August 1, 2014, 4:33 PM

Google Shopping: What you don’t know can hurt you

Among other things, advertisers can’t see the search terms that don’t lead to their ads being displayed. And there are other quirks with Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads. Here are some tips for how to drive more sales from this increasingly important advertising channel.

The shopping engine space has seen incredible growth over the last couple years, much of which was fueled by Google Shopping. While it has its kinks which we will outline shortly, there is tremendous opportunities for ecommerce merchants to growth their sales through this relatively new channel once the functionality and tools available are fully understood.

Source: RKG

The Beauty of Google Shopping

Shopping engines have many advantages over traditional text ads. Any visitor to the site has already been prequalified by an image and price, and the traffic goes directly to the product page. These factors, among others, have led to strong conversion rates on non-branded visitors.

Of all the engines, Google has always been a favorite of online marketers because the Adwords interface allows for much more control and insight than any of the other engines. The ability to segment by day of the week, geo-target, or to add negative keywords can make a big difference in performance.

 Despite the real lack of competition when it comes to functionality, Google has still managed to ruffle some feathers with some of the larger updates to Google Shopping. Keeping ahead of these updates and ensuring that your strategy doesn’t stay the same as the product changes will be a big part in the success of a campaign.

Brief History of Google Shopping – Going from Free to Paid

The most difficult transition for many advertisers was the switch from free to paid listings in 2012. Although this was not a surprising move in retrospect, there were many advertisers who were caught with their pants down and did not have a clear strategy for the transition. When the clicks were free, data quality and merchant reviews reigned supreme. With the introduction of paid clicks, campaign structure and bidding strategy became important, but one of the most often overlooked changes was the additional insight that became available with the search query report.

Keywords – The Unspoken Problem with Google Shopping Campaigns

Of all the important elements that are talked about with Google Shopping, access to search query data is often overlooked. If advertisers are so concerned with creating the perfect ad for each search query, why is there less focus on finding the perfect product to show for each query?

For example, many advertisers have agonized over ad copy, debating small differences like “10% Off” vs. “Save 10%” (and have achieved incremental revenue), but few have taken the time to debate which product from the entire catalog will resonate with a given search query. If somebody is looking for a wrist watch, is it better to show a low-end digital watch, or a high-end analog watch? These are things that need to be analyzed and tested, because they will greatly affect click-through rates and conversion rates.

Challenges with Google Shopping – Best Product, Best Keyword, Best Title

Given the nature of the system, there is inherently less control over which products show for which keywords when compared to the control allowed in a text ad campaign. However, this is not an excuse to ignore the data. Optimizing a data feed with some best practices and carefully segmenting your products in the Adwords interface will only get you so far. Are you showing your most competitive product for high-volume keywords? Are you aware of which keywords are not triggering any of your products? Is your pricing on a particular product hurting click-through rates? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself.

More Challenges with Google Shopping – Where Are You NOT Showing up?

The biggest issue with Google Shopping is that there is a lack of insight into the keywords you aren’t showing up for. While Google gives you search query reports, the actual queries they show are very limited, and they aren’t showing the actual keywords you are showing up for.

This results in scenarios where even big companies are happy with their performance, not knowing that they are being secretly beaten by their competitors. Above is a sample analysis of 118 keywords in the home furnishings/apparel category. You can see even big companies like Walmart have very low market share.

How to overcome Google Shopping Challenges

So how do you identify your actual exposure on Google Shopping, and what you can do to ensure maximum exposure? You will need to either manually or automatically download search results from Google Shopping.

3 Issues to Identify with your Analysis:

1)      Identify/fix where you’re not showing up

2)      Display your more relevant product for each keyword you are showing up for

3)      Ensure you have the best-priced product vs. your competition

Troubleshooting – Not showing up

If you aren’t showing up, there are one of three reasons why:

1)      Not Relevant – Google doesn’t think your products are relevant for the keyword. You can fix this by adding keywords into your product titles and other fields, as well as making sure your products are categorized properly, and that the UPC/GTIN matches up to other products that are currently showing up for those results.

2)      Not Bid High Enough – Similar to regular Google results, if you’re not bid high enough, you won’t show up. If you’ve already upgraded to the new Google Shopping campaigns, you will be able to see what other people are bidding at on the high end, and adjust appropriately.

3)      Low CTR – Bids and click-through rates are the two ranking elements. You can check how competitive your click-through rate is on the new Google Shopping Campaigns as well.


There is a lot to be excited about if you’re an e-commerce merchant since the growth of Google Shopping has only begun. It’s still an immature and highly profitable channel that every merchant should be maximizing.

With the lack of effective tools to understand how you are doing, you may need to do quite a bit of digging to increase performance on Google Shopping. The good news is, most of your competitors are most likely flying blind.

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