Google Shopping has some serious benefits: high intent searchers, a visual element, and the top spot in the SERPs. Conversion rates are up to 30% higher than text-based ads, and you can show up more than once for the same search.
Unfortunately, it seems the stores with the largest catalogs take up the most space, making it hard to stand out if you only sell a handful of products. If you’re a smaller retailer, we get it, and it can be incredibly daunting to invest too much money and energy into Google Shopping.
As we’ve mentioned in a past article, instead of bidding on keywords and creating ad groups around them, Google chooses when to display ads based on relevance. On the positive side, this means you’re only paying for clicks from the most relevant traffic.
However, when you don’t have the catalog or the reputation for competing with the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and other big names, you’ll need to optimize your site to be seen by your audience.
Here, we’ll talk about some ways to optimize your feed for more visibility, from featuring high-quality photos to using merchant promotions or showcase ads.
Photo Optimization Tips
In Shopping, product images need to be crisp, clear, and just all-around high-quality. Google is starting to factor image quality into ranking factors more and more these days, so this tip is far more critical than you might imagine.
- Size: Google recommends uploading images 100x100PX or higher, but we recommend going bigger with around 800x800PX, which will give you a higher resolution image.
- Background: Google guidelines state that you need to upload a photo with a white background, with no text or logos anywhere but on the product itself.
- Relevance: Google wants to see images that clearly show shoppers what the product looks like. If you’re selling a piece of clothing, this means including an image of what a jacket, for example, might look like on your typical customer.
- Thumbnail visibility: The image needs to be clear within the Google search results. If someone needs to click through to the website in order to understand what it is you’re selling, they’re not going to take that extra step.
Titles are going to be one of the most essential pieces of the Shopping puzzle. After all, this is what lets both Google and your target audience know exactly what you are offering.
Your title is a bit like your title tag for SEO—it’s meant to provide as many descriptors as possible, based on the searches you want to rank for.
In this example of a search for “winter coats,” you’ll notice that the brand name—be it Tommy Hilfiger or The North Face—shows up before any information on styles, or even any indication about whether the item is for men or women.
Don’t use headlines that might come across as spammy or desperately promotional; words like “free,” “discount,” or “exclusive offer” will likely work against you.
That said, Google Shopping does allow you to add in “Special offer” tags that highlight promotions.
Improve Product Descriptions
You’ll see this tip all the time when it comes to Google Shopping best practices.
We’re not entirely sure how much of an impact these short snippets of copy have on your campaigns, but we do know that they play a role in telling Google whether your product matches what searchers are looking for—much like an SEO-optimized blog post or a relevant landing page.
Lead in with the following pieces of information:
- Type of product: shoes, shirts, necklace, iPhone case, dog bed, and so on.
- Who it’s for: men, women, kids, pets, etc.
Once you’ve established the “what” in your product descriptions, you’ll then want to add in the words that give shoppers a clearer picture of what your product is all about:
- Target age group (baby, kids, etc.)
- Special features
- Technical specs
Google’s guidelines are also pretty clear on what NOT to include in your product listings. Most of these items are pretty straightforward and aim to ensure that advertisers aren’t trying to capture their audience using spammy techniques or irrelevant language.
A look at what you’ll want to avoid as you set up your PLAs:
- Promotional text like “Free shipping” or “On Sale Now”
- ALL CAPS DESCRIPTIONS
- A description of your company or brand
- Details associated with a different product
- Language that compares the featured product to another item in your catalog (e.g. “better than X”)
- Links to your store (or other websites)
- Information related to billing, payment, or sales
You want to make sure that what is displayed in the “description” portion of your ad does that one job—describing a product. Things like your company mission or billing and shipping details belong in another area.
Additionally, it’s important to note that relevance is critical here, too. Make sure to load descriptive words upfront, prioritizing the essential information first, then placing the least relevant details near the bottom of the page.
Not only will this help attract more clicks, but you’ll likely see a direct impact on your Google Quality Score, a metric that plays a role in both placements and how much you’re paying per bid.
Optimize for the Queries You Think You Can Win
Okay, you can’t actually bid on keywords in Google Shopping. But learning more about what terms that searchers are using to find you can help you identify your best selling products.
However, keep in mind that you can optimize your feed so that your “winning” products match the top-ranked descriptive words. The Google algorithm does crawl your account, picking up on specific keywords to determine whether your products line up with searcher intent.
As such, you’ll want to look back at the historical search query data for your Google Ads account to identify which keywords are driving the largest share of traffic, and more importantly, conversions.
These search terms may be able to give you a sense of which products are likely to drive the most profits. Once you figure out where the money is, you may want to filter out certain items from your feed.
If you have 500 products in your catalog, but you only want to promote 25, you can specify this by navigating to your Shopping Settings and clicking on “Advanced.”
Keep Pricing in Mind
Here’s where things get a bit complicated. Google Shopping factors price into its ranking system, favoring cheaper products over more expensive ones.
According to Search Engine Land, low prices may net you more impressions, as do higher bids. As such, it might be worth it to use your lower priced items as a way to attract new visitors to your site, and then upsell shoppers after the click.
What if You Don’t Have a Ton of Customer Data?If you’re a smaller company that’s also new on the Google scene, you face a unique challenge: there’s a limited data set you can mine for insights that can be turned into ad ROI. Click To Tweet
If you don’t have a ton of Google data on hand, you can lean on customer lists from your website or export Facebook audience insights and use those to inform your next campaign. Alternatively, try experimenting with different bidding strategies.
Here are a few things you can do to increase awareness and gather the right data:
Bid Low to See What Sticks
When starting a Google Shopping campaign as a small business, you’ll want to start slow, keeping bids low as you begin to collect data.
As you begin to learn where your conversions are coming from, you might start to increase bids on the best-performing products to gather more impressions.
We should mention this: keeping your ad groups on the smaller side can help you pinpoint outperforming products to fine-tune your bidding strategy. For instance, if you’re using an approach called SPAGs, you’ll have one product per ad group.
This set-up allows you to increase the budget on only the top-performing products, while at the same time pausing poor-performing campaigns that are eating up your ad spend.
Run Impression Campaigns to Inform Google Shopping Ads
One way to do this is to run ads that are displayed on Google Search Network partners. This approach allows you to reach an audience with the same interests as your target market on other websites (media sites, blogs) and places like YouTube. Enabling this feature is as simple as checking the box pictured below.
Look Toward Facebook
Alternatively, you can create Facebook ads to generate impressions and gather data using their powerful platform. Social media is great for helping users discover new brands, and it can be an easy, affordable way to learn more about your audience so that you can improve your Shopping Ad strategy down the line.
To pull your campaign data from Facebook’s Insights hub, simply navigate to your ads manager and click the Export button. You can export audience data as a CSV or Excel file, which can then be uploaded to Google following this set of guidelines.
One of Google’s recent (ish) updates includes a unified view of your audiences. You can now create custom audiences and remarketing audiences, or you can pull from the reports that Google automatically gathers for you based on interests, behaviors, and demographics.
The promotions feature is relatively new, but the idea is that you can highlight special offers you’d like customers to know about, without eating into your product descriptions or title. If you choose to use this feature, your ad will include a little blue plus sign that may capture shoppers’ attention.
Click on the Promotions tab in your Google Merchant Center account. Google will then present you with the following options:
- Amount off
- Percent off
- Free gift
- Free shipping
While there’s currently no reporting function tied to Merchant promotions, running a special offer may help you stand out in front of your audience. It may also increase the chances of Google displaying your ad over another brand’s offerings.
Send Shoppers to a Landing Page Where they Can Complete the Purchase
In e-commerce, your goal is typically conversions. As such you’ll want to make sure that when someone clicks on your Google Shopping ad, they will be directed to a landing page that tightly matches the product featured in the ad and presents a clear path toward making that purchase.
In the end, there’s a lot that small e-commerce brands can do to boost the performance of their online stores.
With that said, if your product is super niche, you may want to consider running more awareness campaigns—on Facebook, Google, and elsewhere—to help you gather the data needed to run more effective, tightly-controlled shopping campaigns built for conversions.
Nailing the basics of PPC is hard enough, never mind building campaigns that drive predictable growth. That’s where Key PPC comes in. We work exclusively with e-commerce companies, helping them reach growth targets through proven campaign strategies. Contact us today to learn more about how we can do the same for your online store.