7 Expert Tips on Optimising your Google Shopping Feed

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Published on 06/12/19 by James Vjestica.

As Google has continued to grow and expand, ‘Google Shopping’ has become progressively more popular among businesses. This feature has become essential as it ultimately allows users to search for products on Google and compare prices between different vendors. For this reason, it presents the opportunity for businesses and their respective products to be more visible on Google which is vitally important as it is the most used search engine on the internet. Given the potential opportunity that Google Shopping offers to businesses, you must make the most out of it to see a healthy return on investment.

If you’re unsure of how to use Google Shopping, fret not, this article will provide you with 7 expert tips on how to achieve this. However, if we are to reveal our secrets, we should probably start by providing further insight into Google Shopping itself!

What is Google Shopping?

As previously mentioned, Google Shopping is a feature that allows potential customers to search for products online and compare the prices of these products between various businesses who are selling them.

You should be aware that Google Shopping is powered by two platforms: Google Merchant Centre and Adwords. The latter is the location of your product feed, which are the details of your products that are organised in a format that Google approves. Adwords, however, is where you control your shopping campaigns and allows you to set your budget, bids, insights and performance indicated optimisations.

Google Shopping ads differ from traditional text ads. With the latter, you are creating campaigns, ad groups and ads that are focused around keywords that you decide to use. With Google Shopping, Google will decide when your product listing ads show up. They will take your feed, site and bids into account when determining what search queries trigger your ads. With this in mind, Google Shopping takes three main aspects into account:

  1. Feed creation and optimisation – These covers areas such as product data, product images and price.
  2. Bidding – There are several ways in which you can bid successfully, which will be covered later in this article. Needless to say, if you bid successfully, you could see a healthy return on investment.
  3. Monitoring and optimisation – A benefit of Google Shopping is the ability to see granular performance data, which allows for granular optimisations. This can assist in making a great campaign.

Our top 7 tips will provide essential information on how to make the most of your Google Shopping feed!


Tip 1: Outline your competitors

An ideal start would be to have a clear idea of who are your main competitors and which of these are successful. Without this information, you won’t be able to make a comparison and will, therefore, have limited contact in terms of how to plan your campaigns. Having this information will make life much easier for you further along the line. We recommend a two-step plan.

Step 1: Start with Google Search – It would be a good idea to begin by searching in Google for your desired keywords. From here, you will be able to see what appears in the shopping results. The key information to take from these are the products, prices, images and retailers. The likelihood is that these shopping feeds have been optimised well, which will provide you with a solid insight into what to include when creating your own shopping feeds.

Step 2: Use marketing tools – Another option is to use marketing tools such as SEMRush to find your competitors product listing ads (PLAs). These will show what keywords a retailer has Google Shopping placements for. Similar to Google Search, you will see screenshots of your competitors shopping ads including the title, price and image.

With this information at your disposal, it lays the foundation for you to begin planning your campaigns effectively.

Tip 2: Decide on your products and accompanying keywords

Once you have a solid idea of your competition, it is important to plan strategically in terms of which of your products you want to sell in order to achieve a maximum return. It may be wise to initially group your items into the following groups:

Entry Products – These probably won’t be your core products and therefore not the most profitable but are an ideal entry point into your business. Products such as these are most commonly on the lesser scale in terms of price but will be an item your customer will require on a regular basis, or even will need before they make a larger purchase on one of your core items.

Consumables – These aren’t too dissimilar to your entry products as they are the items that you want your customers to constantly revisit and purchase. The idea here is to get your audience ‘hooked’ and essentially rely on these products. A great example of this is razor companies who sell razors with the motivation of selling blades, which are obviously essential to use the razor.

High price/high margin products – Obviously the most profit you will make on products are those with a high margin. It is therefore advisable that you put an emphasis on these as they will obviously make you the most money. Your campaigns must be interesting and to the point in order to achieve the goal of selling these higher priced items.

Niche products in high demand – If you find yourself in this fortunate position, it would be foolish not to make the most of it! Niche products are actively searched for, so you want to make sure that your products are highly visible on Google Shopping. Unsure of what constitutes as a niche product? A great example are vegan food products – not everyone is vegan but those who do not eat meat or dairy products will be actively looking for vegan products.

Once you have arranged your products into these groups, you should pin-point what their respective keywords are. When considering keywords, it is important to take their unique characteristics into account which can include aspects such as colour, size, model etc. For example, the Nintendo Switch has been a popular gaming console since its release, which has led to their accessories being sought after. With this is mind, if you type in ‘Nintendo Switch game controller’, the top result is ‘Nintendo Joy-Con Right wireless Controller for Switch – Red/Blue’.

Nintendo Joy-Con product including all of the main keywords on the Google Shopping listing.

This is a great example as it presents potential keywords that a customer may search for such as ‘Nintendo’, ‘joy-con’, ‘Switch’, ‘red/blue’. The more specific keywords you use, the more you will specialise your search which will help your product(s) to be more easily accessible for your potential customers.

By deciding on what approach you take depending on your type of product, along with including the correct keywords, you will have the opportunity to make a great return on investment.

Tip 3: Identify your goals

Identifying your goals will lay the foundations for your campaigns. There are two questions you should ask yourself when trying to achieve your goals: ‘should I emphasise in building a customer base or making sales?’ and ‘how much am I willing to spend on my campaigns?’.

Customer building or making sales?

Most commonly, there are two types of merchants: those who want to generate sales, and those who want to generate customers. While there is not necessarily a right or wrong approach, we would advise composing a strategy that focuses on the latter.

Your long term ambitions should be to build a strong business and brand and without customers, this won’t be possible. With this in mind, it would be wise to build a customer following who are more likely to return and buy more of your products in the future and potentially refer new customers to your business. Given that you are smart with your campaigns and bid smartly, you should make a profit on your sales with Google Shopping.

How much should I spend on campaigns?

Only you can answer this question. This is all relative to how much you will make from a sale, what the profit margins are and how much you are willing to spend during the bidding process. We would recommend looking at how much profit you stand to make and then make a decision on how much money you are comfortable to spend on campaigns. From here, you will know how much you will have left to spend and begin a trial and error process on keywords that will fit within your budget.

Tip 4: Use Marketing Tools

In order for you to choose the more effective keywords, you will need to understand your audience’s behaviour. Understanding what your potential customers are searching for is vital when creating your campaigns. It is worth noting that more detailed searches are a sign of a higher buying intent, whereas someone who types in a one-word search may just be casually browsing online. It is therefore likely that someone who searches for ‘neon red/neon blue Nintendo Switch’ for example, will be more of an active shopper than someone who simply searches for ‘Nintendo’.

You can make life easier for yourself by using a variety of marketing tools. A few of our favourites include the following:

Google Keywords Planner – This is a handy free tool courtesy of Google. With Keywords Planner, you can enter several keyword ideas and Google will give you potential suggestions along with an estimated search volume. In addition, Google also provides an estimated value of how much CPC you can expect to pay for each respective keyword. Although these figures are estimated, they will give you a good idea of whether these are the right keywords to use.

Google Keywords Planner marketing tool showing results for the keyword 'keyword'.

Keywordtool.io – Similarly to Google Keywords Planner, this toll provides you with related keywords to go with the keywords you are targeting. This tool can be particularly helpful when you are writing your description for your feed or page copy. Using several of these related words that are relatable to what you are selling can assist you in presenting a wider variety of search queries.

Keywordtool.io marketing tool showing results for the keyword 'keyword'.

SEMrush – This tool will provide detailed insights about either a keyword or a domain. This is arguably use for delving further into keyword and finding helpful data at a quicker rate and a better format than Google Keyword Planner. It is also great to compare your keywords with those of your competitors, to get an idea of if you are on the right track. You should be aware that there are both free and paid options.

Once you have the required data, you can then choose your keywords and begin planning your campaigns.

SEMrush marketing tool showing results for the keyword 'keyword'.

Tip 5: Master your feed

Once you settle on your keywords, it’s time to input the information for your data feed(s). Your data feed is essentially the information about the products that you are looking to sell and is formatted in a structure that Google can read and understand. However, be aware that you don’t pick the keywords that your Google Shopping Ads show up for as Google will crawl your feed and determine which of your products are relevant for a search query. It is therefore to structure the various elements of your feed so that Google can successfully decipher the information and find it relevant for appropriate search queries.

You should be aware that there are two main approaches to build a feed:

  1. Taking a more manual approach by entering your product information into a spreadsheet according to Google’s specifications.
  2. By using an external tool such as an extension, plugin, app or service that retrieves data from your site and automatically formats it for you.

It is therefore vital to set up a feed properly for 3 main reasons:

  1. To be visible for the right search queries
  2. To make both optimisation and management successful
  3. To attract your audience to click your ads

Regardless of how you choose to create your feed, there are several aspects that you have to get spot on. Poor standards in relation to these can cause your feed to be rejected by Google and cost you valuable clicks in the long term. We will now outline the dos and don’ts with the key features below.

Most feed providers and platforms will encourage you to maximise your product feed, and a good feed can be distributed across many traffic sources. Either repurposed for advertising channels such as Facebook & Amazon or sources of organic traffic such as the product search engine Pricesearcher.com.

Product feed title

This is arguably the most important feature of your shopping feed. Your product title must be both accurate and descriptive, otherwise Google will have difficulty knowing when to show your product ad. If you are to put your SEO hat on, think of your product title as your title tag of a website page – that’s the level of importance of your product title!

Do:

  • Include top keyword(s) – Providing that it’s accurate, you must include your top keywords in the product title.
  • Include the product name – This will most likely be one of your top keywords, which should ideally replicate your product title.
  • Include unique characteristics – Longer searches generally indicate a stronger intent on buying. It is therefore important to make your product title unique by including information such as colour, brand, gender and size.
  • Prioritise important information – Try putting the most important information at the beginning of your product title. For example, if you are selling Bosch coffee makers, your title could be ‘Bosch Coffee Machine (model) – (colour)’.
  • Include model numbers and any other descriptors – This carries on from the previous point. Include this information to make the product easier to find for your potential customers.
  • Keep within Google’s 150-character limit – Be as descriptive as possible while ensuring you keep within this character limit.

Don’t

  • Use too many keywords – Only use a specific keyword once in your description.
  • Be too vague or long-winded – You only have so many characters, so get straight to the point.
  • Add promotional text – Adding promotions such as ‘Bosch Coffee Machine – 50%’ off are not allowed.
  • Use CAPS inappropriately – Overusing caps will be disapproved of by Google.

Product Description

Despite not being as important as your product titles, your product descriptions are still more than worth taking into consideration. Google will pay close attention to your descriptions to help determine what keywords will trigger your product listing ads. If this isn’t done correctly, you could miss out on valuable clicks.

Do:

  • Describe your item briefly and accurately – Writing a novel will not be beneficial to you. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and write what they would want to see.
  • Include keywords – You should include the same keywords that you used for your product title.
  • Prioritise important information – Try putting the most important information at the beginning of the description. This will provide the most weight.

The product description for the ‘Lavazza a Modo Mio Espresso Coffee Machine’ demonstrates a good example of how to write one correctly. The description is to the point and includes the model within the first sentence – ensuring the keywords are prioritised.

Lavazza Espresso Coffee Machine with an optimised product description on Google Shopping.

Don’t

  • Use too many keywords – Only use a specific keyword once in your description.
  • By too vague or long-winded – Readers will only read so much before they become bored. Make sure you are descriptive and to the point.

Image

As the old saying goes, ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression’. For this reason, the image of your product is one of the most important features in persuading a potential customer to click on your ad. You should therefore take the following in serious consideration:

  • Visible in a thumbnail – If customers can’t clearly see the product, the chances are they won’t buy it.
  • White background – Google requires there to be white background behind your images.
  • Do not include text, watermarks or logos – Google won’t let you overlay your image with text or watermarks.
  • Easy on the eye – Ensure that the picture has good lighting and is shown at a favourable angle.

The below example shows an example of a high-quality image.

Ottoman Fabric product with a high quality image to clearly show the product on Google Shopping.

By following these steps for product feed titles, descriptions and images will attune to both the requirements of Google and your customers, making it more likely that your campaigns will be successful.

Tip 6 – Do your own bidding

Outside of your feed, your bids are the most important part of your Shopping campaigns. These will ultimately determine what queries you will show up for along with how profitable your campaign is overall. Bidding too much or too little can damage your campaign; you’ll have to find a happy medium. While this isn’t necessarily an impossible task, you will require some top tips, strategy and, of course, practice.

In order to set you on the right path, think of bidding as a ‘bidding trifecta’ which, if followed correctly, can lead to your campaigns showing a return on investment.

The Bidding Trifecta

When developing your bids, there are three key aspects to consider, which are the following:

  • Product price – Your bids should partially be a reflection of the price of your products. It is not wise to have the same bid for products which differ in price.
  • Profit Margin – In addition, you must take your average gross margin into account. We would recommend looking at the price i.e. the cost of goods sold rather than looking at a true profit margin.
  • eCommerce Conversion Rate – Lastly, you should take your average conversion rate into consideration. You should be aware that your conversion rate from paid search is likely to be lower than your site average.

Taking these three numbers into account, the below formula can be used to determine your MAX bid. Once this has been determined, you can trial and error from here.

Formula:

Sales price – cost of sold goods = max CPC

Available profit x conversion rate = max CPC

Max CPC x (between .4 to .75) = initial CPC bid

For example, imagine a scenario where you are selling a product that retails at £80 and has a cost of £40. In addition, your conversion rate is operating at 4%. The calculation would work like the following:

£80 (price) – £40 (cost of sold goods) = £40 profit)

£40 (profit) x 4% (conversion rate) = £1.60 (max CPC)

£1.60 (max CPC) x (.5) = £0.80 (initial CPC bid)

In addition to this formula, you should take two aspects into account:

  • Your paid traffic conversion rate will most likely be lower than your site average. It has been known for it to be on par, however, you should be aware that direct visitors who actively search your name, convert at a higher rate as this is organic. Paid traffic most commonly converts at between 10-30% lower than your site average. This is not always the case, but as you won’t initially know which products will perform well, it would be advisable to make a more initial conservative approach and then trial and error accordingly.
  • You may wish to bid less initially. Remember, this calculation determines your max. Usually, we take this and divide it in half for initial bids. It would be wise to take this approach for your first bid(s).

When to attune bidding

When you initially launch your campaign(s), you will most likely undergo a period of trial and error in order to gain impressions and clicks. If it is the case whereby your ads aren’t getting impressions or clicks but you are confident in the quality of your feed, then it is likely that you need to bid more. We would suggest bumping your prices up gradually (5-10p) at a time and analysing the results.

It’s rare for a shopping campaign to hit its daily budget in its initial stage. During these stages, Google will show your PLAs more conservatively and watch how users respond to them. As your performance metrics improve over time, your ads will be shown more frequently for relevant queries by Google.

In addition, the below includes several helpful tips for low bids vs high bids as both can have their advantages:

  1. Lower bids lead to longer tail keywords – More often than not, lower bids lead to exposure for longer tail and less competitive keywords. So, for example, the keyword ‘coffee machine’ will demand a higher CPC than ‘Bosch Tassimo Coffee Machine’. This can be a win-win as longer queries tend to convert better while also meaning that these lower bids will mean that your budget will go further.
  2. Higher bids lead to good positioning and branding – On occasion, the keywords that convert can be the competitive ones that cost more. Also, you may find yourself in a situation where you could prioritise exposure of a certain product over immediate return on investment (ROI). For example, you may have launched a new coffee maker and wish the product to show up for various coffee maker keywords. You may choose to bid more and prioritise on impression clicks rather than immediate conversions.
  3. Attune bids according to season – CPCs are predominantly driven by competition, which means that the more competitors bidding on a keyword will increase its max CPC. For this reason, if you are bidding on seasonal products, you will need a season bidding plan put into place. You should ensure that your products are segmented in a way that will allow you to easily increase or decrease bids when appropriate throughout the season. This is mainly because these products will sell better in certain times of year.
  4. Attune bid according to performance – It is advisable to attune your bids according to performance. For example, if a product is selling well, you could increase the bid slightly to see if you can gain more exposure for more keywords and sell more. Alternatively, if a product is not selling, you could reduce the bid as you could potentially be showing for competitive, non-buyer keywords.

Tip 7 – Keep an eye on the campaign results

Without monitoring the results of your campaigns, you won’t know how effective they are or how they can be improved. This is where a good marketing channel can become a game-changer. As there are several aspects to shopping campaigns, you will want to analyse this data on at least a monthly basis. We would advise using Google Adwords and Analytics when digging into this data as you will get a broader range of data than if you only focussed on one.

Google Adwords

You can find some very helpful data within Google Adwords, particularly under the ‘predefined reports (dimensions)’ section. You find this by clicking on the ‘reports’ button at the top of the page and then hover over the ‘predefined reports (dimensions) section. From here, if you hover over the ‘shopping’ section, you will be able to view certain dimensions of your shopping campaigns.

Steps on Google Adwords showing how  to analyse campaign results.

As results vary from business to business, what you find and how you respond to your results will be relative.

Google Analytics

Within Google Analytics, you can access ‘search queries’ which will provide an insight into what users are actively searching for on Google that result in ad impressions for you. In Google Analytics, you can find this data by clicking the ‘acquisition’ tab in the left-hand side of the page, then the ‘Google Ads’ drop-down and lastly clicking on ‘search queries’.

Steps on Google Analytics showing how  to analyse campaign results.

You can then refine your results by choosing the date range along with a ‘secondary dimension’ which allows you to sort your campaigns by clicks, impressions or conversions.

Steps on Google Adwords showing how  to analyse campaign results.

Once you have done this, it is advisable to create a filter in order to just view your Google Shopping campaigns. In order to do this, you should click ‘advanced’ next to the search box.

Steps on Google Adwords showing how  to analyse campaign results.

As all businesses differ, the information you retrieve from Google Adwords and Analytics could vary in comparison to your competitors. Some of the potential issues you may face could include the following:

Products with no impressions – The chances are that this means your bids are too low, or that your feed isn’t providing Google with the clear information it requires to display your products. A good start would be to increase your bids first and then consider amending your feed later.

Products with high impressions and low clicks – In this instance, Google will find your products relevant for different search queries, but you aren’t receiving clicks from your customers. Most commonly, this is due to the pricing of your products. If your competitors are pricing their products lower than yours, then it is likely to discourage potential customers from viewing your ad.

Another reason for low clicks could be due to poor image quality. It is worth comparing your images with your competitors to determine whether the quality of your images are up to standard. Remember, you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression, so having a high-resolution image is a minimum requirement.

Products with high clicks and no conversions – This can occur when Google finds you relevant and users are actively clicking on your ads, but despite this, choose not to buy. The chances are this is a product page issue. It’s always a good idea to look at what your competitors are doing and analyse their landing pages. There are several features to look out for which can include:

  • Are your competitor’s reviews more positive than yours?
  • Are your competitor’s product images and videos of a higher quality?
  • Do your competitors offer free shipping?
  • Do your competitors offer special offers that you currently don’t?
  • Are your competitors selling their products at a lower price?

A potential solution could be to lower your bids in order to begin showing for longer tail keywords that have a higher probability of converting. Additionally, the information in your feed could be misleading and therefore showing unwanted keywords. For this reason, you may wish to re-read your feed and edit it accordingly.

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