How to Drive More Sales with Google Shopping Campaigns

This guest post was written by Elena Terenteva, Senior Content Marketing Manager at SEMrush, a competitive research software that provides data on competitors' online marketing activities.  

More sales and revenue, gosh, that’s every online retailer’s dream.

For that to happen, though, you need people to visit your product pages.

But how do you get more eyes on them if the majority of channels are either too unpredictable or are overly competitive in terms of SEO? Or simply don’t offer enough ability to showcase a product, like text-based PPC ads?

Enter Product Listing Ads (PLAs) – Google’s way to advertise products, not your business.

As PLAs are now being integrated with Shopping Campaigns, this is a good time to refresh what they are and how they could help you drive sales.

So what are Product Listing Ads?

Even though you may not realise it, you’ve probably already seen PLAs in action. These are the ads containing a product picture, pricing information and a store’s brand that you can see on some of the Google search engines (i.e., etc.).

For example, if you were looking to buy an iPad mini, you’d see these results. In this instance, Product Listing Ads appear on the right side of the screen.

Sometimes, however, PLAs can also appear on top of the page – interestingly, pushing both text ads and organic listings downwards.

Up until recently, PLAs were an independent product. As of October this year, however, they have been integrated into Shopping Campaigns.

They still offer the same benefits to online retailers, though:

1. They help to grow revenue. This one is a no brainer, right? By placing products in front of the very people looking for these items, you are bound to drive some new sales.  

2. Increase traffic. More eyes seeing your product ads means more people landing on your product pages.

3. Build brand awareness. One of the benefits of advertising apart from an increase in sales is brand awareness. Since PLAs show only for product related searches, your brand will appear in front of the very people who seek what you sell.

The current integration into Shopping Campaigns brings new opportunities to improve your advertising, too:

1. You can manage your inventory directly in AdWords. This will help you to, for instance, improve how you manage bidding on products. For example, if you sell tablets, you can group and create campaigns for the types of tablets you want to promote.

2. You get powerful reporting tools. These include reports that allow you to filter and manage in order to extract the data needed to improve your campaigns.

3. You can compare your campaigns with the industry. With Shopping Campaigns you get insight into your industry benchmarks. You can compare your strategies with average cost per click, standard open rates and even the competitors’ share of impressions.

Note: As some marketers point out, even though you can’t doubt this data’s usefulness, you should take its accuracy with a pinch of salt. Google might be trying to skew it a little to push you to spend a bit extra on advertising.

Regardless of whether or not this is true, Shopping Campaigns offer an enormous opportunity for online retailers to position their products in front of their target audience and to grow revenue.

Interested? Here’s how to get started

The entire setup process is quite simple. In fact, there are only 3 elements you need to take care of before your ads will start to show.

1.      Merchant Centre

First you need to set up your Merchant Centre. This will host all products you sell on your website. You will also have to create a link between your website and the Merchant Centre to automatically add your inventory to AdWords.

2.      AdWords

Next, you need to connect your Merchant Centre with your AdWords account. This is the final setup step before you can begin creating campaigns.

3.      Campaigns

Lastly, set up your campaigns and start advertising. The whole process is too complex to include in this post, but check Google’s official guide or this brilliant step by step tutorial from Volusion for more information.

Note: There is a major difference between how traditional text-based PPC ads and PLAs work. The former are triggered by specific keywords whereas PLAs show up based on searches for a specific product.

This means that you can’t specify keywords you’d like your product ads to appear for.  It also means that whether your ads display or not is based on the information you provide about them in the data feed.

What are Shopping Centre best practices?

Just like with any other form of advertising, it’s easy to mismanage your campaigns and ultimately, “burn” some of your budget. That’s why Google recommends that you take certain steps when managing your product advertising:

  • Keep the data feed information current. Schedule frequent uploads of data to make sure that all product information is up to date.

Keep product availability up to date as Google says: “product eligibility can improve your impressions

  • Submit unique SKUs for each product for easy identification
  • Use high quality and clear images for products, ideally with white, grey or light grey backgrounds
  • Keep “titles, descriptions and images user-friendly
  • Don’t stuff your product descriptions with keywords. It might be tempting to do so as this copy is part of what triggers the product to show in PLAs. Overdoing it, however, might block your ads from showing up at all.

Are your direct competitors using PLAs? And if so, how?

I am sure you’re eager to know. After all, PLAs might be helping them to steal some of your audience.

The latest Product Listing tool from SEMrush can report on how a particular domain uses PLAs in their marketing. Among other things the tool can reveal various information such as:

  • What products they promote with PLAs
  • What traffic they receive through their advertising
  • What is their estimated monthly cost for running Product Listing Ads

Moreover, it also shows their actual ads, images they use and prices to help you compare their efforts with typical search volume and other website statistics.

Main view of SEMrush Product Listing report

Final words

More sales and revenue – no online retailer is going to say no to that. It, however, gets increasingly difficult to rely on organic channels or traditional advertising to drive traffic directly to products.

Google’s Shopping Campaigns offer a new opportunity in product promotion. And it’s one that, if managed well, can become a major advertising channel for Ecommerce stores. 

Thanks to Elena for this guest post. Now, dear readers, if you'd like to learn more about ecommerce, check out this post by our consultant Anthony on creating a great user experience with PPC.

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