Google Shopping Campaigns: Everything You Need To Get Started

Learn more about Google Shopping Ads, the Merchant Center, Google ads API and more, and get best practices for Google shopping campaigns.

Google handles more than 92% of all search queries on the internet. With endless traffic and unique features available to marketers, Google is the perfect place to run shopping campaigns that will entice customers and create conversions.

What is Google Shopping?

Google Shopping is simply the part of Google responsible for compiling results for queries with the intent to research or purchase a product. Advertisers must upload their products to Google in feeds containing each sale item. Of course, merchants must abide by Google’s Shopping Ads Policies to have their products approved to appear in search results.

oogle shopping ads appear in the shopping results tab or in a featured snipped, based on its relevance to the query.

When you search for an item that Google has approved, it will appear in the shopping results tab or in a featured snippet based on its relevance to the query.

In 2020, Google opened shopping ads to organic listings, meaning companies can now advertise their products for free within shopping results. Because Google Shopping ads are no longer just a pay-to-play sport, it’s more important than ever to set them up correctly.

How to Set Up a Google Shopping Campaign

Setting Up Your Merchant Center Account

To start creating Google Shopping ads, you’ll need to set up a Google Merchant Center account first. This will give you access to all the tools available to promote your products in Google Shopping results. Once you’ve signed up and provided your information, you’ll be able to start uploading products to your feed.

Uploading Products

example of how to upload products in the Google Merchant Center.

Select how you want to add products in the Google Merchant Center: automatically from your web site, one at a time, or multiple products at once.

To begin uploading products to your feed, click on Products in the menu on the left. You’ll have three options: You can have Google crawl your site and upload products automatically, or you can do it manually, either one at a time or in bulk. For the sake of the length of this post, we’ll stick to adding them manually, as setting up automated feeds requires a lot of technical work, such as:

  • Modifying your website’s structured data
  • Making sure Google can crawl your sitemap
  • Making sure your landing pages are detailed and consistent
  • Ensuring your e-commerce platform is compatible with Google if you use one

Automated feeds may be the right choice for you if you have the technical know-how and a large selection of products that changes often. You can learn more about them here.

We’ll start with uploading an individual product. Click on Add Product.

How to upload one product manually for Google Shopping Ads in the Merchant Center.

From here, you’ll have two ways you can input information. First, suppose your product is a mass-produced item sold at multiple stores, such as a pair of shoes or a book with an identifying product number such as an ISBN, GTIN, EAN, UPC, JAN, or ASIN. In that case, you may use Google’s catalog to find your product’s information.

To use this method, select Add catalog product at the top left and enter your product’s information. Keep in mind that the information Google finds may not be 100% accurate or up-to-date, so make sure to go back and edit your product information or add more if necessary.

image8 4

Otherwise, you can always add a new product if your products do not appear in Google’s catalog. Click on Add new product at the top left to get started. You can input all the information about your product, link it to your site, add photos, and much more to create your ad.

f your product doesn't appear in the Google catalog, you can input all the information about your product, link it to your site, add photos, and much more to create your ad.

Now that you know how to add products one by one, it’s time to learn how to save time by uploading them in bulk. Select Upload File to get started.

Demonstration of how to save time by uploading products in bulk in the Google Shopping Ads Merchant Center.

First, download the sample file and open it using Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. This is where you will create your Primary Feed by adding your products in each row. You can create multiple primary feeds to sort your products, but Google recommends uploading your entire inventory to one primary feed, which you can sort later.

Google recommends uploading your entire inventory to one primary feed, which you can sort later. Minimum required fields include ID, title, description, link, price, availability, image link, brand, GTIN, and MPN.

Here you will see an example product with the minimum information required to appear in search results. The minimum required fields are:

  • ID – Your product’s identification number (use your product SKU here)
  • Title – Your product’s name
  • Description – Your product’s description
  • Link – A link to your website’s landing page for the product
  • Price – Your product’s price
  • Availability – Your product’s availability
  • Image Link – A link to the main image of your product
  • Brand – Your product’s brand name (not required for movies, books, and musical recordings)
  • GTIN – Global Trade Identification Number (required for all products with a known GTIN to enable full performance)
  • MPN – Manufacturer Part Number (required if your product does not have a GTIN)

Depending on the products you’re selling, additional fields may become required. For example, if your product is used, refurbished, on backorder, etc., you must add fields in other columns to reflect that information.

We strongly recommend using the over 50 optional fields to provide Google with more information about your products. You can learn more about all of them here. After you have uploaded your feed, your products will be reviewed within seven business days and begin to appear in search results as long as they follow Google’s Shopping ads policies.

Updating Your Product Information

If you are still looking for information for a particular field or want to add more, you can always edit your feed in the Products section of the Merchant Center or directly in your file by using the update_type field.

Google recommends uploading your entire inventory to one primary feed, which you can sort later. Minimum required fields include ID, title, description, link, price, availability, image link, brand, GTIN, and MPN.

In this field, there are three possible values you can use to update your products:

  1. Merge is the default action and will only update fields for which a value is provided. If no information is provided in a field, it will be left as it was the last time you entered it or blank. (Leaving the update_type field blank will result in a merge.)
  2. Replace is the second option available, and this action will replace fields with values and delete fields without.
  3. Delete is the final option, completely removing the product from your feed.

After you make the changes in your file, convert it back to .tsv, .xml, or .txt and reupload it to Google. Your changes should appear within 24 hours.

If your primary feed is complex and you want to update the information for just one or a few products, you can create a Supplementary Feed. Supplementary feeds are similar to primary feeds but can only be used to edit product information, not to add or remove products. This means that the Product IDs in your supplementary feed must already exist in an uploaded primary feed.

If you’re interested in a service that can automate and optimize product feeds for you, Search Discovery has extensive tooling options and feed management experience to help. Schedule time to talk to one of our digital marketing experts.

Analyzing Your Campaign’s Performance

When running ad campaigns on any platform, it’s crucial to track and analyze the performance of your content. Luckily, Google provides many tools to report data and provide insights.

Conversion Tracking

A key part of analyzing any campaign—including Google Shopping Ads—is monitoring your conversions and setting up your tracking beyond the basic metrics in Merchant Center. This lets you understand your customer’s journey to purchasing your product.

There are three ways you can track conversions on your Google Shopping campaigns:

1. Create a Google Analytics Account and Connect It To Your Shopping Account

This will allow you to access the advanced metrics and KPIs Google offers regarding your campaign’s performance.

2. Use Tag Manager to Deploy Conversion Tags

 For those who want more control over their conversion tracking, look no further than Google Tag Manager. Using Tag Manager requires some complicated setup initially to modify your website’s code. However, once you’ve set up your tags, you can track actions on your website and get as specific as you want. You can learn more about setting up Tag Manager here.

3. Google Ads API

If you’re unfamiliar with using the Google Shopping Adwords API (Application Programming Interface), this is probably not the route you’ll want to take to track your conversions. However, if you have the technical skills to modify your website’s code correctly and you’ve been approved for a developer token, you can use the Google API to build software that will automatically track highly specific conversion actions and provide automated reports across multiple campaigns.

Reporting

Once you’ve decided which route to take to set up your conversion tracking, it’s time to set up your reporting. After all, the data you collect is worthless without looking at it.

You can set up and analyze your reports for your shopping campaigns in many ways. Using the Google Ads API or UI of Merchant Center, Google Ads, or Google Analytics, you can directly view your report data whenever you want. However, we recommend using Google Ad Manager to set up scheduled custom reporting to keep you on top of analyzing the most important data. You can learn more about setting up scheduled reporting here.

Google Shopping Guide & Best Practices

Now that you have a basic overview of the many tools you can use to set up and track Google shopping campaigns, it’s time to learn some of the best tips to get the most out of them.

Take Advantage of Dynamic Remarketing

Dynamic remarketing will allow you to set up tailored ads that can appear to users who have previously visited your site on thousands of partner sites that display Google ads.

Google does not release an official list of partner sites but is known to purchase ad space from large companies with popular websites such as Amazon, Walmart, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, CNN, Reddit, and many more. Retargeting customers on popular partner sites is a huge advantage of Google Ads.

Encourage Reviews

Reviews are a great quality signal showing Google that customers enjoy your products. After all, reviews are a deciding factor for most consumers when making a purchase, so Google favors positive reviews to display the best products in the SERP. Using Merchant Center, you can create a product reviews feed and submit reviews from your site for approval.

You can also allow customers to review your products on Google or work with a third-party aggregator service that can fetch reviews from your site and supply them to Google for you. If you’re interested in learning more about submitting product reviews in Merchant Center, Google provides many helpful resources. In our work with Gamestop, improving product reviews and their visibility was a key tactic to our success.

Optimize Your Images

When choosing a primary image for your product, select a photo that captures the benefit or purpose of your product in an appealing way that will catch a user’s attention. After all, Google Shopping ads only display a single image when they appear in results.

Imagine you’re selling clothing online, and all your competitors’ products feature similar images of a model wearing the items in front of a plain white background. Why not take photos at exciting locations with bright colors, or show your products in real-life situations? Even if you are selling the same products as your competitors, the images you choose can be a great way to set yourself apart.

Another key step in uploading images to your feed is optimizing them to follow Google’s requirements for approval. Based on the type of product you’re selling, requirements may change, but the general standards are:

  • Non-apparel images: at least 100 x 100 pixels
  • Apparel Images: at least 250 x 250 pixels
  • No images larger than 65 megapixels
  • No image files larger than 16MB

To optimize your images, TinyPNG is a great tool that can compress up to 20 images at a time and offers the largest image compression (up to 5MB) available for free. Paying users can compress images up to 75MB and also gain access to TinyPNG’s editing tools.

Use Optional Product Fields

We already mentioned this practice, but we’ll repeat it because it’s essential: Go beyond the required product information fields and take advantage of the 50+ optional fields available. After all, the more information about your product Google has, the more searches it can appear for. Relevant and detailed information is arguably the most important quality signal for Google Shopping ads, and adding as much as possible is a great organic optimization tactic.

Resolve Disapprovals Proactively

Product warnings and disapprovals on your ads are nothing to panic about if you know how to handle them effectively. This means that Google has reviewed the information you’ve provided about your product and found that it is inaccurate or violates one of their advertising policies. If there are only one or a few minor issues with your information, a warning will appear on the diagnostics page of Merchant Center, where you can directly resolve the issue without being wholly delisted.

If you ignore warnings long enough, or Google has found that too much of your information is inaccurate upon the first review, Google will disapprove your listing. When you’ve updated your information, it may take up to 24 hours for Google to review and relist it.

Overall, warnings and disapprovals can be resolved quickly with up-to-date information. However, it’s vital to stay on top of getting them fixed. When you receive a warning or disapproval, Google does not notify you directly, so make sure to review your diagnostics in Merchant Center often. Too many disapprovals can hurt your sales, result in your Merchant Center account suspension, or even a ban after multiple suspensions. You can learn more about warnings and disapprovals here.

Add Negative Keywords

While this tip may seem simple compared to the others, using negative keywords to exclude other searches can be very beneficial for shopping ads if you’re selling specific products or products with similar names. For example, imagine you were selling many different Nike shoes models such as the Air Max 270, Air Max 95, Air Max 97, Air Max 90, and so on. Adding the names of the other models as negative keywords for each product would prevent the wrong shoe from appearing in a specific search for a different model.

Optimize Your Shopping Campaigns With Search Discovery

We hope this guide has provided a helpful overview of Google Shopping ads and has been a valuable resource for best practices and how to set up and analyze your campaigns. If you have any additional questions about Google Shopping Ads, Search Discovery is happy to help!

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Reach out to learn how we can take your Google Shopping campaigns from good to data-drenched & extraordinary.

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