Google Shopping Campaigns: 3 Simple Tips for Getting the Most from It

Back in 2012, Google transitioned from Google Product Search to Google Shopping. While Google Product Search did not charge fees for listings on its price comparison service, Google Shopping is a purely commercial model, built on Product Listing Ads (PLAs).

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In the wake of this transition, there was a lot of chatter about PLAs being a waste of resources, as well as confusion about where to begin with them. The Group Twenty Seven team sees significant value in PLAs, and compiled tips for getting the most benefit from a PLA campaign in a previous blog post.

Here, we’ll follow up on that earlier post with 3 tidbits we’ve learned over the years on best practices for getting the most from Google Shopping campaigns.

1. Watch for Google Shopping Impression Share

Impression share is a measure of your shopping campaign and PLA success. A simple way to think of impression share is to imagine Google’s advertising landscape as a pie. You – and all of your competitors – are vying for the biggest portion. Paying attention to your impression share lets you know where you stand in the running.

We’re used to watching average position and impression share for Search Network campaigns, but Shopping campaigns don’t have an AdWords average position metric. So, we rely heavily on impression share to learn how often our ads show up. For example, if your impression share is 70 percent, your PLAs are appearing 7 out of 10 times.

For the uninitiated, impression share is the result of dividing the number of impressions you actually receive by how many you were eligible to receive (the latter being an estimate); this estimate is determined by your Quality Score, targeting settings, bids and approval statuses.

Keep in mind that the calculation changed slightly in November 2014, and the AdWords help files (linked to previously) state how that impacts historical metrics:

The calculation of impression share for Shopping campaigns changed in November 2014 to take into account budget lost impression share and deduplication at the account level. Therefore, you may not be able to compare impression share metrics before and after this change occurred.

2. Be Sure to at Least Check Benchmark CPC and CTR

Benchmark data gives you a glimpse into how well your competitors’ PLAs are performing for products similar to yours, though the information is presented without the names of your competitors. Advertisers often use benchmark data to tweak settings and bids. You can find these details in your ad group’s “Dimensions” and “Product Groups” tabs.

Here’s some starter info on benchmark CTR and CPC from the AdWords help files:

Benchmark clickthrough rate (CTR) shows you how other Product Listing Ads for similar products are performing based on how often people who see the ad end up clicking on it. For example, if the benchmark CTR is significantly higher than the CTR for your product group, you might consider raising your bid for that product group, or improving the product information in your Merchant Center account, particularly product images and titles.

Benchmark maximum cost-per-click (max. CPC) tells you how other advertisers are bidding on similar products. Use this information to compare your bidding strategy for a product group against that of other advertisers advertising similar products. Then, hone your bids to optimize the performance of your ads. For example, if the benchmark max. CPC is significantly higher than your max. CPC, you might consider raising your bid.

Be cautious, however, when using benchmark CPC and CTR to adjust your bids. As Frederick Vallaeys pointed out in an article at Search Engine Land, his results tanked when he did so:

“When I increased my bids to be closer to the benchmark, my campaign results completely tanked. In several cases, my clicks doubled — but my daily cost went up 600 to 1000% and conversions dropped in half!”

Vallaeys says he suspects it has to do with changing bids for product groups in general:

“What happened is that changing bids for product groups is a bit like changing bids on broad match keywords: you just can’t predict what will happen because the query mix completely changes. When you are competing for different queries, predicting results is nearly impossible.

Hence, my advice is to change bids very cautiously, and work toward refining your product groups as you change bids so that your bid changes are limited to a more tightly defined set of products.”

And that brings us our next point: bidding on product groups. There are a few things to consider …

3. Don’t Forget How to Increase Bids at the Product Level

You bid on product groups in Google Shopping campaigns much the same way you bid on keywords in a Search Network campaign. You can apply your bidding strategy to an entire Shopping campaign or to individual product groups. You may also increase bids on specific products.

If some of your products have higher margins, you may want to increase your bids on these products only. Further, if you are in a very competitive space, you can increase your bid on a “gateway” product.

For example, one of our clients has a competitor that truly dominates the PLA search engine results pages for most of their main keywords. One test we’re performing now is cranking up the bid on a product that’s priced lower than the competitor’s pricing with the intention of being present in the space, and seizing a chance to pull in their customers .

If you’re thinking about adjusting your bids, but not sure how it will affect performance, you can check out the Bid Simulator in your products group for some insight on how product group bids can vary your traffic. The simulator uses the previous week’s ad auction data, your ad quality, your competitors’ bids and product data to gauge how certain changes might help or hinder clicks, costs and impressions.

Like everything else in Google AdWords, the Shopping product is likely to go through changes over the next year. We’ll update you with new tips as we refine our practices, and you can always get the most up-to-date information in Google AdWords’ support files.