Anyone who has ever set up a campaign to advertise on Google will know how easy it is to spend budget. Akin to those slot machines you visit once a year at the seaside, if you’re not careful it can fast become the digital version of flinging coins down a chute and hoping you win a few back.

Google generated an eye-watering $30.7bn revenue in Q1 of 2019, over 15% growth YoY. Their auction-based platform continues to grow more competitive and for the typical advertiser, it’s becoming an increasingly expensive place to grow their business.

Google’s Shopping network ads have been an excellent route to market for a number of ecommerce businesses. After setting up a feed of the products available to purchase on your website, the network is able to reach an enormous market of users who are pre-qualified as “in-market”, displayed with search results that contain an image, a price, and an ability to compare with other retailers on the same page.

But there are a few areas to concentrate on that I’ve seldom seen advertisers use that can drastically reduce costs and make your budget work harder to deliver a profitable return.

Tip 1: Experiment with prioritisation with campaigns

Shopping feed campaigns are set at low/medium/high priority, and I have been seeing excellent success by running structured medium/high priority campaigns and a low priority campaign containing the entire feed running in the background.

An example from an account from the past three months is traffic levels of 7,500 visits, with a feed size of 5,000 items, deliver over £12k in revenue to a business with an avg. cpc of 1p and a cost/sale that was over 90% lower than the average across the whole of 2019 (using data-driven attribution).

Tip 2: Utilise reporting to better manage your feed

In the predefined reports there is a Shopping section which has been an absolute winner to help prune spend on the Shopping network. I find the Item ID report the most useful for how I break campaigns down but any are helpful; the other options (category, product type, brand etc.) are all useful depending on what information is in your feed and how an individual manages it.

With almost every facet of Google’s ad platform, my advice is generally to set up and organise campaigns based on what makes most sense to you. To best optimise an ad account, you need to understand how your spend is being structured so even if it goes against a potential best practice, your campaign setup should reflect what delivers your business profit, and give you the data that enables you to quickly spot areas where you could save money and push it into better performing areas.

My top tip is to create a weekly report that sends you your key metrics per item ID and sort it by cost to identify the big hitters within your account and exclude any that aren’t delivering profitable sales.

Tip 3: Dress up your ads as much as possible

There are a couple of initiatives that aren’t readily available within the merchant centre account that can be implemented to improve the quality of your ads, and make them stand out more to prospective customers:

  • Merchant promotions – enabling promotional overlays on your ads, including displaying percentage discounts off products and free delivery offers.
  • Customer reviews – Highlighting the reviews for your business or an individual product will make your ad stand out more in the listings.

Tip 4: Reach more potential customers with improved feed data

The quality of your feed is essential in reaching the right searches and expanding reach within the shopping network. Unlike traditional search ads you cannot bid on individual keywords so the data found within your product titles, description, Google taxonomy and GTIN identifier will help Google understand what your product is and what queries to match it to.

My top tip here stems from the issue that many businesses don’t have the time to go in and alter thousands of products on their site or don’t want to change the information seen on the front end of the website, which is where feed rules are an excellent solution for advertisers.

Located in the merchant centre under products > feeds > feed rules you can utilise what is a powerful feed management feature to set values in columns that aren’t currently residing within your data feed or modify existing data within your feed to increase its quality:

Tips for using feed rules:

1. Insert key words & phrases within product titles and descriptions using IF/AND/OR rules.

    • After using the keyword research tool, you could trial inserting that naturally into the product title or description to increase relevancy for search
    • Increase the information being fed into the shopping feed; it’s much better to have a product title like “red men’s football training jacket XL” than “XL football training jacket” that may be displayed directly on the website. You could do this either by extracting the colour and gender feed columns to prepend into your product title, or using an IF, AND, OR structured rule to tackle multiple item IDs at once.

2. Extract data within your feed to insert within product titles, i.e. taking the brand column and appending it into your product titles.

3. Use feed rules to create custom labels to better organise your shopping campaigns.

If your feed contains a number of errors outlined within diagnostics, feed rules can be an excellent quick-fix that can prevent the need for any internal site changes.

Tip 5: Using custom labels and the inventory filter to organise your campaigns

Organising your shopping campaigns and how you bid based on key deliverables is a great way to keep track of where your budget is going. Group products, categories or brands by custom labels and you will be able to create a much more streamlined campaign setup. If you do then opt for an automated bidding strategy on Google Shopping, you will be able to tweak the targeted return percentage on an ad group level.

With custom labels you can benefit from the freedom to organise in whichever way makes sense to you, but a great starting point is to look at grouping products by profit margin and price banding so you can quickly analyse the cost/sale on face value and regularly check to see whether you need to delve further into the campaign to make a change.