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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 and at scale.

How Google Shopping ads offer unique value to brands & retailers

How google shopping ads appear

What’s the one platform you can use to list ads and get loads of impressions and clicks from users throughout the funnel? Google Shopping is a unique advertising powerhouse. It can reach just about any kind of user. It’s not about one single social platform, industry, or site. Desktop or mobile, branded or unbranded, whatever the demographic, Google reaches shoppers at all stages of the funnel. Whether you’re selling t-shirts, family trips, or used cars  – even if you’re selling 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.

In order to list products on Google Shopping, you’ll first need to compile a Google Shopping feed and upload it to Google. That feed needs to follow Google’s unique requirements and also be fully optimized for Google users.

Let’s start with the feed, and then move on to campaigns and ROI.

There’s a lot to cover, so save / bookmark / ritualistically print and bind this guide as needed!


Google Shopping ads basics

What are Google Shopping ads?

Google Shopping ads are perhaps most known for appearing in the organic SERP listing of Google searches. They can be served in branded, unbranded, or even local searches. They also appear in Google Shopping and on Google Search Partner websites like YouTube.

In the past, they have been called product ads, Google Product ads, Google Product Listing ads, Google PLAs, and… that’s mostly it.

How do you use Google Shopping ads?

Google Shopping ads will require the use of two separate tools: Google Merchant Center and Google Ads (previously known as AdWords).

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

What is Google Merchant Center?

Google Merchant Center is Google’s platform for managing your Shopping product data. Product information (including product titles, images, links, and everything else) is 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 ads – no extra writing required.

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads (once known as AdWords and changed recently for branding purposes) will be used for the campaign side of your Google Shopping ads. This is where you’ll make decisions on bidding, audiences, and other common campaign steps.

To get started, first sign in to your Google Ads. Next, connect your Google Merchant Center account. In your settings, go to Set Up and Linked Accounts.

What is 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 and cars. It can also include flights, jobs, or any other “products.”

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 the 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.

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. Learn more about Google Hotel ads here.

Already running Dynamic Ads for Travel on Facebook? We've got a guide for new users and pros alike. Get it here.

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: a Google-tailored product data feed.

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

How do I create a Google Shopping feed?

  1. Extract and compile product data from relevant sources, e.g. your shop system, Shopify, BigCommerce
  2. Adapt your data Google’s feed requirements
  3. Complete and optimize your data feed attributes according to campaign needs
  4. Upload data to Google, and regularly upload new data to keep information 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 or have complex feeds, you’ll likely need to use software like Productsup in order to make bulk edits and maintain clear, reliable oversight of your many products. Solutions like this exist to help with Google Shopping feed automation and optimization.

To set up a Merchant Center account, check out the video below.

Google Merchant Center feed specification requirements

There are certain specifications that every product must have in order to be eligible on Google. There are also further required attributes for certain categories of items, particularly those in apparel & accessories. Be sure every product in your feed includes all Google Shopping required fields.

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. These include: overlong titles, incorrect pricing formats, unnecessary capitalization, and mismatched data.

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 Ads 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, just click + Campaign and then select Shopping. Here you can determine bidding, budget, locations, and other usual campaign settings.

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.

 

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.

google local inventory ads

Local Inventory ads (Source: Google)

Local Inventory Ads let local retailers reach customers that are in the geographical 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.

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.

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

 

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 you—the business—and 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.

Define bidding, budgets, and delivery

There are a few options when it comes to bidding and delivery of your Google Shopping ads. They should seem familiar to most marketers.

Maximum CPC is the manual bidding method, where an advertiser will manually set the highest amount they’re willing to bid per click. Then there’s Enhanced CPC (ECPC), 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.”

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.

Conversion tracking

This Google tool tracks what happens after a user has taken a specific, pre-defined “conversion action.” This could be clicking an ad, subscribing to your newsletter, making purchases in your app, or something similar. You can define Conversion Actions within Google Ads.

To determine 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 feed stronger. These are some of the most important best practices to optimize your Google shopping feed for more clicks and sales (and lower costs).

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. For the complete list of these, you should check out our guide to Google Shopping feeds below.

Need to know more about Google Shopping feed specifications? Check out our complete guide.

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. You can also get 5 of the most popular Custom label strategies here.

Tailor your titles to customer expectations

A product title shouldn’t just be a jumble of keywords or product information. Titles should be crafted with care – and research. Try to make the product seem tangible and meaningful for the user.

A strong, clickable title could include one or more of the data points below:

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

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. Brands can also monitor and better influence the way their product appears in organic listings.

Uses for 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’?”

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 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

Google Shopping Feed Best Practice Guide

Get the Guide

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