Google Shopping & Product Listing Ads: How to Get Started

Written by Jon on 24th May 2016

If there’s one tool I’d highly recommend that retailers should add to their arsenal, it would be Google Shopping. Starting out as the free Product Search way back in the early millennium, it has since become a Paid Per Click service, with the introduction of Product Listing Ads (PLA’s) via Google’s Adwords platform.

Google Shopping provides you with the ability to upload all of your products to Google Merchant Centre so they can be searched for within Google’s Search results and provide an overview of the product i.e. image, name and price (and review where available).
Google Shopping Ads

The development of Google Shopping campaigns within Adwords made this form of traffic even more exciting.

If you are selling online and do not have a Shopping Campaign setup as part of your pay per click strategy, you may wish to re-think. Here’s why you should set up Google Shopping and how to do it.

Why Should I use Google Shopping?

Before I dive into showing you how to get started with Google Merchant Centre, we should discuss just why you should consider Google Shopping Ads.

Google Shopping Ads in SERPs

For many online retailers, product listing ads are a great way to attract new traffic with traditionally a higher conversion rate than standard search results. What’s more last year, PLAs took share in the sales revenue generated from Adwords, this was before the recent changes to the desktop SERPs too.

These improved ads have proven to be a success over the last few years with higher click through rates and improved conversion figures, and this has led to a lot of online retailers moving a larger portion of their PPC budget to their Google Shopping campaigns.

In CPC Strategy’s Comparison Shopping Report – Google has consistently delivered the highest level of traffic and revenue for retailers.

Finally, if your SEO budget’s lacking, shopping ads are a great way to get you on the same page as some of the more established brands. If you’re competitive on pricing, it’s a great way to potentially grab some of those sales away from the bigger brands.

Happy that Google Shopping’s for you? Let’s get started then:

  1. Create your Google Merchant Centre

Head to Google Merchant Centre and create your account. Ideally this would be the same Google ID as your Adwords account, as it is sometimes easier to manage without having to log in and out of multiple accounts. If not though, don’t worry it’s not essential.

Setting Up Google Shopping

Once you have logged into your Google Merchant Centre you need to complete the basic settings, including company information, customer service contact details and also to verify you actually own the domain you are linking to the Merchant Centre.

2.  Create a feed of your products

Time to add your products!

Depending on the platform, there is normally a plugin you can use to create your Google Shopping feed, some examples that we are familiar with include:

Magento – Wyomind

WooCommerce – Google Product Feed

Shopify – Google Shopping

If you are using BigCommerce, integration is really easy and they have partnered with Google to simplify the process.

When creating your feed, you should ensure that it meets the requirements of its vertical to maximise the quality of the feed.  If you don’t meet the requirements, you could wind up getting your feed suspended.

Setting up Google PLAs with BigCommerce

The most common form of uploading a feed is to provide Google with a URL of the feed so it can be updated easily and without any manual intervention. This means that if you update the products on your store, they’ll be automatically updated on Google Shopping.

3.  Checking your feed for errors

Minimising errors and warnings will ensure your feed stays in good health, once you have uploaded it, you will be able to view any issues with your feed and debug as necessary.

Here’s how errors and warnings can affect your product listing ads:

Error: these will prevent the product from appearing in shopping results or product list ads

Warnings: these will still appear but they are missing important information and will affect the quality score of your feed.

If your feed has no warnings or errors you are good to go, and you should start to see your products appear in Google Shopping Search results once you’ve created your campaign.

4.  Connect your Merchant Account to Google Adwords account

This can be done within the Merchant Centre, and as mentioned before, is a simple process, particularly if your Adwords account is managed within the same Google Login.

You will now be able to create Shopping campaigns (PLA’s) within Google Adwords.

5.  Creating your first Google Shopping Campaign

Before setting up campaigns, it is worth taking some time determining how you are going to structure your campaigns and ad groups.

It is important to do this, as you can only set your budgets for Adwords on a campaign level. If you include too many ad groups within the campaign, you might find that particular ad groups are dominating your budget and could miss out on potential sales through lack of visibility.

So for example, if we were selling Levi’s, Wrangler and Diesel jeans, I would expect to see these setup in different campaigns, and then using the ad groups to segment the different types of jeans i.e. 501, Slim Fit, Bootcut (do they still make these?).

If Levi’s 501 jeans are your top selling product, then you would manage this adgroup using the max CPC.

When setting up your Ad Groups, depending on how you structured your feed, you should be able to select which products are in each adgroup by name or SKU.

Important: When selecting which products you would like in an adgroup, ensure that you exclude all other products, or all products will be pulled into that adgroup.

6.  Final Checks before going live

It is likely you will already have this in place, however if this is your first Adwords campaign then it is important to have the following in place:

  • Conversion Tracking (so you know what your CPA is)
  • Backup Payment (If using auto payments)
  • CPCs have been set correctly
  • Campaign Budgets are correct
  • Your feed is updating Merchant Centre on a regular basis (this can be done automatically)

When you are up and running, you may find that your adverts do not appear immediately. Do not despair! It will take time, and Google look at a number of elements when deciding which adverts to show, historic data being one of the important ones, so be patient, and give it some time.

It is worth the wait, with online retailers reporting reduced CPC, lower CPA and higher CTR – all good stuff!

It is good practice to check your feed within Google Merchant Centre to ensure your feed isn’t missing any errors or warnings and is kept in tip top health.