Online shopping – we all do that. Hell, it is undoubtedly the best thing since sliced bread. (Did you know you can buy online for that, also? Crazy.)
But have you ever looked for a product and wanted to buy from a variety of brands and labels? This can be a very complicated process, if you are between e-commerce sites.
This is where online shopping markets are useful. Think: Amazon, eBay, Etsy and – you guessed it – Google Shopping. While Google Shopping is not technically an online market (it’s more of an ad platform, but more on that later), offers buyers the same opportunity to search for a variety of products based on their search queries.
Google Shopping also benefits retailers because, when a buyer clicks on a product link, it is sent back to the retailer’s website to make the purchase.
If you’re not advertising your products on Google Shopping, you’re missing out, my friend. We’ve compiled this guide to help you better understand Google Shopping and get started with your first Shopping campaign. Continue reading to get started or use the chapter links to move forward.
What is Google Shopping?
Google Shopping is a service from Google that allows consumers to search, compare and buy physical products at different retailers who have paid to advertise their products. This is also known as CSE (Comparison Shopping Engine). Google Shopping results are displayed as thumbnail images that display the retailer and the price of each product.
When it launched in 2002, Google Shopping was called Froogle. The service simply indexed the product data based on certain search terms. In 2012, the service switched to a paid advertising model in which retailers needed to pay to appear in Google Shopping search results.
From that moment on, Google Shopping became an “affiliate” of Google AdWords – yet another way for retailers and e-commerce companies advertise your physical products on Google. But unlike Google text-based ads that are displayed based on keywords, Google uses product data sent by merchants to display Google Shopping ads.
Why use Google Shopping? In short, it works. Here’s my personal anecdote about Google Shopping.
I am currently in the process of moving apartments here in Chicago, and my boyfriend and I are looking for a sofa – preferably a sectional – for our new apartment. I am not loyal to a specific brand of furniture or household items. So I looked for ways to easily search for a new sofa at various retailers.
Type: Google Shopping. When I Google “sectional sofa”, he accesses many sites … along with sponsored Google Shopping results. Bingo.
By clicking See sleeper in cut or in Shopping On the tab below the search query box, I can access a variety of sofas from different retailers. Google Shopping also lets you filter results by price, size, fabric and more.
So, I’m a fan of Google Shopping. I haven’t made a purchase yet, but I hope to find our ideal sofa using this service.
Here are some other reasons for using Google Shopping:
- Google Shopping adds a visual touch for a shopping and research experience with heavy texts.
- Google Shopping allows you to appear multiple times on Google SERPs – as a result of the site, a text-only PPC result, and a result of Shopping.
- Google Shopping is proved to have 30% higher conversion rates than text ads.
Adding products to Google Shopping
- Set up a Google Merchant Center account
- Optimize your product images
- Collect and enter product feed data
- Link your AdWords account
- Create a Google Shopping campaign
- Place bids in your Shopping campaign
- Target and schedule your Shopping campaign
- Create ad groups
Let’s talk about how to list your products on Google Shopping. Below, we’ll take the necessary steps to set up your account manually. Tip: If you have a lot of products, this process may be easier to outsource to a Google Shopping data feed tool.
1. Set up a Google Merchant Center account
In order for your products to appear in Google Shopping results, you must sign up for a Google Merchant Center account.
Google Merchant Center is simple to set up, easy to navigate and essentially serves as your foundation for your products and product information. (You will manage your future Google Shopping campaigns through Google Ads, but more on that later.)
Read our guide to Google Merchant Center to learn more about creating and managing your account.
2. Optimize your product images
Google Shopping uses product feeds submitted to index search results, but extracts the featured images from the respective retail sites. For this reason, it is important to optimize images and product listings in your own website before selling them on Google Shopping.
Google Shopping is a highly visual experience. Photos of your products are arguably the most important part of your listing and can be how buyers choose which product to click and buy. Google knows this and – in the interest of providing a great shopping experience for consumers – will really deny Google Shopping campaigns if images are of poor quality.
(If you think you can cut costs here, think again. Google does frequent quality checks and don’t hesitate to suspend Google Shopping accounts. Bad product images don’t just affect sales, they can stop them altogether.)
If you want your products to appear on Google Shopping, we recommend following Google image guidelines from the start:
- Use a white, gray or light colored background
- Use clear, uniform lighting
- Show the product clearly being sold. (Mirrors and close-ups can be used as additional images, but not as the main image.)
- Show the product in the correct scale and not too big or too small. (Your product must occupy between 75% and 90% of the complete image.)
- Avoid blurring, noise, excessive JPEG additions or other adjustments to the image, such as pixelation, fringing and fading.
Other best practices include displaying clothing products on the body, using shadows to increase depth, providing multiple product angles, and introducing real people. It is also a good idea to master these product image specifications if you sell your products in other markets, such as Amazon, eBay or Etsy.
3. Collect and insert your product data feed
With your images optimized, it’s time to create your product data feed. Your product feed tells Google everything about your products. This data is essential because it helps Google find and display your products when people search for certain product terms or attributes.
To set up your product feed, access your Google Merchant Center account. Click Products > Feedsand then click on the blue “+” icon.
First, enter your country and language. This data determines what demographic data your products will see, so it’s important.
Then, name the product feed and choose how you will enter the product information.
If you choose Google Sheets, you can upload your own spreadsheet or use a template provided by Google Merchant Center. This step also allows you to create an upload schedule, depending on how often you update your inventory.
This spreadsheet is used to gather the product attributes that Google will use to index and display your products. Below is a brief list of some required product attributes that Google uses to create its Google Shopping ads (in addition to an example of a cheeky couch).
I would go – unique identifier for your product. Use the SKU if possible. Example: S123
title – Title of your product. It must match the product’s landing page. Add specific details that buyers can search for, such as size, color or style. Example: Allie super comfortable sectional sofa, gray
description – An accurate description of your product. It must match the product’s landing page. Include only product information. Example: This sectional sofa was made especially for Allie’s new apartment. Made with 100% cloud-based material, this sofa is perfect for snuggling your dog, biting Cheez-its and watching Netflix a lot. He also has a folding bed for when his mother comes to visit him.
Link – Your product’s landing page URL. It must start with http or https. Example: https://www.alliessofa.com
image_link – The URL of your product’s main image. It must start with http or https. Example: https://www.alliessofa.com/image1.jpg
availability – Availability of your product. Match availability on the product’s landing page. Example: In stock
price – The price of your product. Match the price of the product’s landing page and the currency of the country in which the product is predominantly sold. Example: $ 500.00
google_product_category – The product category defined by Google for your product. Include the most relevant category. Example: Sectional> Sleeper
brand – Brand name of your product. Provide the name that is generally recognized by customers. Example: Allie’s
You can find the complete list of Google product data specification here. We recommend that you read it, as we cannot fit the entire list of mandatory and optional attributes in this blog post.
If you choose to use the template provided by Google Merchant Center, the spreadsheet will already reflect the product’s attributes as column headers.
If you choose to create your own spreadsheet, enter the attributes of the chosen product as the column header. Fill in the respective data with each product as your own line. If an attribute does not apply to a product, leave that cell blank. When you’re done, just upload the document to Google Merchant Center.
Voila! From that moment, you can access the product feed in your Google Merchant Center account at Products> Feeds> Primary feeds.
4. Link your AdWords account
When you search for a product on Google, the Google Shopping results you see are actually ads.
That’s right – to get your products on Google Shopping, you need to pay. While Google Merchant Center is how Google gets your product information, Google AdWords is how consumers view your products… through Shopping campaigns, which we will get to next.
To get your products in front of buyers through Google Shopping, you need to link your AdWords account.
Sign in to your Google Merchant Center account. In the upper right corner, you will find three vertical points. Click on those to expand the menu and click Account linking.
If you don’t have an AdWords account, you can create one on this screen. Otherwise, click Account link to enter your AdWords customer ID. When finished, your AdWords account must be linked.
Once your AdWords account is linked, you can create a Google Shopping campaign and advertise your products. There are a few different ways to start.
One way to create a Google Shopping campaign is through your Google Merchant Center account. After linking your AdWords account through Account linking page, you can access it from the same location. From there, you can simply click Create shopping campaign.
Then, enter the campaign name, country of sale and daily budget. After clicking I create, you will be asked to continue managing your campaign through AdWords.
The other way to create a Google Shopping campaign is through Google AdWords. Sign in to your AdWords account. Open the Campaigns tab on the left side menu, click on the blue “+” icon and choose New campaign.
First, choose a campaign goal. A Shopping campaign can have a goal of Sales, Conductsor Site traffic. (You can see the Shopping designation if you hover over the goal.)
Sales campaigns generate sales online or in person. Conducts campaigns bring together leads and other conversions, encouraging buyers to complete an action. Site traffic campaigns bring the right people to your website. Google adapts each campaign to align with your goal. So choose the best one for your company.
After choosing a campaign goal, designate the campaign type as Shopping. Make sure your Google Merchant Center account is displayed (so that AdWords knows where to get your product data from) and indicate your country of sale.
Finally, choose a campaign subtype. Note: Smart Shopping campaigns require conversion tracking so that AdWords can track when your ads generate sales on your site.
For reasons of explanation, let’s choose a Shopping Standard campaign.
The next screen contains all of your Google Shopping campaign settings. First, enter the campaign name and click Additional configurations whether you want to set up an inventory filter, enable local inventory ads, or change your campaign’s URL options.
6. Bid on your Shopping campaign
Then, in your Google Shopping settings, you’ll be asked to select your bid strategy and set your campaign budget.
Bidding is how you pay for people to see, click and interact with your ads. According to Google, “enough bid and high quality product data will give your ad a higher ranking.”
(Hint: Google has a really cool look Bid simulator tool which will show you how bid changes can affect your ad’s performance. In addition, GoDataFeed wrote an incredible guide to Google Shopping bid strategies this can also be useful.)
First, select your bid strategy. Manual CPC (cost-per-click) means that you set your own maximum CPC for your ads. You can also define an automated bid strategy. Target ROAS (return on ad spend) and enhanced CPC require conversion tracking because Google uses your ad’s conversion rates to bid more efficiently for your products.
With “Maximize clicks”, Google Ads automatically sets your bids to get the most clicks possible within your budget. You can set a maximum CPC bid limit to limit your spend on each ad.
Then choose your Campaign Budget. That’s the amount of money you want to spend, on average, every day … but the amount isn’t limited on a daily basis. Instead, Google manages your budget on a monthly basis: in one month, you don’t spend more than your daily budget multiplied by the number of days each month.
For example, let’s say I set my campaign budget to $ 100 in February. Google sees that I’m willing to spend $ 100 x 28 days = $ 2,800 in February. Because you bid on my ads, Google can spend more than $ 100 in one day, but will never spend more than $ 2,800 in a month.
You can also define a delivery method for your budget: Standard spends your budget evenly over time and Accelerated spends it more quickly.
Finally, if you’re running more than one campaign, you can set a campaign priority so that Google knows which bid to use.
Read more about the fundamentals of PPC advertising in our definitive guide.
7. Target and schedule your Shopping campaign
The last section of your Google Shopping campaign settings is intended to target and schedule your campaign. This part is important because it determines who will see your product ads and when.
The first two settings – Networks and devices – should not be changed. They’re just telling you where your product ads will appear.
Then, select the locations that your ad will target. Choose only the locations where you are and / or can send. Under Location options, you can change your targeting and exclusion settings, although we recommend Google’s default options. These options ensure that you are promoting marketing to the best people: those located in the destination location and those looking for (also interested in) those locations. The same goes for excluded locations.
Finally, set the start and end dates for your Shopping campaign. Your ad will continue to run unless you set an end date, so don’t forget this section.
8. Create ad groups
After completing your Google Shopping campaign settings, you will be asked to create ad groups for your campaign. Ad groups determine what type of ad you’ll show and how you’ll organize bids for those ads.
There are two types of ad groups that you can run: product purchase ads and Show Shopping Ads. Product Shopping ads promote a single product. Showcase Shopping ads are a new format and allow you to advertise multiple products as part of a product or lifestyle ad that represents your brand or company.
If you choose a Product Shopping ad group, enter your group name and set a maximum CPC bid.
This creates one big ad group for all your products. If you wish to filter your products further, you can create separate ad groups for different categories.
If you choose a Showcase Shopping ad group, enter your ad group name and set a maximum CPE (cost per engagement) bid. (Engagement occurs when someone expands your Showcase Shopping ad and clicks on spends at least 10 seconds within the ad.) Lastly, choose what products to advertise as part of the Showcase Shopping ad.
Once you click Save, your campaign is submitted. Congratulations on completing your first Google Shopping campaign… we hope to see your products in Google Shopping results! 🎉
Google Shopping is a welcome change from an otherwise text-heavy online shopping experience. It’s almost like a digital mall – shoppers can enter, search for what they want, and see many different brands and types of products on one screen. For that reason, many people (including myself) prefer marketplaces over shopping for products on a standalone ecommerce site.
If your physical products aren’t being advertised in the Google Shopping results, consider adding this tool to your marketing repertoire. Not only will it boost your website traffic, but it’ll also give you leads and sales you otherwise might not have collected. Use this guide to get your Google Shopping campaign up and running, and you’ll see how it can greatly benefit your ecommerce strategy.
Originally published Feb 6, 2019 7:30:00 AM, updated December 16 2019