9 Key Ways to Optimize Your Google Shopping Campaigns

Jun 12, 2017

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You’re not going to get away with the “set it and forget it” mentality when it comes to optimizing your Google Shopping campaigns.

As one of the most intricate campaign types to manage in AdWords, Google Shopping requires a deft hand from set up to full swing budget spending.

While there are numerous optimization strategies you can use, we wanted to give you a little push to get the ball rolling.

Today we’re covering nine of our team-selected Google Shopping optimization strategies aimed at boosting the overall success of your campaigns.

1. Start With Great Product Data

Many of you are probably well aware of Google's requirements for Product Data Feeds, all of which are outlined in their detailed breakdown of Specifications.

Your feed and product data must pass Google's inspection before your Google Shopping campaigns can begin delivering ads. But that's an established, standardized system.

An optimized Google Shopping begins with optimized product data. There are a few key attributes we know you need to focus on a bit more specifically.

  • Product Titles: How does Google match a shopper's search query to your product? It's really all about the Product Title with  just a little bit of help from the Description. One of our top minds shared some excellent insight into optimizing Product Titles and ways to use your own data to help. The key is really about being as descriptive as possible while also keeping it simple and direct at the same time. Consider how you yourself would shop online. How would you search for that pair of sneakers you just can't live without? 
  • Product Images: For consumers, Google Shopping is just like window shopping at the mall, only with a lot more of a competitor-comparison twist. High quality product images are a crucial best practice to follow for Google Shopping. But there is more to it than that. Sometimes its all about how a product is displayed. Let's take the apparel industry as an example. Do you display a shirt on its own or on a model? Do you display a single shirt or a pack? Do you display a plain shirt or one with graphics?

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There is a distinct psychology surrounding conversion rate optimization when it comes to images. Leading CRO specialist and Google Certified trainer Jeremy Smith wrote an incredibly detailed piece all about the psychology behind images and their ability to boost conversion probability.

2. Start With a Structure for DIY Efficiency

We are firm believers in what we have come to call the “Pure ID-level” methodology of Google Shopping campaign structure. Our team leverages our platform’s capabilities to be able to build these campaigns which removes the risk of complicating things with too many subdivisions.

What you wind up with is a Shopping campaign where every product lives on its own as a single line item. Though doing this in AdWords can get a little tricky, this campaign structure allows for the deepest level of granularity.

However, if you are managing your campaigns on your own, you can still take advantage of ID-level structures similar to Pure form which can be a lot easier to manage do-it-yourself style.

"Let Google Do Some Of The Work"

When you first create a Google Shopping campaign you are prompted to select a starting structure for a given ad group. At that point you can choose to let Google give you a preset breakdown, such as by Brand for example.

Doing this can drastically speed up some of the extra leg work you would have to do had you started with All Products with no subdivision.

If you selected Brand (many retailers do) then you can take each individual Brand Product Group and further subdivide again to ID-level.

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Pro Tip: Bet you didn’t know that ad groups can only hold a limit of 20,000 unique IDs. Retailers with larger catalogs should consider splitting up campaigns a bit differently to be able to fully include all products. This may entail using more than one campaign or separating your feed into two sections for easier copy-pasting of ID’s during subdivision.

 

Now, with each Brand further broken down by ID you will have ultimate control over each individual product ad and associated bid.

At the same time, you have an efficient way to manage smaller sub groups of products which can be tackled one-by-one as you go through your regular campaign maintenance cycles. 

What you haven't lost is the granularity which is crucial for greater success potential. Typically, overly structured campaigns or those not fully subdivided suffer from ongoing decreases in just about all KPIs. We revealed one of these "performance killers" in a recent article.

3. KPIs & AdWords Filters

We're combining Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and AdWords Filters because they truly go hand-in-hand.

When you are looking to optimize your Google Shopping camaigns right from the get-go or if you are working on some ongoing efforts, you should always be able to define your KPIs. 

Once you have selected which metrics are the key indicators of your particular performance then you can use AdWords Filters to discover trends in ill and top performing products.

Pro Tip: Remember when we talked about structure? Well this is where either a Pure ID-level or some version of ID-level subdivision really becomes a necessity. When filtering in AdWords, groups of products with aggregate data can often mask exactly which products are working for you and which are working against you. With any form of fully subdivided ID-level Shopping campaign, AdWords Filters wind up becoming a lot more insightful due to granularity.

Here are two of our all-time favorite basic Filters every retailer needs to be using for Google Shopping:

  • Zero Impressions: Most often indicative of two distinct yet common Google Shopping issues, Zero Impressions tells you that your product ads are not getting displayed. Why? Generally speaking, you can likely suspect errors in Merchant Center as the primary cause. Additionally, however, Zero Impressions can also mean that your bidding too low or that a particular product has such a finite search volume that its simply not being searched for often enough. Start by checking out Diagnostics for your feed in Merchant Center. Should you not find what you are looking for there then consider increasing your bids incrementally (10-20% at a time). You can also incorporate Impression Share and Share Loss metrics into your analyses. These can help you in determining if there is a bidding or budget issue instead.
  • Low CTR (Click Through Rate): Click Through Rate is a very telling metric. When it is used for managing and optimizing Text Ads it is done so as means to optimize ad copy. It's not as easy to adjust ad copy in Google Shopping since its all about what's in the feed. So, what can you do with Low CTR product ads? For starters, you can go back to your feed and make sure your product titles are very descriptive. At the same time however, Google Shopping is entirely a visual shopping experience. Low CTR product ads can indicate poor quality product images. We'd recommend that you literally search for your own product or products that are brought up by this Filter. Check to see what your competitors are offering that you may not be. Maybe you need to adjust your Shipping and/or Taxes or possibly consider lowering your prices to remain competitive.

3. Use Device Bid Modifiers

Now, if you're just starting out then there may be no reason to come out of the gate swinging with +X percent on each elgible device for Google Shopping (Computer, Mobile, Tablet).

But if you have historical data to back up your decision-making, a great way to optimize your Google Shopping campaigns would be through Bid Modification.

What is Bid Modification? In AdWords, you are able set increases and/or decreases to bids for a number of things including location targeting and ad scheduling. 

If you were going to start somewhere, however, in your Google Shopping campaigns then consider your Device Bid Modifiers.

"Where Do I Begin?"

Note that for optimal effect, we recommend using at least 30 if not 90 days of past performance data if you have it. If you have more, great, use more. 

  1. Start in AdWords in the Campaigns Tab
  2. Locate and click on the dropdown for Segment
  3. From the menu select Device

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Note that you can also get ad group level segmentation if you'd like. For beginners however you are best off at the campaign level.

Once you have segmented, data will populate for your selected AdWords columns for the 3 device types.

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Now, the purpose of this is to measure certain KPIs to determine which devices you want to considering bidding up or down on. Your want to add certain headers such as Clicks, Impressions, Average CPC, CTR, Conversions, Conversion Rate, Total Conversion Value, and Conversion Value/Cost (ROAS). 

Impression Share can also come in as a big player here. Adding Impression Share and then Share Loss metrics can help you choose between bid increase or decrease modifiers. 

Lower Conversion Rates on mobile devices could be telling you that your site is not optimized for the mobile experience or that checkout is too complicated versus on a computer.

ROAS, which is Conversion Vaalue/Cost in AdWords columns, can impact your decisions on how much to actually bid up or down on. Higher return devices with a tendency leaning towards lower spend (Mobile for example) may be worth an +X percent modifier.

You can get even crazier and do some more advanced work such as implementing Device-Pure Google Shopping campaigns.

4. Implement A Negative Keyword Strategy

Although Shopping campaigns don't run off of "keywords" like their cousins Text Ads and Display, Negative Keywords are still a vital tool for optimization.

You can use negative keywords to make sure your ads don’t appear for costly or irrelevant search terms. Ensuring you have a detailed list of negative keywords can save you a lot of money in wasted clicks, as well as improve the performance of your campaigns.

Retailers often ask the same question though: How do I find my ideal Negative Keywords? 

We published a very detailed post all about optimizing your Google Shopping campaigns with negative keywords. Read up and get started!

Pro Tip: Don't solely rely on Search Term reports in AdWords. While that may be one part of the puzzle, it is very important to not forget about Google Analytics. Using both can drastically improve your ability to find and implement potential negative keywords for Google Shopping.

5. Use Dimension Reports For Finding Top Performers

This is one of our top optimization techniques for Google Shopping and it is something that is still relatively new to Shopping campaigns.

Dimensions in AdWords are used very similarly as Segments wherein they reveal deeper layers of performance analysis for campaigns.

Such details include Geographic Locations and Time-Related data.

Specifically though for Shopping, the Dimensions tab holds  a veritable treasure trove of incedibly valuable data.

One of the best use cases for AdWords Dimensions in Google Shopping is finding top performing products (IDs) and using that data to enhance your overall retail marketing approach.

  1. In AdWords, from your Campaigns, click on Dimensions
  2. Use the View dropdown to select Shopping
  3. From the next dropdown select Item ID

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This filtered view will show you performance stats for specific IDs in your campaign(s). Now, with the right columns and a little bit of sorting you can build a list of only Converting Product Ads 

With these ID's and some basic manipulation of Shopping Campaign Priority Levels, you can build a full on Top Performers campaign. 

  1. Build a list of Top Performing IDs in Excel or even Notepad
  2. Create a new Google Shopping campaign
  3. Choose All Products for your ad group subdivision
  4. Open up the Subdivision menu using the '+' icon
  5. Select 'bulk add values manually'
  6. Copy your IDs and then paste into the field
  7. Click Add values
  8. Finish up by clicking Save

IMPORTANT STEP: Once your campaign is subdivided, locate the 'Everything else in All products' product group. Click on your Max CPC bid and choose Exclude. This will stop every other product from displaying EXCEPT those IDs you selected.

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Now you have your very own Top Performers campaign. We suggest you set this campaign to a High Priority and your Primary campaign to a Medium Priority. Also remember to always choose Accelerated for your delivery method.

6. Custom Location Targeting Optimization

Most retailers can get away with very basic location targeting to simply include the entire country you ship and sell to.

CRO experts Clever Zebo founder Igo Belogolovsky blogged for Kissmetrics and covered some of the basics of geo-targeting. He also shared some other tantalizing tips for advertisers and marketers alike.

Once again the Dimensions tab really comes into play here. Just as you did above for finding your top perfomers navigate to Dimensions, however, this time, use View: Geographic.

You can use the region column and sort by any desired KPI. As an example if you sort by Conversions or ROAS (Conversion Value/Cost) it may help you determine which region to increase bids for and which might need a decrease. 

For US-based retailers regions are states and Dimensions will further break this down by Metro, City, and sometimes more specifically such as by Zip Code or County.

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Here's A Different Perspective:

Some retailers, especially those in speciality markets or the home improvement space, can greatly benefit from extremely specific geo-targeting practices.

This can include the use of multiple Shopping campaigns each with their own very unique targeting criteria. Maybe one campaign targets the East Coast of the US while another targets the West.

Where we have also seen this use case is in the home furnishings vertical. There are many home goods retailers who remain niche in their product line. They may only want to target extremely cold climate areas or go the opposite direction and target warmer climates and coastal/beach states.

So as not to put themselves in a corner, these retailers can maintain an overall (for example United States) targeting criteria but can then implement a geographic bid modification strategy aimed at increasing bids for select states or regions where they see the highest return.

Again, this is where the Dimensions tab comes in big.

7. Custom Ad Scheduling/Day Parting

A couple of years ago Google began pushing hard with the phrase "Micro-Moments."

"Consumer behavior has changed forever. Today's battle for hearts, minds, and dollars is won (or lost) in micro-moments—intent-driven moments of decision-making and preference-shaping that occur throughout the entire consumer journey. Read more about this new mental model for marketing."

ThinkWithGoogle, Sridhar Ramaswamy SVP Ads & Commerce at Google

While the majority of talks surrounding Micro-Moments focus heavily on cross-device attribution, its core is all about reaching the right person, at the right time, with the right ad.

We can tie this into our list of Google Shopping optimizations in #7: Custom Ad Scheduling/Day Parting.

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First, the difference:

  • Ad Scheduling is more about setting user-defined display times of day for ads in AdWords Campaigns, including Shopping.
  • Day Parting refers more to setting user-defined display days for ads in campaigns such as Google Shopping.

Both can be valuable optimizations for reducing the risk of high costs with lower returns in Shopping.

We're going to talk about Ad Scheduling specifically. Guess what? We're headed back to Dimensions! 

As you can already see, the Dimensions tab in AdWords is incredibly useful and provides excellent insight. What is most attractive about the Dimensions tab is that much of the data is actionable and not solely analytical in nature. 

So, you've been running Google Shopping for a little while now. You are concerned that people are clicking on ads but not buying during specific times of the day. The Dimensions tab can help you discover your campaign's "Micro-Moments" so you can build a custom ad schedule to improve performance.

  1. Start out in Dimensions (can be all campaigns or a specific one)
  2. Select View and then Hour of Day
  3. You'll now have a detailed performance breakdown for times of day

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By manipulating your columns once the Hour of Day view has been set, you can gain a pretty detailed picture of campaign performance during specific times. 

You can do the same for Day-Parting and instead select Day of the week as your View.

Now you should be able to head back to Settings and Ad Schedule in AdWords. Click the red +Ad Schedule to create your custom ad schedule.

Even then, that is just the beginning. The Time collection of Views from the Dimensions tab can provide valuable insight and help you determine the use of bid modifiers for custom ad schedules.

8. Google Shopping-Specific Extensions

Text Ads have it pretty lucky when it comes to Ad Extensions, but Google Shopping campaigns can be optimized with some excellent extensions as well.

There are really two types of extensions for Google Shopping:

  • Automated Extensions: Shipping and/or Tax information displayed in a PLA
  • Merchant Center Programs: Includes newer programs such as Google Customer Reviews and veterans like Merchant Promotions and Product Ratings.

These extensions can prove to be vital assets in increasing Click Through Rates and Conversion Rates.

Automated Extensions are based on the information you provide in Merchant Center. You would see this in product ads where additional text displays "Free Shipping."

In some cases you can still apply a manual extension for an ad group within Shopping to display a more unique message such as "90-day returns."

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Customer Reviews are brand new and just went into full release for Google Shopping. We spoke about this in more detail in an earlier article.

Then there are more substantial extensions such as Merchant Promotions. Merchant Promotions adds a Special Offer message to Shopping ads which, when clicked, opens up a small window over the add displaying a unique offer for their site.

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Programs such as Product Ratings, Customer Reviews, Merchant Promotions and even Local Inventory Ads can all be accessed in Merchant Center. 

Use the three dots in the type right corner of your account and select Merchant Center Programs from the dropdown. Some specialty extensions like Local Inventory Ads require that you submit a request to Google and you must meet certain requirements.

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8. Implement Remarketing

The power of AdWords remarketing campaigns and remarketing audiences is no longer overlooked or underreported.

We analyzed over 20,000 individual RLSA audiences for retailers and discovered some incredible results.

So when it comes to optimizing your Google Shopping campaigns, sometimes it comes down to scaling versus actually optimizing bids or adjusting settings

For Google Shopping, there are two specific remarketing types to choose from:

  • Dynamic Remarketing: Allows you to build a campaign and connect it to your Merchant Center account (just as with Google Shopping). This form of remarketing appears on the Google Display Network (GDN) and displays product ads on Google Search Partner websites.
  • RLSA: Remarketing Lists for Search (or Shopping) is not actually a campaign. RLSA allows to select or build audiences and add them to Google Shopping campaigns. These audiences are generated by AdWords based on how you installed an AdWords Remarketing Tag on your site or they can be managed via Google Analytics. It is in Google Analytics where you can add a bit more customization and include metrics not available in AdWords for your audience definitions.

Today, if you had to start somewhere, we would highly recommend RLSA. It is extremely easy to implement.

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Furthermore you can optimize RLSA audiences with bid modifiers. Google also just launched Similar Audiences and Customer Match for Google Shopping.

Anthony Capetola

Written by Anthony Capetola

Tony is the Marketing Manager at Sales & Orders heading up our inbound marketing and advertising team. His latest adventure, though? Being a dad!

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