If you are an online retailer using Google Shopping, you’ll want to make sure you get the most out of your ads.

Rob Watson, Head of Digital Marketing at Supplyant, gave a wonderfully practical talk on this subject at this year’s BrightonSEO.

So, here are six ways to improve your Shopping campaigns, by tinkering with your data feed and conducting a few tests.

1. 150 character product titles

Is it enough to simply carry across product titles from your website to Google Shopping?

Most ecommerce product titles are only 40 characters – could retailers be making more use of the 150-character product titles allowed within Google Shopping?

Well, yes, more information and more keywords may help conversion and impressions.

Rob gave an example. An original product title on a flooring client’s website was ‘Mega Deal 6mm Laminate Flooring Oak Grey’.

In order to optimise this for Google Shopping, the phrase ‘mega deal’ was dropped, as this is only relevant in the context of the website (not within Google Shopping), and more info was added.

The improved title look more like this: ‘Laminate Flooring – Grey Oak 6mm Laminated Wood Floor Boards, Light Wide Wooden Mid-Length Plank, Click Installation, Textured Surface, Square Edge’.

These expanded titles are shown in full when you hover in the Shopping thumbnails hosted within the SERPs, see below for an example.

google shopping

In Rob’s tests with these expanded product titles within a bestsellers ad group, it achieved 25% growth in impressions, with a 7% increase in clickthrough rate (CTR).

Rob’s regular shopping ad group saw only a 2% increase in impressions, but still a 6% increase in CTR.

2. Alternative landing pages

When shoppers click through a Google Shopping ad, they usually hit the corresponding product page URL on the retailer website.

But Rob wanted to test pushing shoppers to category pages.

The AdWords redirect attribute, according to Google, ’allows advertisers to specify a separate URL that can be used to track traffic coming from Google Shopping’.

Putting tracking aside, can this redirect attribute be used to serve a more effective page than a product page? 

eBay uses this attribute, as Rob showed, in order to show a duplicate product page, one that is more streamlined, and features more prominent recommendations.

The idea is that this cross-sell will decrease bounce rate and ensure the customer finds something they want.

eBay ‘normal’ product page

ebay page

eBay product page used from Google Shopping with the redirect attribute

ebay page

Rob’s own work with this redirect attribute sent Google Shopping customers to a filtered category page.

This tactic reduced bounce rate significantly, from 75% to 40%

3. Promoting bestsellers at scale

For a big clothing retailer with 177,000 SKUs, Rob used the custom label function in the Shopping feed to label best-sellers based on 30 days of sales performance data.

The top 15 products were labelled and updated every week. These 15 products were grouped together and ran as a Shopping campaign separate from the other SKUs.

This was then done with the next best 15 SKUs, too.

Clickthrough rate and click conversion rate were unsurprisingly higher for the top 15 best sellers than the second best sellers group, which in turn performed better than the rest of the SKUs.

The rationale here is simple – back your best sellers.

4. Converting upper funnel keywords

Rob had noticed that the keyphrase ‘living room ideas’ was delivering traffic to one of his relevant retail clients.

This is a content based keyword (not product based), delivering seasonal traffic (there was a spike in spring) but not delivering conversions.

The received wisdom here would be to add the phrase as a negative keyword because it is essentially wasting ad budget, because people who search for this term are not buying.

However, using some of the tactics discussed above, Rob decided to target this traffic.

A best selling product was identified, the product was duplicated and a 150-character title was written that specifically mentioned ideas (living room, bathroom etc.).

Then, the redirect attribute was used to send Google Shopping traffic from this ad to a regular category page on site, where customers could browse a variety of products.

The result was only 126 sessions, but they had a £27 cost per goal and 45% bounce, compared to the average of 72% bounce and £58 cost per goal overall. Impressive stuff.

A few weeks after this test, in July 2016, Google rolled out changes to Product Listing Ads (PLAs) for broad product queries (which apparently account for 40% of searches).

Now, instead of showing product ads for broad queries, Google shows Showcase Shopping Ads, as demonstrated below, which link through to category style pages.

However, this change doesn’t negate all of Rob’s suggestions – knowing what terms people are searching for and picking titles and best seller groups accordingly is important.

showcase shopping ads 

5. Structure simulations

Using the AdWords dimensions report (which allows customised reporting at any level of granularity), Rob runs simulations to determine the right structure for campaigns.

Where conversion value / cost was particularly low for a brand product type (lots of clicks with few conversions), this campaign was split out to look at the performance of different price brackets with this product type.

What this experiment showed is that some price brackets perform better (in Rob’s instance, a £150-£200 bracket converted better than a £50-£100 bracket).

This insight can be fed back into the broader campaign.

The take-home message is to drill down into product groupings to see which attributes are indicative of success for a particular product type.

6. Breaking through

A heartening message to end on – it can take time to break through, before you can bring your bids down.

Rob told of how one of his campaigns delivered little success at a high bid level, until plenty of optimisation work had been done.

This work meant the campaign eventually picked up, with impressions increasing and cost per click (CPC) decreasing.

After a while, perhaps partly due to a history of spend, Rob was able to reduce the bid level and maintain a low CPC.

Bidding aggressively in the short term is often the best approach, with optimisations over time enabling retailers to dial down the bids slightly.

Thanks again to Rob Watson of Supplyant and BrightonSEO for a great event.

For more on Paid Search, subscribers can download the Econsultancy Paid Search Best Practice Guide.