Dispelling the Top 10 CSS Myths

Myths and rumours are a part of every industry, and Google Comparison Shopping Services (CSS) are no exception. Unfortunately, this can often lead to missed opportunities and costly mistakes. By dispelling the top 10 CSS myths, we want to make sure you can base your business strategy on facts rather than fiction.

The benefits of Google Shopping and CSS don’t need to be embellished by tall tales. The prominence of Shopping carousel advertising above search results is obvious to anyone researching products to buy. As a result it drives a large share of paid advertising traffic, especially on mobile devices. And increasing your share of the available search volume can even be achieved without raising your advertising budget.

Take a look at the top 10 CSS myths below, and see how many you’ve encountered.

1. Using a CSS partner for Google Shopping will compete with my own campaigns

No. Adding a CSS partner will enhance your existing digital campaigns, driving net new sales, rather than competing with them. In fact, the Google Shopping auction process is actually designed to benefit retailers running multiple CSS campaigns.

Look for partners that use artificial intelligence and machine learning strategy as this will deliver incremental sales with little or no overlap for your existing campaigns. A good CSS provider should be able to suggest improvements to your internal teams. The result is a better overall performance for your website and advertising budget.

“We gained incremental sales, increased our ROI on our own campaign and gained additional support for Google Shopping by partnering with RedBrain.If we didn’t have an additional campaign running for us at the same as our own, we would have missed out on £500k in sales.” Nicola White, Head of Performance Marketing at Missguided.

2. I can only work with one CSS partner at a time or they will compete with each other

Nope. Working with multiple CSS partners is the best option for many retailers, and means you cover every available opportunity to make a sale. Retailers including eBay and Nike very successfully run with multiple CSS providers alongside their internal teams to ensure they get the maximum benefits from Google Shopping.

Different CSS partners will have individual approaches and bidding strategies, which will tend to be complementary rather than competitive. For example, some will focus on products with the highest profit margins, or turn off campaigns during quieter times of each day. Others, such as RedBrain, use AI and Smart Bidding to operate 24/7. 

Providers such as RedBrain will also include data enhancement and optimisation. This additional work delivers sales on products which other partners might not be able to promote successfully.

Using multiple CSS partners, will also increase your chance to appear twice in the same Google Shopping Carousel, for different products within your range. This gives you much more brand awareness and opportunities to make a sale (at what should be no extra cost depending on the partner you choose)

The exception is for smaller brands with a limited range of products. If you do have a smaller inventory, then it may not offer enough opportunities for the different strategies to compliment each other. But if you stock hundreds, or thousands, of products, then you can really benefit by testing more CSS partners. For example, eBay has seen £400 million in annual sales, 85% of which were incremental, since adding RedBrain to their roster.

3. CSS partners promoting the same products will drive up the Google click price

Wrong. Google has actually designed the bidding process for Shopping ads to avoid any merchant paying more if they have multiple internal and external CSS bids for the same products.

An individual product will only appear once. All bids for that item from the same merchant will be treated as placed by one CSS, so there’s no competition between multiple partners. The only competition will be from other merchants, so having additional CSS providers will increase your chance of winning each auction without costing you more.

The price will always be based on the first losing bid. This means that you can have one, two or ten higher bids via multiple providers, but the cost if your advert is clicked will only be the runner-up amount.

The result is that you won’t pay more whether you work with one CSS partner or ten.

4. The only way to pay CSS partners is Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

False. Cost-Per-Click (CPC) is probably the most common and familiar way for businesses to bid for online advertising. If you have internal Adwords and Merchant Center campaigns, you’ll be familiar with setting your maximum CPC bids. And many CSS partners operate on the same model, including Google Shopping.

But today some partners, including RedBrain,work on a Cost-Per-Action (CPA) basis so you don’t pay for someone simply clicking on an advert. You’re only charged when someone successfully completes a sale. CPA removes the cost and risk of paying for traffic to your website which doesn’t generate revenue.

It also encourages us, your partner, to work harder to deliver qualified customers rather than website traffic.

5. CSS only works for big or very niche retailers

Incorrect. Any business can use Google Shopping, but the approach and benefits will be different for smaller retailers. The clients who get the most benefits are those who demonstrate the following:

  • Offering: Quality website, products and data feed, with a good existing conversion rate
  • Competitiveness: Products are priced well, with good reviews and availability
  • Meet Demand: Customers are actively looking for products and there’s sufficient search volume.
  • Strategy: Picking the right partners, brand and marketing strategy, and the right commission rates (for our managed CSS services)

The CSS success stories for brands with smaller inventories include companies such as Dyson or Gtech, which have a strong position within their industry niche. And by working with a CSS partner on CPA, you can increase your share of the available search volume without any cost.

CSS partners are required to offer their own comparison sites. For example,  RedBrain’s comparison site attracts millions of visitors every month across the U.S and Europe, including the UK, so you’ll also gain a mixture of brand awareness and traffic simply by appearing on our properties.

If you’re a smaller business and planning expansion, it’s a great time to ensure you’ve unlocked the full potential of your markets search volume via a CSS partner. This makes it easier to ensure your dominant position, your brand awareness and grow your customer base.

6. All CSS providers are the same as they work with the same products targeting the same customers on Google Shopping

No again. The benefit of working with multiple CSS partners is the difference in strategies and performance.

Some partners will focus on a subset of products with manual campaign structures and pricing, which requires significant investment in manpower to deliver at scale.

At RedBrain we use AI and machine learning in combination with expert human oversight to deliver scalable performance. This allows granularity down to the individual product level on a platform which can make changes 24/7.

Our size and experience also means we know how your industry sector performs, and whether your website and conversion rates are matching up to the expectations.

A leading games retailer and RedBrain have worked together since 2017.

“We first started working with RedBrain on their comparison shopping site, and in February we trialled RedBrain’s Shopping Service. Within this trial we received a 30% increase in Google Shopping related sales with no impact to our own campaign. RedBrain have been running a campaign on our behalf ever since.

The team at RedBrain are always extremely alert when it comes to special offers and pre-orders, which can massively impact the amount of sales we make within a certain month.

Since we setup with RedBrain on their Shopping Service, we have gained £100k per month in incremental sales.”

7. You can’t buy direct from Google, you have to go to a separate CSS partner

You actually can, but you will pay more. Following a 2017 EU Commission ruling, the Google Shopping CSS operations had to become a standalone business. This means you’ll find it listed alongside other Google Premium CSS Partners. It operates on a self service model for merchants to manage feeds and campaigns, with Google Shopping choosing whether to also provide consulting services.

But the big difference between Google Shopping and a CSS partner like RedBrain will be the pricing model. Whereas we can offer a CPA service, Google Shopping will charge a fixed percentage of 20% on CPC bids before they are entered into the advertising auction.

Premium CSS partners aren’t required to charge the fixed amount, or work on a CPC basis. Which means that you can save the 20% fee charged on bids by Google Shopping simply by working with a non-Google CSS partner. Or even save the cost entirely by working on a CPA basis.

8. You can’t run self-service and managed CSS campaigns at the same time

You absolutely can.  As with multiple internal and external campaigns, it’s perfectly possible to run a self-service CSS campaign, and a managed campaign, at the same time.

Self-service campaigns aren’t necessarily the most effective route for most businesses but they can be an extra element to your Digital Shopping Mix. The majority of RedBrain clients opt for our managed CSS services to benefit from our knowledge and experience.

Those who do get value from the self-service option are companies that either have massive scale, or dominate their industry sector.

9. CSS will only ever provide nominal increased sales compared with PPC

Obviously very wrong! A good CSS partner will not only work incrementally with PPC campaigns, but will also improve them. Making an internal team, or PPC agency, look like rock stars in the process. 

“We gained incremental sales, increased our ROI on our own campaign and gained additional support for Google Shopping by partnering with RedBrain. If we didn’t have an additional campaign running for us at the same as our own, we would have missed out on £500k in sales.” Nicola White, Head of Performance Marketing, Missguided. 

Technically Google Shopping is a PPC channel, but many people even within the ad industry think of it differently to text-based PPC advertising. And it is, considering the sheer scale and size of the market.

An internal PPC team will have experience from one client, which is your business. Using an external PPC agency might typically mean tens of clients in a specific sector. But by dealing with 12,000 plus retailers per day across millions of products all over the world we have experience of almost every problem or issue that might arise.

Google is consistently increasing the quality control for all advertising, which can lead to your entire Merchant Center account being suspended until issues are fixed. Meanwhile laws in individual European countries can vary massively between the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, for example.

While your campaigns are running, our AI and human experts will be constantly evolving and learning from your activity. The knowledge and data enhancements can then feed back into your website and other PPC activity. 

10. Any digital PPC agency can run CSS campaigns

Nope. It’s certainly true that any PPC agency can partner with RedBrain, Google Shopping or another CSS partner to deliver a campaign. If you’re currently working with an agency or considering taking one on, then it’s worth discussing any CSS partners you would prefer to use.

But when it comes to actually running campaigns as a CSS partner, then there are restrictions in place to maintain quality performance. These include having a comparison search engine which lists all retail clients, with a minimum of 50 retailers, operating in all countries the CSS partner works in.

As a Premium Partner, our requirements and the standards we have to meet are higher than non premium CSS providers, including additional technical certifications, and a larger number of active merchants.

From CSS myths to actionable advice

As a relatively new advertising channel for many businesses, it can be easy for CSS myths to spread. And spending your advertising budget based on that false information could lead to some costly mistakes. Particularly when it’s easily avoided by speaking to experts about the right solution for your company.

Working with the right CSS partner is hugely important for nearly all retailers. In 2018, Google Shopping received around 88% of all paid advertising clicks from customers. With an increasingly broad presence in search results, and better qualified leads from the product information displayed in the advertising placements, it’s a huge opportunity your business needs to capitalise on.

The fact is that combining CSS partners and advertising models will deliver the best results for any company of significant size and scale. Think of it as creating your perfect Digital Shopping Mix.


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