How to Manage Google Shopping Campaigns

How to manage google shopping campaigns
How to manage google shopping campaigns

Shopping ads include rich product info and are designed to bring Google searchers to your website to complete a purchase. They’re great for conversions, placing products directly in front of a captive audience of shoppers. 

But Google Shopping campaigns don’t quite follow the same set of rules as the standard PPC campaigns you’ve gotten used to. 

They’re not triggered by long-tail keywords and the set-up process involves a very specific data entry process that begins in your Google Merchant Center and is managed through Google Ads.

Keep reading to learn more about Shopping campaigns and how to get started.

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How Do Google Shopping Campaigns Work?

In text ads, you build ad groups, ad copy, and design campaigns around specific keywords. When someone types in a targeted search term, it triggers the ad. 

Google Shopping ads work a bit differently. As mentioned, they are not triggered by keyword—if you think about it, this approach would make it hard to compete for placement (searchers tend to use broad, generic terms to find items like “men’s sneakers, size 10” or “women’s cardigans”). 

Instead, Google’s algorithm determines when your listings show up based on what’s in your feed, your website’s reputation, and your bids. 

A successful Google Shopping campaign comes down to a few key factors. 

  • Feed: Creating a feed involves adding your product details like images and pricing, as well as SKUs, reviews, and anything else that buyers need to know to make a decision. 
  • Bidding Strategy: We looked at bidding strategies in an earlier blog post, but Shopping is a slightly different animal. There are several bidding strategies to choose from, although success boils down to selecting an option that is best suited for helping you reach your business goals. 
  • Optimization: Optimization includes several activities, including implementing a negative keyword strategy, managing bids based on business goals, and targeting the right audience. 
  • Ongoing Monitoring and Adjusting: As is the case with anything Google, Google Shopping comes with the ability to review ad performance on a granular level. While there are several ways you can automate things like bidding, Google Shopping campaigns require consistent monitoring—making small shifts as needed. 

Setting up Your Shopping Campaign (from Scratch)

So, before we dive into more specifics, it’s important to understand that Google Shopping is powered by Google Ads and Google Merchant Center. The Merchant Center is where you’ll store your product data, while Google Ads is where you’ll run your actual campaigns, just like Search or Display campaigns. 

As such, you’ll want to start off by creating a Google Merchant account.

Upload Product Feed 

Once your Google Merchant Center account has been verified, you’ll need to upload your product feed as either a text or XML format. 

Your feed is a list of every product that you sell, along with descriptive attributes such as color, price, brand, and inventory levels. 

The first step is creating a primary feed–which as you can see below, represents the data required to display ads in the search results. 

Manage Google Shopping

After you follow the prompts for your primary feed, you’ll have the option of adding in a supplemental secondary feed. Supplemental feeds can’t be used as a primary source, but you can use these to add additional details that tell you more about an item, such as whether an item is on sale.

For the sake of brevity, we’ll redirect you to Google’s Help Center for more details on adding your product data: you can submit this information in the form of a Google Sheet

After putting together your list, you’ll need to submit your product data for review. In its support documentation, Google indicates that it typically takes them about three days to get back to you. 

The next step is linking your Merchant Center and Google Ads account. You can do this by heading over to the settings section here and following a few simple steps. 

Bidding Strategy Basics

When you go to set up your Shopping campaign in Google Ads, you’ll notice that the process begins by selecting a campaign type (in this case, it’s Shopping) and a goal. 

Manage Google Shopping

As with Search ads, you can connect your Shopping campaign to a few different goals like driving sales or generating leads. 

Manage Google Shopping

Select a Strategy

After selecting a campaign type and goal, name your campaign and choose a bidding strategy.

Bidding strategies are similar to those available for text ads, although there are fewer options. We’ve listed them here: 

  • Manual CPC–Set your own maximum cost per click for your ads. We tend to prefer this option, as it gives brands more control over your PPC spending.
  • Target ROAS–Allows you to set a targeted return on ad spend. How much are you willing to pay per conversion? Google’s algorithm automatically sets bids to help you get the highest conversion value for that target bid. 
  • Enhanced CPC–Google automatically adjusts manual bids to increase your chances of getting conversions.
  • Maximize Clicks–An automatic bidding strategy where you’ll set a target amount, and Google focuses on generating as many clicks as possible within your budget.

From there, set your budget, save, and set your targeting options. Now move on to some bigger decisions about how to manage your Google Shopping campaign.

Ad Groups and Bidding

Adding all of your products as one ad group is the easiest way to get started with Google Shopping ads. If you choose to run a product shopping ad (which is recommended if the goal is driving conversions), Google automatically creates one big ad group with all of your products. Technically, once you’ve uploaded your feed, you could just go for it and create your ads. 

Unfortunately, the easiest route isn’t usually the best option in the Google universe. Single ad group campaigns make it hard to control using negative search terms or pinpoint the poorly performing products that should be excluded. 

What’s interesting about Google Shopping versus Search ads is that your ad groups operate on a subtractive basis, which means that getting granular depends on filtering products based on category, priority, and more.  Click To Tweet

We recommend doing this in pretty much every circumstance, the exception being a store with very specific offerings, such as one that only sells mattresses or glasses. 

Here are a few things you can do–both as isolated strategies, or in conjunction–to gain tighter control over your campaign.

Query-Level Bidding

Query-level bidding allows you to segment your audience into different categories (generic, branded, and product-level) using campaign priorities and negative keyword lists, while still sharing a budget.

Manage Google Shopping

Under this process, users will create a few campaigns based on one ad group. You’ll use campaign priorities to distinguish each group from one another. 

For example, we have the High Priority Generic group, targeting people who may be looking for dining furniture, but don’t have a specific brand in mind. The advertiser is allocating the bulk of their budget here, potentially because they want to get in front of a new audience or because they’ve seen more success with generic terms versus branded ones. 

The Medium priority campaign will generate the same results as the generic shopping campaign, but it targets a slightly different buyer. In this case, the buyer might be looking for dining furniture, but they might type in “IKEA dining furniture” instead of just “dining furniture.”

Lastly, the third option is the low priority Shopping (brand + size). To continue with the furniture example, searchers might type in something like “IKEA small dining set,” providing a brand and a descriptor.   

The point is that when you’re using campaign priorities, you’re not bidding the same amount for a high-intent, branded search term like “Nike Air Max black” as you would be for the generic, unbranded  “sneakers.” 

We should also note that branded search terms and generic ones have varying degrees of effectiveness. If you sell Nike sneakers, you’ll likely get a ton of traffic from people who want a specific shoe in a specific size. 

Known brands and clothing retailers have a huge opportunity here. On the other hand, if you sell furniture, most people don’t have a favorite brand. In such cases, you might do better spending more money on generic or unbranded terms that attract people looking to outfit a new home or replace the couch they’ve had since college.


Just like you’ll find in a traditional PPC campaign, setting up massive ad groups is one of the fastest ways to blow your entire ad budget. 

With Google Shopping Ads, you’ll want to make sure you use a campaign structure designed to highlight your best-selling products and match searchers’ intent as closely as possible. We’ll point you toward this idea of SPAGs (single product ad groups), which are the Shopping equivalent of SKAGs

Each ad group contains ONE product, allowing you to focus on matching landing pages and ads with laser precision. 

Profit Margin Campaigns

Another option is setting up product categories based on profit margins. The benefit of approaching your Shopping campaigns in this way is that you’ll have more control over bidding on high-intent terms with two or three campaigns. The set up is just like query-based campaigns, but the strategy is a little different. 

What’s more, you’ll also be able to see which campaigns drive the most traffic and conversions, and make adjustments based on that information.

The problem is that sometimes profit margin campaigns can be difficult to manage, particularly if you have a wide range of products. In this case, you’ll need to create several product lists, each with two or three campaign priorities. 

Optimizing Your Shopping Campaigns

Don’t Forget to Include Your “Negatives”

Set them up by navigating to your Shared Library and create the following lists:

  • Branded Negatives: Use this to exclude branded search terms from your generic campaigns. This list should be pretty short, consisting of your brand name and a few common misspellings.  
  • SKU Negatives: SKU terms are product names or numbers you’d like to leave out of branded or generic campaigns. This sends any product-level searches (like “women’s sweaters” or “fold out sofa”) straight to an SKU campaign.
  • Universal negatives: These can be any irrelevant terms you’d like to leave out of your campaigns.  
Manage Google Shopping

Add Structured Data to Shopping Pages

Okay, structured data is another issue for another, longer blog post. But the gist of it is that you can now mark up product data in your Merchant Center account. This allows you to let Google know more about what’s on your page, enabling rich results. Benefits include more brand visibility and the ability to automatically update items–according to Google, this helps protect your account against suspensions and temporary disapprovals.

Set Up Conversion Tracking

We say this all the time, conversion tracking is huge when it comes to getting the most out of your PPC campaigns. At its core, e-commerce is all about conversions. Make sure you set your account to track different values for each conversion so you can get a better idea of how much you’re spending per conversion.

Manage Google Shopping

Wrapping Up

Getting started with Google Shopping may seem intimidating, due to those “extra” elements like the Google Merchant Center, the product feed, and the different approach to managing your ad groups. 

But if you run an e-commerce business, leaving out Google Shopping is a big mistake. Shopping ads put brands in front of an audience ready to shop. Even with highly-targeted Search ads, you might still show up in front of a huge audience that isn’t ready to buy. Plus, running Search campaigns allows you to show up in the search results twice. 

In the end, though, we understand that managing Google Shopping campaigns can be a real challenge, especially when you factor in everything else that goes into running an e-commerce store. 

Because Key PPC focuses on e-commerce clients alone, we can apply proven methods to your Shopping Campaigns (plus Search, Display, and remarketing) to help you scale. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.

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