For starters, you are in a great position because you have already decided to start (a good start is half the battle, right?). You have also probably done your research and found out that Shopping Campaigns are one of the main growth drivers for e-commerce stores. Truth be told, they do get 75% of the search budget of sophisticated retailers (source: Merkle Digital Quarterly report Q2 2017) and have increased their share of total store orders by 160% in the last 2 years. Therefore, they are indeed a traffic source that lives up to the hype.
To help formulate your strategy for starting Google Shopping, there are plenty of resources available online, like this posts on how Google Shopping works or a short video by the AdWords Team on how to create a Shopping Campaign. However, if you want everything you will ever need to start Google Shopping effectively and efficiently in one place, then this short guide is for you. We did all the research for you and, combined with our experience working with different clients in different industries and countries, we give you a closer look into:
- The requirements for Shopping Campaigns.
- The main steps involved.
- How to monitor the performance of your ads.
Requirements for Shopping Campaigns
Before we get into the details, let’s first make sure that you are eligible to launch Product Listing Ads (the “other name” of Shopping Campaigns). There are some strict requirements to fulfill so that you don’t do all the hard work only to find out that you cannot run your ads.
The most important requirements are:
- Your product and business must abide by the Google Shopping policies. These policies are different and on top of the standard Google AdWords policies. You can read the full policy but rest assured that you cannot advertise adult products, counterfeit goods or academic cheating goods.
- You want to sell (and run ads) on a country that supports Shopping Campaigns. Although this product is out there for quite a while, it is not yet available in all Countries. You can find the full list of countries at the bottom of this help article
- You have the ability to send updated information to Google about your products every at least 30 days. This is really important because data quality is important to Google in order to maintain a good user experience.
Note: For additional information, you may want to check out the help article from Google AdWords on the requirements.
Now that you know the requirements to safely launch product listing ads, it’s time to set up your first campaign, which is an easy 4-step process that includes the following:
- Create your product feed.
- Setup your Google Merchant Center account and sync your feed.
- Create your Google AdWords account, if you do not already have one.
- Link your Merchant Center account (MCA) with your AdWords account.
Are you done with these? Let’s move forward!
How To Setup Google Shopping
Launching a new campaign is a straightforward process (you can read the step-by-step guide by Google). On top of this, Google keeps improving the campaign setup process with a series of steps.
What I would like to share is a high-level approach to the most important decisions and settings you need. As with everything else, if you get the basics right, you are off to a good start.
1. Select a country
If you just sell in one Country, this would be a non-issue. But what if you are selling on multiple countries? Should you advertise in all of these countries or just a few of them? And, how do you choose which ones? I suggest you start with one country - preferably a country you are already getting sales from as it is a validated market - learn from it and then scale to more countries. Shopping will not work for you if you are trying to sell at a market in which you are not competitive, either due to product selection or due to price levels and competition.
A common bad practice that should be avoided:
More than often, I see Campaign Managers investing days of work trying to forecast or predict the results of new campaigns. I have lost count the times I was asked to give an opinion on how the CPC (cost-per-click) will go per campaign and per country for an account that hasn’t even been launched yet. I suggest you don’t go down that road because:
- It takes up a lot of your time to do these calculations/predictions (and for no good reason) - and time is money.
- No matter how good you are, your estimations will go really off, because you are not starting with good data but with ballpark assumptions.
My recommendation is to just start and wait for a few days to have clean data (not assumptions) that you can base your calculations on.
2. Budget and bidding
Now you need to define your budget and bidding. Although Google first asks for your bidding, I believe that semantically you should first think about your budget and then decide how you are going to spend that money (aka bidding).
Start with a budget that you feel comfortable with, not the max amount you can invest or the amount that you would like to invest (to get to your sales growth targets). Keep in mind that this is a “testing budget”, given that in PPC (pay-per-click) you need to run things for some time so that you can see the real results after the system understands your case and after you have run some optimizations. Typically it takes close to 2 months before you start seeing the real performance. Then, you can decide how to scale the account. This does not mean that you will not be getting conversions for the first 2 months; it is just that you will not be getting the max returns for your budget. To sum up, determine a short-term budget that you feel comfortable with and divide it by 2 months to get your initial daily budget.
Next comes setting your bidding strategy. These days, Google is offering different ways to bid, which is great. However, it also means that we have to choose. My recommendation would be to either choose “Target ROAS” or “Manual CPC”, depending on how much time you wish to allocate to your campaign management. Let me clarify. If this first campaign is just a start point in a quest to dive even deeper into this channel, then choose “Manual CPC”. You will get tons of data on various dimensions (campaign, ad group, product group, device, etc). Plus, you will be able to optimize the performance as you get more data. This is also the way sophisticated advertisers with proprietary algorithms choose. But if you do not have the time or skill set required to continuously optimize your account, go for “Target ROAS” since this is a machine-learning-based algorithm by Google that does what it says, namely increase your ROAS.
3. What products to advertise
As with countries, it is best to start with the product you are already selling like hot cakes. And, why is that product so popular? Because you have a good combo of product positioning, high-quality, relevant images, hard-to-beat pricing or competitive positioning. So, take what you already know works and start this new ad channel with it. The objective for your first weeks is to see if you can get more sales, not sell new items. Then you can scale your campaigns to other products.
The whole process needs to be agile, meaning that you should start small and then scale based on the data. Refrain from taking the “start small” approach to heart and have just 1 Shopping Campaign with 1 AdGroup which is a mistake many campaign managers make. This is not good practice as it will not deliver the results you expect and also minimizes the learnings you can get from this first campaign. My recommendation is to start with a single Shopping Campaign and break down 7-10 AdGroups based on a column of your feed (preferably category or brand). Then, as you get more data, you can further break down more campaigns into more granular targetings to optimize both the targeting and the bidding.
As you start getting ad clicks (and hopefully conversions) from your campaigns you will want to monitor the performance of your ads and find optimization ideas. The obvious place would be to check Google AdWords UI daily and see the performance of your Campaign. The main metrics that you should monitor are:
- Cost (how much you are spending)
- Conversions, and
- Conv value/Cost (aka ROAS, or how many $ you are getting from each $1 on ads).
But wouldn’t it be great if you could periodically run an audit of your Campaign(s) and see if there are optimizations that you could do? In this case, we have some exciting news. We have worked hard and created the first Google Shopping Performance Grader, which allows you to run a free audit of your campaigns in less than 60’’. Our Grader will analyze your campaigns across 9 dimensions and give you a beautifully designed report with your score, as well as actionable recommendations.
This is just the start
Irrespective, if you have just started with the “set and forget” or with the “foundation to scale” strategy, setting your first campaign is the first step in this journey towards profitable growth. Embark on this trip as soon as possible. Happy sales!