How to make money with Google Shopping: the guide for business. Part IV. Hygiene & optimization
Read the whole Google Shopping guide:
When we were done with primary settings and launching our campaign, daily grind has begun. Campaign management, hygiene, optimization… And that’s exactly what we will discuss today.
Hygiene & optimization
There is one important issue that not all clients (and sometimes even not all specialists) understand. This issue is — “What optimization is all about?”. When we ask about it, sometimes answers are like this: “Well, I’m analyzing search queries”, “We change ads”, “Well, we check a position, CTR…”.
The main problem here is that people don’t understand the difference between optimization and usual account hygiene. Let’s work it out.
Maximize, intensify, enhance the result
Maintaining everything in order we wouldn’t lose the results that we have already achieved
The same thing is in Shopping campaigns: there are some processes for maintaining hygiene and there are some processes that are important for maximizing the results. Today we will mainly discuss optimization but “hygienic procedures” also won’t be forgotten.
Google Shopping looks not just at the feed quality and products meet requirements of Google Merchant Center policy. Attention is drawn on the overall quality of the landing pages and the entire website. It’s important ’cause they can cause a violation of company policy — and in this case campaign will be suspended.
What else does the system pay attention to?
First, check the quality of the basic information on your website:
- the content should be written without grammatical , punctuational and other types of mistakes;
- all visitors should be provided with the same information, regardless to their location, device used, browser and so on;
- contact information should be noticeable and understandable — transparency and trust are important to users;
- most of the content and all physical goods on the website comply with the Shopping policy. For example, you absolutely shouldn’t violate copyright (unique content is still important!);
- the ordering process is transparent and clear. In our practice there was a case when one of the reasons of blocking the Merchant Center of a store in Ukraine was the phrase “The manager will contact you to clarify details,” which usually subtly hints at a trick: there may be no product in stock or the price may be different. After deleting the phrase, the account was unblocked;
- checkout should be clear and safe for the user. The payment must go through special services, you can’t use the scheme like “make an order — we will send you the card number, where the money should be transferred to”.
It seems that there are plenty of rules. But it is important to understand: Google is trying to create a secure system for the user, a system where it will be impossible to trick the buyer. Therefore, incorrect data about the availability of goods in stock, unexpected price changes and suspicious payment process are extremely rebuked.
Please note that Shopping advertising policies also include Google Search Console rules and webmaster guidelines. Therefore, for example, doorways or cloaking on a website are also unacceptable — even if they appeared by chance and without malice.
Our advice: find a dozen of the most famous online stores in your country, check which ones use Google Shopping and use them as an example to guide you.
What else you should remember:
- good user experience. This is,of course, a subjective concept but Google relies on it. Improve the speed of page loading, simplify the navigation, control relevance and usefulness of the content, user-friendly design, page displaying on different devices and in different browsers;
- be careful with the number of pop-ups and try to make sure that any pop-up doesn’t interfere acquaintance with the content;
- one landing page can contain only one product and only one price. The price of the offer should be transparent and understandable to the user. If you use discounts and promotions be sure, that visitors will easily find it on the page;
- the website should run smoothly. If you need to do some technical work, update the design or shut down your website temporarily for any other reason, stop the advertising campaign for this period. Firstly, if the page doesn’t work Google will most likely reject products or ads. Secondly, while the ads are working but the page isn’t , the budget is wasting to nowhere because people won’t see and buy anything;
- use direct links instead of redirects;
- metadata is important. If you have the correct markup on your website with information about the current price, delivery, availability, you can enable the automatic update of the product feed to keep the data up to date. But if the metadata contains incorrect information, be sure to turn off the auto-update function.
Undoubtedly, the product feed is the most important part of optimizing overall performance at auctions, over time — of the gathering impression statistics. But if the statistics is accumulating and there are only a few conversions, look at your website once again — maybe that’s what causing the poor performance of the campaign.
We took one of our campaigns and compared ads for the same product which differed only in 3 parameters:
Categories and descriptions changes didn’t bring any special results, wow-effect in our ads performance and volume of traffic. But increasing the relevance of the title increased the number of impressions and emerged first clicks!
The original title looked like this:
The Brand® 3-Pack Ultra-Gentle Reusable Makeup Remover
Ultra-Gentle Reusable Makeup Remover 3-Pack: The Brand®
Reusable Makeup Remover 3-Pack: The Brand®
The ad shows the first 70 characters of the title so it is important to write basic information at the beginning of the line.
So if you want to do better and get more, you should start optimization with the title. The remaining things, perhaps, can also be optimized from time to time. But if they don’t affect the result as it is, they should have a minimum priority. First of all, do what brings you maximum benefits.
Traditional title structure
Typical title in Google Shopping campaigns looks like this:
<brand> <category> <color>
DataFeedWatch advises this cheat sheet for the basic structures of title for different product categories:
- apparel: <brand> <gender> <product type> <attributes (color, size, material)>
- consumables: <brand> <product type> <attributes (weight, count)>
- hard goods (furniture, appliances, tools, electronics, jewelry and sporting goods): <brand> <product> <attributes (size, weight, quantity)>
- electronics: <brand> <attributes> <product type> <model #>
- seasonal: <occasion> <product type> <attributes>
- books: <title> <type> <format (hardcover, eBook)> <author>
But the typical option is not always the best option.
Before compiling the titles, it’s important to analyze a couple of things about the target audience and the brand itself.
Title and the brand recognition
Google reads titles from left to right and pays more attention to words that are closer to the beginning. Considering that in the traditional scheme there is a brand at the beginning, this is a really important aspect that is worth discussing.
If the brand is new (i.e. unknown to the user yet) or is a trafficker (i.e. irrelevant to the user), then you definitely shouldn’t put it first in the line.
For example, you develop a new brand of shoes or working with the online store “Super Shoes” and selling Nike & Adidas. In this case, writing brand at the beginning will limit the potential impressions that you could get.
Let’s say we have a product — Nike Air Max — and a title:
Super Shoes Nike Air Max white
“Super Shoes” is a search query that doesn’t receive any search volume. But “Nike Air Max”, on the contrary, just gets this volume. Based on this, put less relevant words at the end of the title so you wouldn’t lower the ad showing priority of the entire ad:
Nike Air Max white — Super Shoes
Something like this we did with “Reusable Makeup Remover” and as you can see it really has borne fruit.
Title and all kinds of buyers
Some products may have at least 2 target groups of buyers: professionals and consumers. Each group can be segmented into smaller groups for more accurate marketing.
For example, let’s look at the napkin holders store. What target groups can we identify?
- HoReCa, owners, and managers of small businesses, restaurants and cafes who are looking for napkin holders for themselves;
- Architecture, construction and design studios that made a plan to assemble the object. They take specs from the designer’s planner and look for specific products by SKU number;
- stores for home goods can look for new products using different queries to replenish their stock or to look for specific items that have already been ordered before and which are sold well.
All 3 groups of buyers will search for products in different ways. Owners will look for a “white napkin holder in a restaurant.” Managers from the design studio — “WL-996093 Wilmax napkin holder”, ‘cause they have a specific brand and SKU number listed.
And here the second option, by the way, is much more profitable for our store. ‘Cause the more specific queries users use, the stronger purchasing intention they have.
In such cases we can recommend this kind of title structure:
<brand> <SKU number> <product type> <size> <material> <color>
Another thing is if you are a clothing retailer. Your typical buyer is a typical product consumer. And you see, very few consumers google a blouse by the article number. But there also is a difference in buying intentions.
Take, for example, the Supreme tee. It can be searched by a few types of queries:
- men’s brand t-shirts;
- men’s t-shirt Supreme original.
Each of these queries has its own level of consumer intent. The person who is just looking for “T-shirts” has not yet decided whether he really wants a new T-shirt or better saves extra cash for something else. Search terms as “men’s branded T-shirts” are more relevant but still could be better. But people who look for “men’s Supreme Supreme T-shirt” have already opened the wallet and are ready to pay you.
Describe products as fully and accurately as possible to make it relevant for all three categories of buyers. Try this structure:
<brand> <gender> <product type> <material> <color> <style>
Brand awareness and category of customers are two main aspects that are very, very important. However, the title’s optimization is an eternal process, not a one-time action, so let’s look at another important thing…
Title and search queries
Semantic query optimization is a technique for optimizing product titles based on user queries. It sounds slightly unintelligible, although the principle is extremely simple:
open the search queries report
choose the queries that led to sales in a particular product most often
include them into the title (remember the rule “the closer to the beginning — the more priority Google gives us”)
Let’s talk about Supreme tees again. For example, we see that a search query like “trendy youth t-shirt Supreme” generates sales well. Considering it, we should probably include words “trendy” and “youth” into our title.
To get the most out of optimization, look over the search queries data regularly, write down primary data of your original title and then compare it with new versions. This approach will help you clearly understand what drives your sales and what increases the profit.
What to remember about titles
- don’t use BLOCK CAPITALS;
- don’t include promotional texts like “sales” or “free shipping”.
Other product feed attributes
It’s not all about the title, you know. You can also optimize other attributes in your product feed, so let’s talk a little about it.
“Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) is an identifier for trade items, developed by GS1”, Wikipedia. Simply put, it is the SKU number from the manufacturer.
You can use different types of numbers in the Google Shopping feed:
- 12-digit number UPC in North America (GTIN-12). If you have 8-digit UPC-E code you have to convert it to 12-digit code;
- 13-digit number EAN in Europe (GTIN-13);
- 8 or 13-digit number JAN in Japan (GTIN-13);
- 13-digit number ISBN for books (convert ISBN-10 to ISBN-13). If you have both, include only the 13-digit number;
- 14-digit number ITF-14 (or multipacks (GTIN-14).
Resellers must specify GTIN in the Google Merchant Center if they receive deliveries from the manufacturer or other resellers. GTIN is not needed if:
- you are the only seller of this product;
- you are considered as a part of the enterprise/production where the product was manufactured;
- you make goods on order;
- sell antiques;
- sell some items from the apparel category that do not require GTIN;
- for multipacks and sets GTIN is not required if it wasn’t assigned by the manufacturer and if you use is_ bundle attribute in the feed.
How does the GTIN help to achieve better results?
Google uses GTIN to find a product in the supplier’s catalog and run your ad in an auction along with other resellers of the same product and doesn’t run it into auctions with different types of products.
These specific ads are triggered by queries with high customer intent and only one product ad is displayed. When the user clicks on your ad, he goes to the landing page with all variants of this product only in your online store.
GTIN also helps to get into search engine results page from queries with “Best” or “top”. With such search queries, the system also checks customer reviews to determine the position that your ad is worth getting. The better reviews, the more chances to get the first position!
For review verifying Google uses “third parties”— independent companies like Trustpilot, Yotpo, Verified Reviews, and so on.
Literary methods are good for literature and are absolutely not good for Google Shopping. So all colors should be optimized for the way it will be searched by users.
Gray-hazy → light gray
Pale cornflower blue → blue
Tender shoots → light green or green
Images are the first thing a user sees in shopping ads. Obviously, images in the feed should work for you and help to increase your sales, not scare off people.
For you to remember:
- use high-quality images;
- don’t use text over the image: watermark, discount notes, manufacturer’s numbers and so on;
- test what works best for your brand: a typical product shot with a single product or lifestyle photo;
- check if the feed has a picture with the right angle if the product’s website has several photos at once;
- make sure that the product options match the image in color, material and so on.
People who clicked on your ad are interested in your product. The description will give them more information and hopefully, convince them to buy your product. Make sure that the description contains all the information that the customer can be interested in. If it doesn’t, add additional info by combining your description with other attributes.
Variants vs Parent products
If you sell one product in several variations (like a T-shirt of different colors), you can either add each option to the feed or include one position with all the options at once. If you want to group all variants in one place, use the item_group_id attribute — then your T-shirts of all colors will be shown in a group, not by one per ad.
Variants may be different by size, color, material, pattern, age_group, size_type and size_system attributes.
Why is it important to use options?
- If you target Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom or the United States, the item_group_id attribute is required;
- more clicks. The user can search specifically for a green polka dots T-shirt or specifically for size L. If you don’t show a green polka dot variant or size L, these products won’t appear on the search results page. In addition, remember that the more narrow query a user uses, the higher his purchasing intention usually is. So you definitely don’t wanna miss such people;
- availability. Google shows only products in stock and availability information is set at variants level. There’s no data at the “parent level”, i.e. level of the product group. Because of this, by default you will have to indicate “available” for every product in the group and spend money on the advertising, even if the specific variant is no longer in stock. In this case, the group will play against you.
Why is it important to use item grouping?
- the fewer products are in a product feed, the easier to manage it. Some stores have thousands of variations but only hundreds of parent products. For example, a company can sell 100 types of T-shirts but each of them will have 3 size options + 5 color options. Compare feed for 100 products and one for 800 … Now you get it.
What to choose? We usually choose to work with variants. In practice adding parent products is almost never justified. Automatization allows you to avoid boring routine with a huge range and this option doesn’t bring any practical benefit. Therefore, the best choice — variants.
The more data is in your feed, the better Google Shopping works for you. Use it and don’t spare information. Additional data allows the system to show products for most relevant queries, which as you understand has a positive effect on the conversion rate.
Optional attributes are called optional for reason. You can skip it and Google will be okay with this. But they can become the goldmine of Google Shopping with the right approach, ‘cause even Google Merchant Center Help says: “You can submit this attribute if you want to help boost your ad’s performance”. Shipping, sale_price, and other optional attributes can increase ROI, affect the volume of impressions and conversions.
Merchant Promotions is a free Google feature that allows you to conduct online promotions with the help of shopping ads in Search. Promotions appeared in 2012, first for US retailers and then for other countries.
If you use promotions for your products, users will see the “special offer” link, for example, for a 15% discount or free shipping. Such a button can increase the effectiveness of your shopping ads and encourage buyers to take action. Everyone loves little treats!
Here’s what a product with a Google promotion looks like:
What gives the use of Promotions?
- increases clicks: an additional link stands out among other ads, so your ad just won’t pass by the user’s consciousness;
- increases conversions: everyone loves discounts, promotions, special offers, free shipping and other nice treats from a seller, so let’s give your audience +1 reason to spend money in your store;
- catches multi-device traffic: Google shows promotions on both desktop and mobile.
In its blog, Google wrote about the case with promotions, when Venus got the 7% higher CTR, the 2% higher conversion rate and at the same time reduced the CPC for its standard product ads by 11%.
To enable features you should fill Merchant Promotions Interest Form. After that, a new type of feed will appear in the Merchant. You can use promotions in different feeds, while in new feeds you must fill in: Promotion ID, Product Applicability, Offer Type, Long Title, Promotion Effective Dates, Redemption Channel.
Feed Optimization Techniques
You can fill and change products feeds manually or you can use feed rules, supplementary feeds or regular expressions. Regular expressions are rather complicated tool, so we will look at it in a different guide. But feed rules & supplementary feeds we will discuss right now. Shall we?
Feed rules help you more easily and quickly make massive changes into product feed. You can use it to change title, description or any other attribute. Feed rules are especially relevant for online stores with a large range, where manual filling takes a lot of time and effort. More detailed feed will help Google more efficiently handle your ads.
How does the feed rule work? Let’s look at the example. Let’s suppose, that you need to make changes to all feed titles so that a brand name appears before each product name. You can register it one by one manually or you can use the rule “Prepend”: it will add a brand at the beginning of titles. This is how feed rules work generally.
Rules are set in Google Merchant Center → Products tab → “Create rule” button.
Here you can choose:
- attribute for applying the rule;
- needed action: prepend, append, standardize, add repeated field, optimize URL, find & replace, calculate, split & choose, clear.
Only you can decide how to use the feed rules. The search for new ways of automatization depends first of all on specifics of the work of each PPC specialist, the current state of the campaign, the quality of the current product feed and so on. But we can offer several scenarios of how to make daily PPC routine easier with feed rules:
- “Prepend” and “Append”. For example, add color, material, brand or other attributes to a title. One of our clients was selling children’s bodysuits with the title “bodysuit <color>”. We used the function for adding the word “Baby” to the beginning, so people don’t confuse them with women’s underwear;
- “Standardize”. Finds incorrectly filled attributes and replaces them with the correct ones. For example, for the state attribute you can specify three options: new, refurbished, used. If you have “old” instead of “used” the system will find it and replace with correct values;
- “Find & replace”. Makes massive replacements for any data, for example, “Tender shoots” → “green”. We also use it for correcting errors in the feed: one time we had titles with duplicated brand name two times in a row, like “Brand Brand men sweater”. Replacing “Brand Brand” → “Brand” saved a lot of time;
- “Calculate”. Allows you to add, subtract, multiply and divide values. For example, calculate the sale_price attribute based on the price attribute and the amount of the discount;
- “Split & choose”. It helps to separate values in one attribute and use only one or several of the resulting “fragments”. For example, if you have “Nike Air Max> Women> ’97> OG QS” in product_type, you only need “Nike Air Max” or “Nike Air Max Women” — this is exactly where rule “Split and choose” can help you;
- “Clear”. Removes attribute value. For example, if the brand attribute is somewhere in the feed n/a, use “Clear” to delete it. However, it is important to remember that no other rules are applied to the attributes with the “Clear” rule, which means that it won’t be possible to automatically fill in the empty values with “Append” or “Prepend”. Therefore, if it is possible you had better use the “Find & replace” rule.
Please notice! Not all of the rules can be applied to all of the attributes. For example, if you select rules for the condition attribute, you will see only 2 options:
While for the image_link attribute, 5 of 6 rules are available. Only “Standardize” rule does not work:
Supplementary feeds are a fairly new tool that Google announced in its blog in September 2017. “Supplemental feeds give you the flexibility of submitting and modifying your product data from multiple sources”, the release said.
How to use feeds? Here is what Google offers:
- add holiday special labels or promotions id to products in the main feed for retailers’ promotions;
- replace attribute values from the main feed;
- cover new countries of sale (in which users speak different languages) with one multi-country feed. For example, you can create an additional feed with language-dependent attributes, like title and description. And apply rules of conversion to these attributes to conquer new countries;
- add or override custom labels for campaign management;
- add missing GTINs;
- exclude specific products with the excluded_destination attribute.
But what use cases are advised on the Advertiser Community:
- overwrite product types. Create a spreadsheet with the id and product type → assign it to the primary feed → Google will use the data from the supplemental feed if the product id exists in the primary feed (if the submitted data is valid);
- if the links to the landing pages of some products have changed, they can also be corrected with a supplemental feed;
- update price in the primary feed with supplemental feed data.
Important! You can’t remove or add products through the supplementary feed. The supplemental feed will update the information in the main feed only if it contains an ID that exists in the main feed. Using one supplementary feed, you can change several main feeds.
To create an additional feed, go to the tab “Products” → “Feeds” → “Add supplemental feed”.
When registering a category, specify a link to the main feed. The process of creating supplementary feed isn’t different from working with the main feed. It must contain at least 2 columns: product ID (for linking products between feeds) and any updateable attribute. After setting you will see the rule on the tab “Feed Conversion Rules”. This rule will combine data from both feeds based on the product id.
It was intense, wasn’t it? Hopefully, you’ll get maximum result from this Google Shopping Guide and be able to launch and manage your campaigns effectively now. Still have questions? Ask them in the comments or request a free ROI and Profit Analysis — we will gladly help you to determine growth zone of your Google Shopping!