The New Google Shopping – Four Key Steps to Drive Results

Greetings from Alibris, the retail arm of Monsoon Commerce. We’ve been hard at work preparing for the onboarding of the new Google Shopping, including attending a ‘Shopping Summit’ at the Google headquarters. Folks from the Google Shopping product team  were offering guidance and insight on how to optimize your program to generate maximum revenue and ROAS.  I’ve also been reading quite a bit on the new-and-improved Google program from some of my favorite content sites such as Internet Retailer. From these sources I’ve compiled the top steps needed to get you successfully listed and driving revenue on the new Google Shopping platform:

It’s all about the data quality

Your Google Merchant Center feed isn’t going away. Rather than solely power the shopping portal (http://www.google.com/shopping), this product feed will now plug into the AdWords account management tool and provide data for your Product Listing Ads. If you are like us you’ve been driving sales with a less than optimized feed. This worked OK on the shopping portal, but we couldn’t activate the Product Listing Ads since our data was a bit off from the Google datafeed requirements.  Step one for us was to completely revamp our datafeed and ensure accuracy. This should be your first step too.  One thing to note – Google will be crawling your site to make sure the information you submit in the feed is actually what is on your site. Following ‘white hat’ SEO practices will ensure that your site is indexed properly and accurately, and therefore will also indicate that your Shopping feed is solid.

Build your structure

Google admits that their tools are lacking in terms of effective Google Shopping / PLA bid management. In our Shopping Summit their product team did indicate that more tools such as item level bidding and taxonomy based bidding will be available in the near future.  For now, you can manage bids based on “Product Targets”.  In your datafeed you can assign Product Targets to specific products, then use this Product Target attribute for your bidding strategy. For instance, you might group products by brand, price, or margin. If you grouped by margin, you could bid higher for products with higher margin than those that are not as profitable. Sounds simple, but it requires thought on the set-up and coordination with your IT folks to apply the Product Target in the datafeed.  Other important steps when building out your structure:

  • Create separate campaigns for Product Listing Ads – this will allow you flexibility to set bidding different for PLA than AdWords
  • Set up an “All Products” product target – Set this with a low CPC, and this will be your ‘catch all’ for products that you don’t bid on. By the way, if you set this up for all products before August 15th, Google will give you a 10% credit for your PLA spend through the end of the year.

Manage Relevance

Just like keyword bidding, you can set negative words for PLA. Make sure you run search query reports and set up negative keywords to prevent your products form showing up on irrelevant queries. Although Google recommends setting up an “All Products” product target, I would caution you on taking this step blindly especially if you have a ton of products in your feed. The long tail can be a great place for efficiency, but can also hurt you if you are not watching expense and return.

Analyze your results

We recommend placing tracking parameters from your analytics tool into the URL of each item you list. This way you can measure revenue for each item, and then determine the performance of each item within a specific  Product Target.   A variety of platform companies have begun to release services that aim to make the process easier. If you catalog is diverse and you want more granular bidding and analysis, you may need to invest in a 3rd party tool or agency to help you out. Ideally I like to bid and optimize at the product level (just like you optimize at the keyword level with paid search). Until Google introduces better capabilities with item level bidding, you’re going to have to be careful and test not only the performance of each target, but the items that are contained within each target.

There’s an opportunity here as not all merchants will jump on board to the paid version of Google Shopping, and you have a shot at garnering greater traffic and sales as your competitors wait on the sidelines.  In this recent survey, around 50% of the retailers who responded indicated they will either opt out of the program or have not yet decided if they will run on Google Shopping.  With retailers indicating that PLA can generate greater efficiency than Paid Search, and with a good number of retailers taking a wait-and-see approach, you have an opportunity to be a marketing star at your organization.

What insight have you learned about the new Google Shopping channel? How are you preparing for success? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Reply below. Thanks!

Adam

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About Adam Silverman

I'm the Vice President and General Manager for Alibris (a division of Monsoon Commerce), a marketplace for independent sellers of books, movies, music, and games. With over 15 years of experience in retail strategy, operations, and marketing, I've had the pleasure to work with some of the best retailers on the plant, including Alibris. You can learn more about me by visiting http://www.linkedin.com/in/adamsilverman
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