Don't forget to "feed" Google

IRCE speakers stress the importance of product feeds in getting the right ads before the right consumers at the right times.

Thad Rueter

Don't neglect the feed, not when it comes to advertising your products on Google.

That was the message Friday afternoon during a session called "Smarter Bidding Boosts an E-Retailer's Returns from a New Google Ad Format" at the search marketing workshop that helped to close out the 10th annual Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

The new ad format is Google Inc.'s Product Listing Ads. Introduced in summer 2012, PLAs feature product images and prices from merchants prominently in the central area of a Google search results page. The search engine giant has announced that by late August, all advertisers will need to shift to Shopping Campaigns, which manage both AdWords paid search ads and Product Listing Ads from one place.

The e-retailer that starred during the Friday session was home décor merchant Metaverse Corp., which operates thousands of niche e-commerce sites including FamousPaintings.com, CountryArt.com and MotivationalPosters.com. According to CEO Tom Novellino and Dave Schwartz, general manager, product ads at DataPop, which the retailer hired last year to optimize its PLA campaigns, FramedArt.com has enjoyed a 68% increase in clicks, a 44% boost on return on investment and a 113% jump in revenue by figuring out how to better show ads matched to the exact search phrase a consumer is using.

The main lesson of the Friday presentation? Use your product feed to Google to highlight those product attributes that describe what consumers are looking for.

Here are some examples: Say a consumer wants to buy a yellow sun dress. Schwartz said that one dress retailer realized a 239% revenue increase from PLAs by revising its product feed into Google so that its ads read "Yellow Betsy Johnson dress" instead of "Sunshine dress." Or take a type of adapter for certain Apple Inc. devices. Instead of using the feed to produce an ad for a "Lightening 30-pin adapter"—a term that only the most technically sophisticated searchers are likely to use—another retail client changed that to "Lightening adapter (for iPad, iPhone5, iPod)" to reflect how more consumers are searching for such a product.

Other Google product feed tips offered during the session include:

• Don't put SKUs into feeds that are used to craft PLAs. "Those are very unlikely to get a click," Schwartz said.

• Make sure feeds are free of "extraneous characters" that will appear as nonsense or digital clutter on PLAs.

• Identify top sellers.

• Test varying copy for ads to see what works best.

• Gain bidding flexibility on Google by tailoring bids according to how low or high a product's margin is. Higher margins, for instance, might call for higher bids.

• If outsourcing Google advertising to an agency, don't assume that agency can provide effective feed management services just because of its expertise in bid management.

• And, of course, make sure the copy of Google PLAs matches what shoppers are looking for. Metaverse sells products often labeled by artists in ways that are harmful to good search results—a piece might be described by the label "playful," for instance, but few if any consumers are going to search using that term. Do the basics instead: In this case, generate labels via the product feed that describe an art piece (for instance, impressionist), its creator (Monet) and its price.

Though Shopping Campaigns soon will envelope Product Listing Ads, retailers still have to pay attention to their product feeds. "The new Shopping Campaigns are built from feeds," said Schwartz.


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