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50%+ of a retailer’s budget is now spent on Google Shopping. How can ecommerce advertisers ensure that money is well spent? Or know that they’re driving sales on a large scale? Here’s how to master the Google Shopping feed, easily, at scale, and in a way that drives healthy returns.

How Google Shopping ads offer unique value to brands & retailers

How google shopping ads appear

How do you reach the most potential customers with one ad? What’s the one platform you can use to list ads and get loads of impressions and clicks around the web? Google Shopping is a unique advertising powerhouse. It’s unique in that it can reach just about any kind of user. It’s not just about one social platform, one industry, or one particular comparison site. It grabs users the moment they go to search for products. Desktop or mobile, branded or unbranded, whatever the demographic, Google can most likely reach them. Whether you’re selling t-shirts, family trips, or used cars —even if you’re listing ads for products at brick-and-mortar locations—Google Shopping ads can help. Plus, Google offers the analytics tools that makes managing campaigns (and quantifying returns) easy.

Always on the cutting edge, Google Shopping ads are a necessity for most retailers and brands. Okay, so you’re excited and ready to go. You don’t need to be sold any more on how amazing these ads are. But wait…

How do I get my products on Google Shopping? Google is known as one of the strictest export channels for retailers. There are several requirements each and every product must fulfill, or they risk putting the entire feed in jeopardy. You’ll need to compile a Google Shopping feed and upload that to Google.

What does this mean for sales or ROAS? How do you make sure that your ads are top-tier? It all comes down to your Google product feed. We need to make sure your feed follows requirements and is fully optimized for top performance. From data to campaigns to ROI, this is your official intro to Google Shopping Adsalso lovingly known as product ads, Google Product ads, Google Product Listing ads, Google PLAs, and… that’s mostly it.

There’s a lot to cover, so save / bookmark / ritualistically print and bind this guide as needed!
Or, you can jump ahead to your favorite section.


What are Google Shopping ads?

How to use Google Shopping ads

Google Hotel ads

Get started: data feeds & specs

Feed requirements

Feed requirements for Google Hotel ads

Setting up your Google Shopping campaigns

Meet image requirements

Choose ad type

Place ads

Choose audience

Define bidding, budgets, and delivery

Conversion tracking

Google Shopping feed optimizations

Optional attributes

Custom Labels

Exceptional titles

Google Manufacturer Center

Google Express

Further reading on Google Shopping Feeds

Let’s get started!


Google Shopping ads basics

What are Google Shopping ads?

Google Shopping ads are well known for appearing in the organic SERP listing of Google searches. They can be served in branded, unbranded, or even local searches, giving advertisers ample opportunities to target users at every stage of the funnel. The ads can also appear in Google Shopping and on Google Search Partner websites like YouTube.

To get started, you’ll need to ensure your product feed meets Google’s strict requirements before uploading to Google Merchant Center. After the feed is uploaded, you can move on to Google Ads to start managing and optimizing your campaigns.

How do you use Google Shopping ads?

Unlike some channels, Google Shopping ads do require the use of two separate tools: Google Merchant Center and Google Ads (previously know as AdWords). However, this is incredibly simple and shouldn’t be cause for stress.

Google Merchant CenterGoogle Ads (AdWords)
Manage product dataManage ads, campaigns, and bidding

What is Google Merchant Center?

This is where your product data feed actually lives. All of your products (including product titles, images, links, and everything else) are kept here. There isn’t much work to do on this side, as you’ll be optimizing your Google data feeds before uploading them to the Merchant Center. The data uploaded here will be leveraged to automatically generate Shopping adsno extra writing required.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads (long known as AdWords and changed recently for branding purposes) has numerous uses for marketers. For Google product ads, this is where you’ll decide what to do with the product feeds stored in the Google Merchant Center. Bids, campaigns, and all your other marketing tools can be found and used here.

Sign in to your Google Ads. Next, connect your Google Merchant Center account. In your settings, go to Set Up and Linked Accounts.

What’s product data?

In ecommerce, “product data“ or “product content“ includes all the details of a company’s products. This lists everything from product titles and descriptions to image URLs, GTINs, and more. Product data need not reflect just physical products like shoes. It can also include flights, jobs, or any other “products.” You might know this feed as the “inventory data” or “product catalog.”

google shopping ad example

Where do ads appear on Google?

Google ads are perhaps most well known for appearing in the SERP. When a user googles an item, the related product ads can appear either above the search results as images or to the side, separate from text ads.

They can also appear in Google Shopping, in participating countries, and in Google Search Partner websites like YouTube.

Google Hotel ads

For Google, the fundamental differences between retail and travel ads are when and where they appear. Retail Google Shopping ads appear at the top of SERP results or in the network. Google Hotel ads surface when a user is specifically looking for hotels. These ads appear in the SERP.

Here’s how hotel ads work:

When a general hotel search is made, it usually means that the user is not yet looking for a specific hotel. In this case, a list of organic search results is shown in the SERP.

However, once the searcher clicks the “more hotels” link, they are brought to a page with even more listings and basic hotel details. At this point, they are likely to click on a specific hotel for more details which then triggers the “hotel details card” which features Google Hotel ads. Similarly, if a user searches Google for a specific hotel, the hotel details card featuring the Google Hotel ad will appear directly on the SERP on the right-hand side.

Lastly there’s “Book on Google.” This is an optional feature of Google Hotel ads that allows users to book directly within Google, erasing a lot of friction for the shopper. Because this whole process takes place on Google, it will likely decrease traffic to your website. However, it can also lead to a great increase in conversions (as it did for Hilton), especially on mobile, where users are more likely to book if there is no redirect.

What’s the benefit of Google Hotel ads?

According to Google, 60% of leisure travelers and 55% of business travelers use the search engine when planning their trips. This means Google plays a very unique, and powerful role in the travel ecommerce space. Travel shoppers are on Google during the decision making process, and they’re looking for tips, tools, and anything to make the process easier. Well-placed products make for a win-win situation.

For Google hotel ads, fluctuating data like availability, prices, and images are crucial. Always keep data up-to-date.

Google Shopping feed specs

Getting started: Google Shopping feeds and specs

While Google Shopping makes it very easy to generate and deliver personalized ads, it does require one little thing to get started: product data in a Google-friendly format. This will have several absolutely necessary attributes as well as some opportunities for smart tweaks that make the ads perform better on Google Shopping.

How do I create a Google Shopping feed?

Data feed management for Google Shopping involves the following steps:

  1. Extract and compile product data from relevant sources, e.g. your shop system, Shopify, BigCommerce
  2. Adapt your data for Google’s feed requirements
  3. Enhance and complete your data to campaign needs
  4. Upload data to Google, and continuously upload new data to keep it up-to-date

If you’re a small retailer, you may adapt and enhance your feed using Excel. However, if you’re a larger business, you’ll likely need to use software like Productsup in order to make bulk edits and maintain clear, reliable oversight of your many products.

Wait, wait, wait. slow down.

What is a Google Shopping Feed?

A Google Shopping Feed is simply a product data feed tailored for Google. This is a business’s complete list of products, including numerous required and optional information like title, GTIN, related image URLs, and more.

Good to know: If you’re already listing products on Facebook, Amazon, or elsewhere, your product data may be almost Google Shopping-ready, as the required attributes are often very similar. Read more about feed differences between Facebook and Google here.

Check out Google’s own introduction in the link above.

Feed requirements for Google Merchant Center

Every single ad published on Google will have these required fields. There are also further required attributes for certain categories of items, particularly those in apparel & accessories. For starters, be sure every product in your feed has these attributes.

Required attributes for Google Shopping feeds
IDIdentifier string of the item
titleTitle of item
descriptionDescription of the item
google_product_categoryGoogle’s categorization of an item. Read more here.
linkURL directly linking to your item’s page on your website
image_linkURL of desired image of an item.
conditionCondition or state of the item
pricePrice of the item.
availabilityAvailability status of the item.
brand, GTIN, MPNItem’s brand; Global Trade Item Number of the item; and Manufacturer Part Number of the item. Required if exists.
shippingSpecific shipping estimate of the product

Be sure to check your feed for the most common errors, as even the smallest ones could ruin your ROI or in some cases (for specific attributes) get your feed rejected. Some of the most common feed offenders include: overlong titles, incorrect pricing formats, unnecessary capitalization, and mismatched data.

Feed requirements for Google Hotel ads

For those using Google Hotel ads, there are some additional attributes that must be included.

  • Hotel List Feed: This includes a comprehensive list of all of your properties and information like address, ratings and contact details.
  • Price and Availability Feed: This includes all hotel room rates and availabilities. It’s recommended that you update this feed multiple times per day to ensure absolute accuracy.
  • Point of Sale Feed (or POS feed): This is the redirect you would like to serve users after they click on your Google Hotel ad. Be sure to take the user’s country, currency, device, and language into consideration when choosing this URL. In order to achieve the best user experience, Google also recommends the POS feed contain all possible combinations of these factors. That way, no user (whether they’re located in Poland or they speak Chinese) is left behind.

Once your data feed is clean and ready to be exported, it’s time to move to Google Ads.

Setting up your Google Shopping campaigns

You can create campaigns in either Ads or Merchant Center. In Google Merchant Center, you need only go to the AdWords tab and click Create Shopping Campaign. From here, enter a campaign name, country of sale, and budget. Though the Merchant Center is the faster method, the real work will happen in Google Ads.

To start within Ads, you need only click + Campaign and then select Shopping. You’ll need to then do the following:

  • Enter a Campaign name.
  • Select the desired Merchant Center account and country of sale.
  • If you want to limit the number of products used in the campaign, add an inventory filter.
  • Enter bidding type and daily budget.
  • If advertising the same products in multiple campaigns, select the priority for this particular campaign.
  • To override the default settings, uncheck the networks box for any destination networks you want to exclude.
  • Confirm whether you want the default setting that ads appear across all types of devices.
  • If desired, limit ad delivery to specific locations.
  • If advertising products available in local stores, select the local inventory ads option.

Meet image requirements

It’s important to note that, especially for Google, not just any image will do. Be absolutely certain to follow their ad image requirements.

  • Minimum size: 100 x 100 pixels*
  • Maximum size: 64 megapixels

*For apparel products, minimum is 250 x 250 pixels

Google Shopping ad image rules
Don’t scale up imagesDon’t submit thumbnailsNo graphics or illustrations
Only use photos of the actual productDon’t use bordersNo promotional text
Only show one product per imageNo watermarks or logosUse gorgeous images

These strict rules are in place to ensure high quality and reliability among all of Google’s advertisers. Because the platform boasts such an incredible reach, it’s important to Google that ad images are clean and consistent. Never mess with these rules. Just take gorgeous, realistic photos, and let your products do the advertising.

Image quality matters. Users don’t click on an ad just because the title sounded cool. It was the image that compelled them to look, read, and then click. High-quality images are an absolute requirement for Google Shopping ads.

Choose ad type

You’ll need to choose between two ad formats before you can launch your Google Shopping campaign.

Google product listing ads

Google product ad examples (Source: Google)

Product Shopping Ads feature just one product per ad. This is most useful when users are searching for more specific items. These ads are charged using CPC.

 

Google Showcase shopping ads

Showcase ad example (Source: Google)

Showcase Shopping Ads, on the other hand, are served using several images. Featuring numerous images or products can bring in users who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for. For example, when a user searches for a vague term like “picture frame,” Google will likely show a Showcase Shopping ad featuring several different products. These ads are charged using CPE.

google local inventory ads

Local Inventory ads (Source: Google)

On the other hand, there are also Local Inventory Ads. These provide local retailers the unique opportunity to reach customers that are in the area. When a user searches for a product that’s in your store, that brick-and-mortar location can show up in SERP results. Users who click on these ads will land on a unique page called the Local Storefront, that includes not only price and product details but also the exact location.

This ad type effectively adds an incredible new tool for omnichannel marketing: bring your physical products online, and direct online shoppers to your physical store. Plus, advertisers can then track clicks and measure performance. There are a few steps to get started, so refer to Google’s verification steps.

Which ad works best will depend on your audience and goals. Over 40% of queries on Google’s search engine are for broad terms. For these users who are further up the funnel, Product Shopping ads are going to be less enticing. Even if a user clicks, they might not be ready to convert. In order to succeed with these general searches, your products must be popular and competitive against the plethora of options. Or, you could increase product discoverability while also enticing that user with a plethora of options from your own Showcase Shopping ad.

Place ads

There may only be three options for your Google shopping placements, but the differences are huge. In Ads, you’ll be able to choose from:

  • Search
  • Network
  • Search & Network

Google Shopping ads set to surface in search appear as a promotion in the SERP (search) listing. On the other hand, ecommerce marketers can also place their ads on the Google Display Network, a group of over 2 million websites, videos, and apps.

How powerful is it?

Google’s Display Network sites reach 90%+ of internet users around the globe.

If you use the Google Display Network, you can choose whether to have placements automatically allocated or you can define your own ad placements using custom channels.

Optimizing Google Shopping feed specs for targeting

Choose your audience

In most countries, the following demographics can be targeted.

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income bracket
  • Parental status

Beyond this, there’s also the option to use Audience Targeting, which you may have known in the past as “interests and remarketing.” Now, the Audiences section appears right in the page menu. Simply select the pencil icon to start updating your desired audience. There are three key ways to break down Audience’s targeting capabilities:

  • Affinity: This is Google’s own way of describing a user’s interest in or “affinity” for a certain topic. Does the user repeatedly show interest in vegan recipes or hiking? Have they previously clicked through ads for gaming gear or regularly check in at a location?
  • Intent: Life events like graduating or repeated searches related to a sunny vacation are indications that the user has a specific need or defined intent. That recent graduate may be looking for university gear, and the future-vacationer will definitely need some nice sunglasses.
  • Remarketing: This is all about youthe businessand how searchers have interacted with you. If a searcher has clicked on your site before, or had a near-purchase, they’re going to be more valuable.

Google Similar items and Style ideas

In 2017, Google added Similar items to their arsenal for mobile search and the Android Search app. Now when users image search products, machine vision technology identify products in lifestyle images and show the related product listings.

Used in accessories, apparel, home and garden, this is one great way to reach users who may have a clear interest in your type of products.

Eligibility and surfacing in Google Similar items depends largely on product metadata and schema markups, so be sure that products have schema.org product markup and image references. To be eligible, products must also include name, image, price, currency, and availability metadata on their host page.

Define bidding, budgets, and delivery

There are two bid options available for Google shopping: Maximum CPC and Enhanced CPC.

Maximum CPC is the manual bidding method, where an advertiser will manually set the highest amount they’re willing to bid per click. If you select this, simply enter the maximum bid amount next to the “default bid” field. This can be adjusted later in the “Product groups” tab. Manual allocation can also be helpful to specifically target and optimize the ads or places that are proven to work.

Then there’s Enhanced CPC (ECPC), which is Google’s way of using automation to find the best possible audiences and help you get the most bang for your buck.

Automated bidding (ECPC) is a great time saver and can be set up to achieve a number of different targets or, as Google terms them, “goals.” These can be leveraged to increase clicks and site visits; they can push conversions through optimized delivery and targeting; then, there’s also the option to target based on ROAS, which simply sets bidding in accordance to the desired Return on Ad Spend.

Note that, in order to use enhanced CPC bidding, Conversion Tracking will need to be enabled. More on that below.

On top of this, there’s also “standard” and “accelerated” delivery. Standard simply means that Google will plan to distribute ads and ad dollars across the entire day. Accelerated, instead, rapidly sends out ads to use up the entire budget. This means that more will be spent faster in order to place ads in the most desirable (and clickable) spots.

Accelerated ads are generally not recommended unless needed for specific reasons. If you’re not sure which to use, stick to standard.

There are only two types of budget available in Ads: daily or shared. A daily budget specifies the amount you’re willing to spend in one day for one campaign, giving marketers the most power over their ads. This allows marketers to update their ads each day based on their ever-changing needs. The shared budget specifies an acceptable bidding amount across all defined campaigns. The main upside of using a shared budget is that it both simplifies the number of steps and it allows Google to optimize for returns across the multiple campaignstaking a little bit of ad spend here and putting it over there as needed.

For budgets, there’s no one right choice. However, a shared budget may make it easier to manage multiple groups without worry.

Conversion tracking

Which ads are leading to sales and ROI? Which campaigns? Conversion tracking can help answer all your questions. This Google tool tracks what happens after a user has taken a specific, pre-defined “conversion action.” This could be clicking an ad, signing up to a newsletter on your website, making purchases in your app, or similar actions. You can define these Conversion Actions in Ads.

This means marketers can see what customers are doing, where, and which steps may need improvement.

If it’s not clear whether your site needs Conversion Tracking enabled, answer these two short questions: will you be using enhanced CPC? Would you like to be analyzing user behavior after they engage with your ads? If the answer to either of these is yes, enable the Conversion Tracking tool sooner rather than later.

This process will involve installing the tag on your website or using Google Tag Manager. It’s very specific, so please check out the complete instructions here.

Google Shopping feed optimizations

There are numerous ways to make a product data feed stronger. There are basic best practices. There are unique responses to specific issues like low sales or CTRs. It’s worthwhile to examine your feed as well as any existing problems you may have and see where you can make healthy changes. This can greatly strengthen returns by giving Google the information it needs to better serve ads while also providing a better user experience.

Optional attributes

Always start with the optional attributes. There’s a huge number of possible attributes that can be added a feed. It’s recommended to add as many of these as possible.

General
[product_type] – your categorization of the item

[mobile_link] – mobile landing page URL

additional image link [additional_image_link] – additional URLs of images of the item

Price & availability
[availability date]  – the day a pre-ordered item becomes available for delivery

[sale_price] – advertised sale price of the item

[sale_price_effective_date] – date range during which the item is on sale

Detailed product attributes & groups
size type [size_type] – size type of the itemsize system [size_system] – size system of the item
Tax & Shipping
[shipping_label] – allows you to assign appropriate labels to shipping

[tax_category] – organize products by tax rates

[shipping_weight] – weight for the item for shipping

[shipping_width] – width of the item shipping

[shipping_height] – height of the item shipping

[shipping_length] – length of the item shipping

[min_handling_time] – indicates fastest time for shipping

[max_handling_time] – indicates slowest time for shipping

Custom Labels for better ad management

This is an attribute that can help segment products however marketers see fit. There can be up to five custom labels in a feed at a time. Each group can have up to 1,000 unique values. Once these labels are added to the feed, use Ads to change the associated actions and bids for each label. This is not only one of the most popular attributes for driving better returns, it’s also one of the most practical.

For example, here are some possible combinations.

Google merchant Center custom labels

Love your titles

A product title shouldn’t just be a jumble of keywords or product information. Titles should be crafted with careand research. A strong, clickable title could include one or more of the data points below:

  • Brand
  • Key search terms
  • Product category
  • Product model number

All of these details turn an ordinary product into something tangible and meaningful for the user. Using the exact term your audience googles will help them immediately click with your ad. Using model numbers on products that are highly specific and niche will show that this is the exact product that user is searching for.

Google Manufacturer Center

The Manufacturer Center was designed to help marketers in brand manufacturing firms leverage how their brand and products are presented across the Google ecosystem.

Google Manufacturer Center
Google Merchant Center
For brand manufacturersFor brand manufacturers and retailers

Specifically, the tool allows brands to add product data in order to help make product catalogs fully complete. They can also monitor and better influence the way their product appears in organic listings.

A few incredible uses of the Google Manufacturer Center:

  • Monitor the success of products with brand and product performance reports.
  • Receive insights into individual product impressions, CTRs, and keyword search terms.
  • Get benchmark performance figures for competing products within the same category.

Google Express

You may (and should be wondering) “why aren’t I exporting to Google Express? Isn’t that the latest ‘thing’ these days?”

Yes! This iteration of Google Express is one of the latest things enabling Google to take ecommerce in a new direction. However, many brands are simply not the ideal advertisers on Google Express. Unlike almost any other channel, retailers have absolute authority here. For now, it’s mostly large retailers, too.

While shoppers on Amazon are seeking out one particular brand they love or the cheapest version of a product, Google Express seeks to let shoppers do a full shopping trip at their favorite retailers.

Because Google handles purchasing and even shipping, they have been careful about who can list. As of now, only big names like WalMart, Target, and Walgreens can be found here. In order to get products listed on Google Express, marketers will have to join Shopping Actions.

Now, you should have your data feed ready and understand all your options on Google. The next step is simply to start exporting. For more info, help, and tips, check out our suggested reading on the topic below.

Further reading on Google Shopping ads

Get an in-depth understanding, practical steps and expert tips about Facebook Dynamic Ads in our free guides

Google Shopping Feed Error Guide

11 Common Google Shopping Feed Errors & How to Avoid Them

Get the Guide
intro-google-manufacturer-center

Introduction to
Google Manufacturer Center

Get the Guide
google-shopping-feed-guide

Best Practice Guide: Google Shopping Feed

Get the Guide

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