermore, such information also serves helpful in drawing hypothesis on how to improve the performance of various page elements with dynamic URLs, meanwhile find the right means and ways to enhance customer experience and increase your conversions.
“VWO’s dynamic heatmaps allow you to access information of those web pages which are, in general, very difficult to access using regular heatmaps.”
Studying Order Page Insights Using Dynamic Heatmaps
The “My Orders” page of an e-commerce site is an important page that is lesser explored in terms of gathering customer behavior data.
The page allows users to look at their current and previous orders, check delivery status, seek assistance, and even browse through their history. As an e-commerce company, plotting heatmaps on such pages and mapping number of clicks can significantly help you study which page elements are fetching you maximum customer attention.
For example, the plotted above shows that maximum people are clicking on the “Track” icon followed by “Need Help” and product images. They’re hardly clicking on the “Rate & Review Product” icon, which, according to your platform, can be an important form page to seek product reviews and other essential information. You can further use such qualitative data to make necessary amendments and compel customers to fill the form, like:
adding product review pop-ups or call-to-action buttons on the Order page
making the section omnipresent
giving rewards for adding reviews
So now that you know what your static heatmap tools are lacking, it’s time to upgrade your e-commerce platform with VWO’s dynamic heatmaps and make the most of them.
Discover our favorite strategies for improving AdWords (Google Ads) eCommerce performance covering Google Shopping Ads and more. Find out the exact strategy used to maximize ROAS for our clients.
In this piece we’re going to take a systematic look at how we optimize Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) eCommerce campaigns to find the best performing strategies.
We’ll be covering a total of 16 different strategies that apply for Google Shopping ads and Smart Shopping Campaigns, Dynamic Remarketing, Search Ads, In-Market Audiences and finally Dynamic Search Ads.
For each Google Ad type, we’ll be covering:
The core strategies we use to get the best return on ad spend (ROAS)
Use-case scenarios where we’ve seen good results from implementing these strategies.
Some of the newest features and product offerings — and how to make the most of them.
Because these strategies all fall inside two of Google’s main product offerings, we’ve split this guide up into two parts:
Part 1: Google Shopping ads
We’ll walk you through 7 different strategies that bring the best ROAS for eCommerce companies. We’ve gone into a lot of depth explaining how you should be building out and optimizing your shopping ads from scratch.
Part 2: Google Search ads
Here we cover 9 of our favorite internal strategies for maximizing ROAS from search ads. We’ll also answer the question: does my company need to run search ads in tandem with Shopping Ads?
First we’ll start with a quick review of the different Google Ads platforms and their use cases. If you know these already, feel free to skip ahead using the links above to get straight to the strategies of choice.
(Who We Are: At Inflow, we work with dozens of eCommerce companies to increase traffic, conversions, and sales. You can talk to one of our Google Ads specialists to see how we can help you increase ROAS. Get started now.)
What’s the Best Google Ads Platform for Selling My Products?
You’re probably already using Google Ads (formerly known as Google AdWords) to sell your products, but if you’re not, it’s important to have a bit of background info on the Google Ads ecosystem.
Google Shopping ads (also known as Google Product Listing Ads, or PLA’s) are probably the best fit if you’re a B2C selling products online.
All you need to participate here is a product feed and an eCommerce website.
Google Search ads is perhaps the most well-known of the Ads products due to its longevity and it’s where your text ads are displayed when they match keywords you specify.
Search Ads is different to Shopping Ads because of the way the platform operates. Search Ads gives you more control over keywords, and in turn, shows text ads within your Google search results.
Shopping Ads, on the other hand, are based upon your Product Feed — which needs careful optimization to target the right searches. The product feed contains all the necessary information relating to your product: brands, quantities, sizes, colors, and so on.
This renders a shopping-product ad within the Google SERPS, as well as the relevant pricing and review information.
If you’re a big online retailer, you’ll probably be investing most of your paid ad spend on a mixture of Google Shopping ads and Google Search ads. Participating in both platforms often leads to enhanced product visibility across the customer buyer’s entire journey, from research through to purchase.
This is key when you consider how the customer’s research and purchase journey spans across multiple devices and is made up of many micro-moments — even if you’re only running search ads to cover branded queries.
Our Tried-and-Tested Google Shopping Strategies for Maximizing ROAS
Here at Inflow, we’ve helped hundreds of online retailers from all kinds of industries to maximize their return on ad-spend (ROAS). This is the number one goal afterall.
What follows are 8 of the strategies that have worked best for us on Google Shopping ads over the years.
Note: Do You Trust the Reliability of Your Google Analytics Data?
It goes without saying that you need to be 100% sure of the accuracy of any analytics data before you start investing in Google Ads — or in any other kind of marketing activity.
We always spend time digging into Google Analytics, or whichever reporting tool is being used, to ensure the historic data looks clean and there are no nasty surprises.
If we can’t measure performance to a good degree of certainty, we can’t measure the growth we’re about to deliver. (Then we can’t create case studies like this one.)
Having a reporting tool is not a prerequisite, but we love it when a client comes to us with at least 6 months historic data to delve through. (A full 12 months of data is even better when you’re in a seasonal industry.)
1 – Our 3 Tiered PLA Structure: To Bid More Aggressively on Specific Search Phrases to Maximize ROAS
This is by far our favorite way to achieve the best ROAS from a PLA campaign.
In a nutshell, the 3-tiered campaign structure allows you to focus your spend on the search phrases that drive your sales — something which isn’t as easy as it sounds.
There’s no point wasting spend on non-performers: you want to focus on Search Queries that drive the highest ROAS.
Below we’ve listed the 3 step approach we take when building out campaigns using the “Negative Keyword Waterfall” approach:
Step 1: Review Your Historic Search Volume to Find the Search Terms That Drive Your Revenue
You need to find the search query themes that generate the most transactions for your company.
The goal here is to create two groups; one that has the high converting search terms, and another with the low – medium converting search terms.
The best performing search queries group will likely contain several branded terms, with specific model names, SKU codes, part numbers, and other searches that show a high purchase intent.
Step 2: Begin with 3 Shopping Campaigns — Tiers 1, 2 & 3 with the Required Priority Levels
We will setup these 3 campaigns with a shared budget, and each with a different priority level.
(Note: When learning this strategy, remember that in this context, priority setting doesn’t reflect the group’s priority, it’s just the order in which Google will cycle-through the campaigns).
Tier 1 will have the highest campaign priority setting, which indicates to Google that search queries should start here.
This tier, like all the others, contains every product available on the site but with many negative search phrases applied (which we’ll come to shortly).
In tier 2 (or campaign 2), we’ll adjust the priority setting to medium and this is where the average to medium performing search terms live.
In tier 3 (or campaign 3), we’ll adjust the priority setting to “low” and this is where the best converting search terms exist.
Step 3: Build and Apply the Negative Keyword Lists
In tier 1, we will be applying negative keywords based on the search queries we want active in tier 2 and 3.
By adding these negative keywords to tier 1, it prevents them from landing in tier 1 and pushes them to the next tier in the funnel — Tier 2.
At tier 2, we again add negative keywords but this time only the best performing search terms.
At tier 3, we don’t need any negative keywords applied as any of those lower value search phrases should have been filtered out already from tier 1 or 2. This was the ultimate goal — to be able to exclude those lesser converting searches and to bid more aggressively on all searches making it to tier 3.
(Note: We’ve seen some agencies get a little zealous with the amount of tiers they create and it becomes very difficult to maintain — the smallest change in any campaign can completely wreck the entire system. For that reason, we typically keep it to a 3 tier setup).
2 – Identify Your Store’s Best Sellers So You Know Where to Prioritize Your Budget
One of the easiest ways to grow your ROAS is to do a deep audit of your Google Ad campaign to identify historic best sellers — then bid higher accordingly.
You can combine this strategy with the tiered approach outlined above in strategy #1, where you bid your best sellers up on the product or product group level.
Take a look at your historic data (if it’s available) and identify those top selling products.
You can also use the likes of Google Analytics to find best sellers and eCommerce conversion rates, plus the relevant ROAS/ROI metrics.
3 – Regularly Audit and Optimize Your Google Product Feed for Better Overall Performance
If you take away just one thing from this piece, it should be this: your Google Product Feed is essential for succeeding with Google Shopping ads.
Auditing your feed is one of the first things we do when working with a client. This is a vital part of the campaign as it’s a vital cog in the Shopping ads algorithm, so it deserves a lot of attention.
We recently wrote a more detailed piece on how to optimize your Google Product Feed that explains exactly why and how you should be optimizing your feed and covers how to setup and execute your campaigns.
In short, you need to ensure your feed contains all the required product information. If not, you risk a) not showing up when people are searching for your products, and b) being charged a higher CPC to show your ads.
It’s also vital to keep product titles relevant without keyword-stuffing. This not only helps to enhance visibility for those high intent searches, but it also helps to boost CTR from the ads.
4 – Our Mobile-Optimized Strategy for Improved eCommerce ROAS
Our own research has confirmed that mobile shoppers behave differently than desktop shoppers — no surprises there. The actual queries that convert on mobile aren’t necessarily the same ones people use from desktop.
But many eCommerce teams don’t have a specific approach when it comes to mobile users, aside from reducing mobile bids — which can be a wasteful approach.
We repeat the search query analysis as mentioned in strategy #1 to segment mobile customers so we can determine a historic mobile-only ROAS.
If we find a gap here, we setup our own tiers with the appropriate negative keywords for mobile users. In the end, we may have 6 tiers setup for a client; 3 for desktop and 3 for mobile.
This beats simply adjusting bids on mobile or desktop. It’s a more holistic and strategic approach to optimising for the customer’s device at that moment, and for the entirety of the customer’s journey.
We find it pays to go into much depth with this.
5 – Seasonality Is Often an Untapped Opportunity (Find Those Crucial Periods for Your Client & Bid Aggressively)
If our client’s in a very seasonal industry, it’s crucial to keep time of year in mind and bid on products/product groups within the tiered structure accordingly.
For example, you should bid higher on flip flops in the summer and snow boots in the winter—but the tiers will remain the same.
By bidding higher on the best converting products in summer, you can maximize ROAS during these peak months when there’s a bigger search demand.
And during those quieter periods in winter, we’ll reduce bids but ensure we’ve still got a good presence — so we often find ourselves bidding differently depending on the time of year.
Take one of our wholesale retailers as an example. They operate in the back to school vertical, so understandably they get peak traffic ahead of the new school year. Search behavior changes in the lead up to these months.
We want to ensure we’re visible during periods of high search activity, whilst ensuring budget for the year isn’t exhausted.
We’ve seen this work across a range of seasonal verticals, and it isn’t something that we’ve noticed many other agencies or in-house teams doing.
(Note: It’s important to fully understand the 3 tiered approach before diving into this strategy or the mobile specific one. The inventory listed will need to be the same across tiers, otherwise you may experience leakage!)
6 – Let Google Optimize (With Supervision!) When There’s No Obvious Tiered Structure or Search Query Tiers
Smart Shopping Campaigns utilize a mix of your product feed and Google’s machine learning to take care of campaigns on your behalf.
We like to bundle any products into a Smart Shopping campaign when they don’t necessarily belong to another tier as explained in strategy #1 above.
These are the smaller products, maybe those lower-priced accessories, which can be left for Google to deal with. Google will then optimize for best-fit based on transaction history: but it doesn’t always mean Google will do the best possible job.
We’ve witnessed occasions where there wasn’t much transaction data for Google to use. Then when we saw a couple of mobile transactions occur Google went very aggressive on mobile — and caused ROAS to plummet.
In this case it would’ve been best to wait until there was more significant transaction data available before leaving it in the hands of them to automate.
7 – Using Dynamic Retargeting to Boost Your PLA’s eCommerce ROAS
As annoying as some people might find them, retargeting ads do convert, and extremely well.
The dynamic retargeting feature from Google Shopping enables you to automatically show ads to people who came to your site without completing a purchase.
It makes use of your product feed to determine the products they display and can intelligently group these together based on what’s likely to convert best.
Using dynamic remarketing is a fairly straightforward strategy to skyrocket eCommerce performance — it’s a must for any online retailer.
The Best eCommerce Strategies for Google Search Ads
We’ve covered 7 Google Shopping Campaign strategies above in quite some depth.
But whilst it’s easy to forget, running Google Search ads in tandem with Shopping Ads is a good strategy to cover all your bases.
Here are 9 more essential strategies we use to maximize eCommerce brands ROAS from search ads:
8 – How to Best Structure Your Google Ads Account for More Granular Control (And a Better ROAS!)
Often the best way to setup your client’s account is to actually just mimic their own navigation menu.
They’ve gone through the effort to build it out the way they have — so it’s probably been made that way for good reason.
If they’ve got a top-level page that contains a category of products (eg shoes) and then sub-categories that contain brands (adidas, nike) then it probably makes sense to have a shoe category, and individual brand-specific ad groups within your Google Ads account.
Setting up in the way above saves a bit of time when it comes to structuring the account, and will make budget control easy too.
With this approach you can also get as granular as you like when it comes to ad group and keyword grouping.
It will also help when other people on your team need to dive in to manage the account, as well as keeping things clean for the reporting team later.
9 – Deep Link to Best-Sellers Within Text Ads & Make It Easier for Your Customers to Checkout
Often within your store’s categories, there will be a handful of outstanding, top selling products.
Instead of directing customers to an individual category page it will often make sense to take them direct to the best selling product page instead — that’s usually where they end up anyway.
You could easily have a few text ads setup on rotate which deep-link to a handful of the top-selling products, and simply monitor which ads bring in the most conversions.
You can run A/B tests on this in the background and keep a close eye on the products that really push the needle on your ROI.
This makes the path-to-purchase cleaner for the customer, and helps to improve your Google Quality Score, too.
In this instance, the keyword/search intent, ad text, and landing page experience is all well aligned and optimized.
In the cases where there is no clear best-seller, it would make good sense to direct the customer to the most relevant category page instead. This approach is often used when bidding on the less specific, short-tail keywords.
10 – Have an Industry-Specific (But Agile!) eCommerce Approach and Test Everything
The strategy we use at Inflow for running Google Search Ads will ultimately depend on the industry the client operates in, and of course the eCommerce platform they use.
We’re forced to tailor our approach to suit our clients (and more pertinent: their shoppers) so when it comes to strategy we’re always flexible to changing our tactics to suit what works best.
It’s important to have an agile approach when it comes to eCommerce marketing since things change quickly and the search landscape is constantly evolving. You need to always be open to new opportunities and test everything!
We like to use Google Experiments within Google Ads to test how variations of campaign setups perform versus our original campaign, helping to shape our ongoing strategies.
11 – Don’t Neglect Any Google Ad Extensions, Especially Price Extensions
We always ensure that every possible extension has been built out when a campaign goes live. Setting up all eligible extensions will give you a better Quality Score on your account and enhances your chances of taking up more valuable real estate within the SERPs.
The obvious choice when it comes to eCommerce clients has to be the Price Extension. This will highlight the product price within the text ad when someone’s shopping for your product.
Ensure your account has the following extensions active and optimised:
Promotion Snippets (essential for Black Friday and other sales)
12 – Product SKU’s, Part-Numbers, and Model Numbers Are a PPC Specialist’s Dream
When running search ads, you’ll want to bid heavily on product SKU and other identifier codes, model numbers, replacement part keywords, and so on.
Whilst these might not have a huge search volume when compared to some other non-brand search queries, they’re going to have a super high conversion rate.
Someone entering a search query for “washing machine” or even “best washing machine” is probably going to be fairly high in the purchase process. They’re probably still shopping around and trying to come to a decision about the particular model they want.
But what about someone searching for a specific washing machine model, like “Samsung WW70K5413UX”? You should be throwing your money at Google for that type of search query.
We often scrape our clients product feeds to get a list of these numbers or SKU’s before using Dynamic Insertion within the Headline of the text ad and the Display URL to help boost CTR, as well as using keyword level Final URLs to send the user to the exact product they are searching for.
13 – Ongoing Scheduled Maintenance and Optimization Is a Must for All Google Ad Campaigns
Let’s say your ROAS is ticking over nicely at 300% each month. While that’s great, it’s not to say it’s bringing in the most possible revenue.
You shouldn’t neglect campaigns even if they’ve got a great ROAS (that 300% could all be based on a few branded search terms and nothing else that’s going to drive your sales).
Ongoing scheduled maintenance and optimization is vital to ensuring your search strategy doesn’t get left to stagnate.
From regularly reviewing the ‘Search Insights’ report and checking in on the ‘Search Impression Share’, while verifying that rogue searches aren’t eating up your budget — there’s always plenty to do.
This goes back to strategies #4 and #5: mobile search behavior is different than desktop search, and seasonality is an important factor to consider too.
Checking how those two variants might affect your search campaigns on an ongoing basis wouldn’t go amiss — especially if you’ve got an old account that has gone a bit stale.
In-market audiences can be used within your Search Campaigns to ensure your ads are being seen by a wider audience than normal with a different matching criteria applied.
The in-market audiences to choose from can be viewed from this downloadable Google resource and consists of groups of people who are supposedly in the market for a particular product or service.
Let’s take an example of an online retailer of car wheels and accessories. If somebody searches for a product that is similar to one that the car retailer sells, Google will place them in a particular audience group.
As an advertiser, you can then choose to target that particular audience group with your own search ads.
It sometimes makes sense to adjust bids according to your audiences, upping them when they match a particular, high-intent group.
It can also give you flexibility when it comes to your keyword strategy — you don’t need to be quite as granular, because you know this person is (in theory) already interested in what you’re selling.
15 – Dynamic Search Ads Suit Clients with a Huge Product Inventory or No Accessible Product Feed
This is Google’s offering for those with a massive inventory of products to sell, perhaps without the time required to list individual ads for each product.
Using this method, Google’s ad crawler will scan your entire website and create ads automatically based upon what it finds.
That might be a bit too much control for some, but for others it can be a real time-saver.
For us, we love to use it as a tool to create keyword lists in the unlikely case we may have missed some good search terms during our own keyword discovery phase.
(Note: If you do opt to make use of a Dynamic Search Campaign, you’ll want to ensure you’ve added your normal search keywords as negatives to ensure there’s no overlap.)
Ultimately, Dynamic Ads can be a good low-budget and minimal fuss campaign set to run in the background with low ongoing maintenance required.
16 – Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAG’s) Can Reduce CPC and Grow ROAS
Last but not least, Single Keyword Ad Groups (SKAG’s) can be a really simple but incredibly effective way to push out the ROAS.
Using historic conversion data, you can quite quickly identify the few keywords which are bringing in most of your revenue (see the 80/20 rule).
These keywords should be listed in their own individual ad groups (1 keyword per group often gives the best results here) with exact match targeting enabled.
Ad texts are then optimised to match that specific keyword, which helps give a great quality score to Google, and hopefully generates a good CTR too.
In your other Ad groups, you’ll want to ensure exact match negative keywords are applied for the terms above to ensure there’s no overlap which may lead to bidding against yourself in the Ads Auction.
Often by making use of the SKAG strategy, you will see a reduction in CPC, and over time you can push more and more spend into the campaign; you’ll want to cover as much of the search demand as you can.
As with all of the strategies listed here, you’ll want to play around and test the above before you jump right in and make any drastic, lasting changes.
As the scope of CRO projects increases, so does the difficulty of management and the tediousness of the manual efforts required. To overcome these pain points, digital marketing agency Oogst – a Merkle company collaborated with HEMA, a leading Dutch retail chain and created a chatbot by bringing together the power of the VWO REST API and Slack, to scale CRO efforts at HEMA.
Continuous experimentation and testing increases conversions at high growth and data-driven organizations. Scaling a conversion rate optimization (CRO) program requires not only building a long-term testing roadmap but also building a culture of experimentation involving multiple teams and stakeholders across the company. As the scope of CRO projects increases, so does the difficulty of management and the tediousness of the manual efforts required. To overcome these pain points, digital marketing agency Oogst – a Merkle company collaborated with HEMA, a leading Dutch retail chain and created a chatbot by bringing together the power of the VWO REST API and Slack, to scale CRO efforts at HEMA.
This blog post shall delve deeper into why and how we leveraged the power of VWO API and Slack to scale our CRO program and help in building a culture of experimentation.
The challenges of scaling CRO
For Oogst and HEMA, CRO involved constant juggling of interests between its CRO specialists, analysts, clients, website developers and other relevant stakeholders. Each decision and action affects many people, which is why the process needs to go as smoothly as possible.
For example, whenever a test is activated or stopped, many people need to be informed at the very moment it happens without leaving anyone out. When you scale CRO program at your organization, informing everybody manually becomes a hassle, especially with new tests being turned on and off frequently. This process needed to be automated to bring efficiency and agility to the CRO initiatives.
The Birth of Rover
We discovered that the VWO REST API makes it easy to monitor tests for changes in status, and that we can use this information to make announcements easily. As a result of these discoveries, the idea for a chatbot was born. By linking the VWO API, Slack webhooks and a local database through Python, we were able to notify the right people about test status changes the moment they occurred. We named him Rover: he would be a dog/bot hybrid that barks at us when it needs our attention. Rover also sends notifications to relevant parties about when to check the preliminary results of a test. A huge burden was lifted from our shoulders, leaving us with more time to think about the next set of strategic experiments.
Growing the bot
As these simple adjustments to our progress proved to be quite helpful to us and HEMA, we began exploring the VWO API to see what else we could do. We came up with a number of areas where the bot could help us with:
We run a high number of tests and it is of utmost importance to us and HEMA that everything goes according to plan at all times. We have set up quality control checks internally to limit the risks. There are processes we follow before publishing a test to make sure it’s safe to go live and we double check right after publication in case anything was missed.
For example, some of the things we check for on the VWO side include if the traffic has been set to 100%, if GTM integration has been enabled, and whether the campaign’s name follows our naming conventions. Luckily, the VWO API made it possible for us to automate the checking of settings like this, so that we can be more certain a test is ready to be published, while taking us much less effort.
Monitoring live A/B tests
After publishing any test, we monitor events in Google Analytics to make sure we didn’t miss anything and the test is, in fact, running correctly. Although it allows us to maintain the level of quality we desire, this process is also very time consuming, tedious and prone to human error, much like the announcements.
To deal with this, we added the Google Analytics API into the mix to get Rover to check for the amount of VWO events for a particular test and notify us about its findings. The absence of VWO events likely meant the test wasn’t running (correctly), which is something we always had to check manually before.
Conversational A/B test management
However, at this point, Rover would only transmit messages, he could not process received messages. If we wanted a user to intuitively tell Rover to check a test, we’d have to include an element of interactivity.
That’s why we hooked up our bot to artificial intelligence using IBM Watson, which allows it to naturally process language. With this integration in place, a user is able to ask “Rover, is VWO test 244 ready to go live?” and it will perform the checks. Then, the user can simply publish the test by saying “Rover, publish 244”.
Right now, Rover has truly become part of the team, both of Oogst and HEMA. His contribution to the speed and quality of our process is well recognized. We included even more functionalities such as the ability to pause the manual activation tags we built in Google Tag Manager to trigger VWO tests, thereby linking VWO and GTM together.
But we’re not finished yet!
Scoring points: Building a CRO culture through gamification
Although the power and effectiveness of CRO and A/B testing is well established, building support for it throughout the organization still remains a difficulty.
To combat this, we found yet another role for Rover: quizmaster!
First, we pull basic information about the test and its variants from VWO. We then use this data to extract more detailed information about the experiment from our project management board. This includes background information, hypotheses, descriptions of the control and variants as well as screenshots.
From this knowledge, we dynamically generate polls on Slack where users vote on the landing page variants they think will outperform the rest. These users, generally members of the client organization, then battle each other in a CRO tournament where it is determined who knows most about the website visitor.
The introduction of a gamification element has made CRO more exciting to those not generally involved in it, it has made our efforts more visible throughout the organization and also highlights the successes we have. Furthermore, it builds team spirit and generates more ideas for future testing. All because of our data-driven quizmaster: Rover!
To sum up:
Here’s a quick summary of the benefits we have already achieved:
· Notify stakeholders of starting/stopping of tests;
· Notify stakeholders to check preliminary results;
· Check Google Analytics for presence of VWO events;
· Perform quality control checks;
· Pause Manual Activation tags in GTM;
· Start/stop tests through chat;
· Perform the role of quizmaster, allowing stakeholders to vote on which variant they expect to outperform the others.
More to come!
We’re in touch with VWO to expand the abilities of the REST API even further to make Rover more powerful. This collaboration is a very exciting one to us. The API has already proven to be invaluable in our current operations which are now running more smoothly than ever before.
This bot is the collaborative effort of Gino Renardus, Martijn Heerema and Thom van Engelenburg (consultants at Oogst, a Merkle company) and Floor Hickmann and Raun Sips (UX at HEMA).
Oogst, A Merkle Company, is the leading digital marketing, analytics and optimization agency in the Netherlands. Based in Amsterdam, its team of over 70 experts provide leading brands with digital marketing services aimed at utilizing customer data in the best possible way to achieve the highest returns.
The company has partnered with VWO since 2012 to test and optimize some of the most popular websites of the country for their clients. Their extensive knowledge of, and experience with the VWO platform has led to these operations continually growing in size. Moreover, this has also led to increased stakeholder involvement and more intensive test management. In order to better deal with this increased scope, the Oogst team was recently joined by a new member: a CRO Chatbot that operates through the VWO Application Programming Interface (API). This chatbot is able to assist in many of the activities surrounding the CRO process. Do you want to meet Rover or get to know more? Get in touch with Oogst’s Data, Tech and Optimization team! Reach out via email@example.com.
Since 1926, HEMA has made the everyday life of its customers easier and more fun through products that positively stand out: due to their quality, design and price. HEMA offers over 30,000 of its own products and services, has over 750 stores in nine countries and 19,000 employees. As consumers move more towards online, HEMA recognizes the importance of developing a digital strategy as progressive as the brand is.
HEMA’s webshop is widely recognized to be one of the best of The Netherlands, with a top position in the Twinkle 100 and by frequently receiving awards such as Best Department Store Webshop. HEMA and Oogst collaborate on CRO to ensure its Dutch and international webshops remain among the best.
Our guide to optimizing your eCommerce product or data feed for Google Shopping ads to get the lowest costs per click and highest ROAS. We’ve curated these lessons from working on hundreds of eCommerce shopping ad campaigns.
When most people think about optimizing their Google Shopping ads, they focus on optimizing their campaigns, bid strategy, and execution.
While this is important, we’d argue that the more significant wins come from optimizing your data feed.
Your data feed is a subset of all of your products. It’s a digital product catalog that contains attributes like product title, description, GTIN, category, etc. This is what’s used to determine how often and for what keywords you show up for.
Google Shopping consists of two products – Google Ads (formerly AdWords) and Google Merchant Center. Google Merchant Center is where your data feed lives and Google Ads is where you can optimize your campaigns, set your budget and adjust your bid strategy.
We’ve divided this guide into two parts:
Part 1: Data Feed Optimization: Getting your data feed optimized is the foundation of successful Google Shopping Ad campaigns for eCommerce companies. Most guides on this topic don’t cover this in-depth but we’ve dedicated an entire part to this step. We’ll outline our experience in how to properly manage Google Shopping ads for hundreds of eCommerce companies.
Part 2:Campaign Setup and Execution: Here we’ll teach you the nuts and bolts of setting up, optimizing, and executing your Google Shopping ads campaigns. (Note, this will be published soon, and then we’ll link to it here.)
In this post, we’ll walk you through these four steps for how to optimize your data feed:
The more information that you have in your data feed, the more relevant you are for people’s searches. In turn, Google will reward you by showing your ads more frequently and for less money.
Optimizing your data feed is like building a house. The data feed is the foundation on where you build all of your Google Shopping campaigns. If the foundation is off or your data is bad, you will have a hard time performing well on Google Shopping.
Here are a few things that happen when your feed isn’t optimized.
You won’t show up for certain searches.
It will cost you more money for your ads to show
Your competitors will take up more space than you.
You won’t get correct visibility which could lead to overspend.
For example, say you sell Nike shoes. If your titles only contained basic information such as, “Nike red shoes” and didn’t contain size information, color information, or model information in your product title, then you would not show up for some of the highest intent searches.
If you did end up showing up, you would be spending a lot more for that ad than competitors who implement a feed optimization strategy.
Optimize These Five Most Important Attributes
The GTIN is the UPC of the online world. When you’re a reseller or a manufacturer of goods, you use that information to track your products across Google’s Surfaces and to keep an eye on MAP pricing through the Manufacturer Center.
The only time that you don’t need a GTIN is if you’re selling one-off goods—meaning you sell one-off antique furniture, used products, or when you’re selling things as a bundle. When you have the GTIN, it’s important to include it because of all the information it provides.
One of the biggest mistakes that we see brands making is keyword stuffing their titles—and it ends up backfiring. Google will penalize you for long titles (i.e., anything over 75 characters). If your title is over 150 characters, they won’t approve your ad.
Product titles are important because Google Shopping is all broad match. There’s no phrase or exact match. The algorithm uses the title to identify what the person is actually searching for and matches those keywords with the feed.
The key is to be precise and include the most relevant information in your titles. However, it is important not to keyword stuff your titles. Your title should reflect how your customers or prospects are already talking about your product.
For example, if you sell jeans, you need to include all of the main keywords in the titles, such as: ‘Men’s Levi’s Boss Jeans Size 34’. The more relevant information that the user includes in their searches, the more likely they are to buy.
If your product title is only “men’s jeans” you’ll appear on all of the general searches, but you’ll miss out on the higher-intent searches that are the most likely to result in a purchase.
This can happen when you directly import the titles from your Shopify store directly into Google Shopping without optimizing them.
For example, if you sell reading glasses and you haven’t optimized your product categories, your products might be showing up under drinking glasses instead of reading glasses.
The description carries less weight than the other four attributes above because it takes about two clicks to see (as opposed to the title, price, and brand, that show up immediately in the shopping results—without any additional clicks from the user). However, this is still worth optimizing because of its use of added relevancy.
Here are a few tips for optimizing your description:
Put your product title at the end of your description.
Add high relevance keywords into your description
Identify added HTML that was not removed. There are many times that these pieces of code will get caught in the description.
Understanding Google Merchant Center
With text ads, you can see a quality score, such as an 8 out of 10. However, with Google Shopping campaigns, you don’t get a numerical score. Instead, you have the Google Merchant Center.
The Merchant Center acts as a QA source to make sure your data is clean and accurate. When you upload your data feed into Google Merchant Center, you’ll see errors, warnings, and disapprovals.
While Google will still show your ads for certain searches, it will end up costing you more money than your competitors who have optimized feeds. So, when you start seeing these errors come in, you want to clean them up ASAP.
There are three different levels of issues in the Merchant Center—by account item, feed, and account level (with account level being the worst).
Account Level Warnings
Account level warnings can lead to larger issues such as Google shutting down your Merchant Center. If you get an Account Level Warning, such as a verification issue, you should fix it immediately so that you can keep your ads running.
Feed Level Warnings
There’s also a feed check, where they’ll go through your data feed and make sure it’s delimiting correctly, and all the files are set up and readable.
Item Level Warnings
SKU or item level warnings are at the product level, meaning that they’ll go through all of your products. They’ll let you know if you are not including specific attributes, and give you a warning or a recommendation. This is where most issues are found and will need to be fixed in the data feed.
Update Your Data Feed Regularly
To improve your campaigns, get in the habit of updating your feed anytime your product prices, availability, or inventory levels change.
For example, if you sold 500 products last month and now you are only selling 350, you need to update your data feed. Otherwise, you’re paying to market 150 products that you aren’t currently selling. Worse, they’ll 404 in the Merchant Center and bring down the quality of your feed.
In addition, when working with our clients, we ask for a dynamic file meaning that we pull in your new file of all your products every single day. We optimize those products through a custom tool and then upload it in Google Merchant Center.
This should be done by someone who has feed optimization experience because many times when you try to do this on your own (or use one of the $50/per month automated app optimization platforms), you won’t have an analyst looking over the feed. This results in random keywords being added into your titles with inaccurate attributes. You’ll end up with a feed that isn’t fully optimized, and it could cost you more money in the long run.
At Inflow, we do all of these optimizations in-house, which means that we don’t make cookie cutter optimizations like most of the tools out there.
Analyze Ad Performance Data
You should also cross-reference Google Shopping data with search volume and other ad data sources. Some key things to look at are conversions, search volume, and negative keywords for your Shopping ads.
This is a great place to start looking for additional optimizations to add back into the feed. By analyzing the feed and campaigns from this level, it should help you steadily increase performance over a longer period of time.
Optimizing your data feed is a powerful way to improve Google Shopping ads performance, lower cost per click, and generate more sales.
We’ll be sharing more details on Campaign Setup and Execution in Part 2 of our guide—stay tuned!
Experimentation has been the cornerstone of all successful organizations. But many fall prey to the obvious yet deadly traps when running or building a CRO programme in their organizations. Find out how you can avoid these traps in this blog.
Experimentation has always been the driving force when challenging the status quo – whether it’s the battlefield where a change in the strategy has altered the course of history or a product change which separates successful products from thousands of failures. For online businesses, this has translated into improving customer experiences thus leading to increase in conversions at the lowest risk possible. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your CRO programme too will not be.
So before you get going to prepare for the ultimate showdown using CRO in your organization; let me help you navigate the various challenges you might face during this journey.
Don’t break the news, already!
Case 1: Omg! Just 3 days and my variation is performing way better than the control. Let me ring my CEO and tell her that I was right about this change.
If this is you, congratulations you just got killed by CRO. One of the most important ground rules for testing is to be patient. Initial test results might excite you to go out there and proclaim victory but wait for the test to conclude to clearly state it. Setting high expectations for the success of an experiment after seeing initial traction may do more harm than good.
Expectation setting may not directly be linked to website optimization but trust me when the results don’t come out as well as expected (thanks to your initial excitement), you wont get team buy-ins for bigger experiments.
Case 2: Damn! It’s been 5 days and there is no conclusion I can draw from this A/B Test. What will I tell my CMO if he asks me how the test is coming along?
Initial test result might put you on the backfoot if you see no or minute movement in your conversion graph to justify the CRO efforts. The answer to all worries is patience. Big changes or small, it takes some time for your results to reach statistical significance given a variety of factors such as the number of visitors being tested, number of variations, etc.
5 tests. But no major change in conversions. But company X whose case study I read did 2x better in conversions. What am I missing?
Let’s assume you ran an on-page survey for an ecommerce site and figured that people who were not completing the purchase were skeptical about the security of the checkout page (even though it may actually be safe). This stopped them from putting in their card details and abandoning their carts. As an obvious next step you form a hypothesis backed by solid data and create a test variation with more security certification badges, testimonials, etc. The result- no difference at all!
So, does that mean you crafted a wrong hypothesis?
The answer is maybe. But take a step back and think about how many ways can you improve security perception of your checkout page? Or make people trust your payment processes?
Answer: More than we care to count.
And this is true for your first successful test which may have got you a 10% lift as well. You still have to think of ways of improving that number. There are better alternatives out there. You just need to keep testing.
Your optimization army should be inspired by the losses to dig deeper and find richer insights to create that one victory which will change the course of your business. Ask yourself how many iterations did you try before arriving at the conclusion that ‘it isn’t working’!
3. Monkey see, monkey do
When our neighbors fought their first conversion battle, they just changed their website CTA color to green and camouflaged their way to get better conversion rates! Let us paint our own checkout CTA green!
They say ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, but not when it comes to CRO. ‘Best practices’ may not be the best for you. Hard data and ground reality on your website may be completely poles apart than the case study you read about. Do not expect similar results from the experiments run by others in the arena. Use quantitative and qualitative research methods to devise a unique hypothesis and then launch your test. Also choose the right weapons (A/B testing or multivariate testing) and a structured CRO plan to execute it.
All businesses are different, so are their visitors’ behavior and thus their experiments. What worked for one may or may not work for others, the idea is to always keep testing until you succeed.
4. The show must go on!
CRO should go on. I will make sure that when I retire or lose a limb in the battle for conversion throne, my army is ready to fight without me.
At VWO, we come across customers who suddenly stop testing and the main reason they cite is that the person who was carrying the CRO baton has quit. Find it shocking? Even we do!
We need to understand that CRO is not just a one-person or even a one-team job. Building an organization which thrives on CRO requires not just education and training, it requires a change in the cultural fabric of the company. A CRO-friendly culture requires the HiPPOs to take a backseat and invite the soldiers from different teams (product, marketing, design and so on) to draw up a battle plan. Don’t take anyone’s word on the face of it but test everything! Celebrate successes and publicize results to get a team-wide buy in for experimentation. It is an uphill battle and hence requires you to plan ahead and properly. Remember Rome?
While you wear your shining armor of a CRO catalyst, believe in yourself and don’t let ‘Death by CRO’ scare you because with the right attitude, you are going to win it not just for yourself but for future teams within your organization. Don’t take my word for it (you might, I have seen 5000+ customers across 90 countries succeed) but test it!
PS: I hoped to save some lives with this blog. Tell me if you survived in the comments section.